A live session from UK band Squid
WeTransfer has partnered with Nigel Godrich's iconic music series From The Basement to bring you six new performances from some of the world's most extraordinary artists and bands. Here you can see a show by the hugely popular UK band Squid. The Brighton five-piece were interviewed by Lucy Bourton.
On the day of Squid’s “From The Basement” recording session with Nigel Godrich, a fair few things went wrong. Ollie Judge, the band’s drummer and vocalist, was late, dashing down from Bristol where the experimental five-piece are mostly based. Arthur Leadbetter, who jumps between keyboards and percussion, arrived to find his pedals were broken. And Louis Borlase, who switches between guitar and bass, broke a string on almost every take. “I just remember thinking, ‘god, we’re such amateurs,’” laughs Judge. “We’re doing a session with Nigel Godrich—who has produced six of my favorite albums of all time—and my drum kit isn’t tuned, I’ve forgotten loads of bits… and I’m late!”
Hardly amateurs at all, it’s clear in conversation that the band’s mistakes were largely down to excitable anticipation. Formed in 2016 as students in Brighton, the past few years have seen Squid garner attention for their ability to merge ambient influences with post-punk vocals, coming together on their 2021 debut, Bright Green Field. Eager ears will be able to tell that “a few of us are a bit obsessive about Radiohead,” admits Judge, who can still remember his dad calling him down to watch Sonic Youth on “From The Basement” back in 2007. Years of watching the show and immersing themselves in Godrich’s releases meant Squid appreciated the weight of such a performance, leading to careful consideration in rehearsals, with detailed discussions around the intricacies they wanted to be brought forth with Godrich behind the mixing desk.
With this in mind, Squid collectively “made a rough decision to try and treat it as a performance where one idea leads to the next,” describes Louis. Entrusting Godrich to listen out for moments which could act as instrumental catalysts, the songs performed (“Boy Racers,” “G.S.K” and “Pamphlets”) are connected by interludes of experimentation to create one cohesive Squid soundscape. Further inspired by their interpretation of “Nigel’s whole ethos of trying not to be too conventional” says Ollie, the band purposefully chose to perform a song, then untitled, that they’d written only a week before. “Really nerve wracking,” adds Borlase, “but it’s nice to have a platform to take risks like that.” The result is a session that brought out “different elements we wouldn’t necessarily thought of having prominence before,” as well as “a really nice warmth brought forth, which Nigel’s sound generally has,” adds brass and bass player and percussionist, Laurie Nankivell.
“From The Basement” was created to document the musical progression that derives from risk taking, especially for acts climbing the ascent of acclaim like Squid. Started as a passion project between Godrich and film producer James Chads, it was sparked by the few opportunities for acts on mainstream British television, specifically chances for left of field artists to be introduced to new audiences. “I definitely agree with that sentiment,” adds Judge. “In the 1990s there were shows like ‘The Tube’ and just far more opportunities for bands. Now it’s like a session on ‘Sunday Brunch,’ maybe ‘Soccer AM,’ or ‘Jools Holland,’ which is really difficult to get onto.”
What “From The Basement” also signaled in the early 2000s, as Borlase puts it, is “the unique performance of our time: the internet session.” As fans, shows like “From The Basement,” as well as the newer KEXP, are regularly on the watchlist of Squid’s members. Recorded away from the crowd-created energy of a live show, such sessions offer a chance to watch acts of intrigue “with binoculars,” describes Borlase. This format leans into music fans’ snooping tendencies after all, like the way Judge will tune in “to see what gear people use, how many people are in the band and who plays what,” he says. “It’s good for music nerds to understand their favorite bands a little bit. To see everything.”
It’s this level of precision—sonically and aesthetically—that fans of Squid can expect from their session. It’s likely you’ll be immediately drawn to Ollie, for how rare it is to see a drummer singing lead and still noticing the actionable nods from his bandmates. But as the session draws on, the additional multitasking of further members becomes a hypnotic watch. Nankivell, for example, begins by picking up a bass, moving to a cornet, playing various percussion elements—including a particularly shining moment featuring a güiro—and then moves back to playing cornet and bass again, all in just three songs. At other times it’s their dedication to one instrument, like guitarist Anton Pearson’s level of concentration playing a cowbell towards the end of “Pamphlets,” or how Leadbetter seems to orchestrate the movement of each interlude behind his keyboard. It’s an attentiveness which brings to mind Radiohead’s From The Basement performance of “Reckoner” from “In Rainbows.” A fan favorite in which Ed O’Brien, Jonny Greenwood and Colin Greenwood put down their usual instruments in favor of a tambourine, a lemon shaker and a plastic bottle filled with sand.
For Godrich, such commitment was undeniably noticeable too, adding how “Squid is like a dream for us because they look amazing,” he says. “They’re so endearing as a bunch of people, but then musically it's something really unusual. I had this experience of seeing a band make this absolutely incredible music that I had the best seat in the house for. There I was sitting in front of the speakers and they were playing for me.”
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