Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit
Squid 01

Squid and the importance of breathing space

12 June 2023, 09:00
Words by Cailean Coffey

Original Photography by Jennifer McCord

As Squid return with second album O Monolith, the group tell Cailean Coffey about the influence of nature and taking onboard a less is more approach.

Following on from 2021’s debut, Squid’s sophomore effort arrives as dense and intricate as its predecessor. As the group pause to take in the world around them, O Monolith finds the Bristol-based band allowing themselves space to roam and exist outside the confines of some pre-ordained ‘post-punk’ label.

First formed in a Brighton rehearsal block in early 2016, Squid released their debut EP Lino within a year and lined up their first UK tour, hitting venues up and down the country to raucous reception. In 2019, their follow-up EP Town Centre showcased an altogether more cohesive approach, and easily affirmed why they had earned the title of one of the UK’s most exciting new musical prospects. With two more EPs following, 2020’s Natural Resources and 2021’s Near The Westway provided the perfect setting for the band’s long-awaited debut album Bright Green Field.

Reaching number 4 in the UK album charts, it was a record that launched Squid into the stratosphere. Finding a home with a new generation of listeners who became both intrigued and enamoured by their cohesive, genre-melding sound, the act made their mark with a distinctive live sound and entrancing energy. Soon to hit the road once again and take a dive into the deep unknown, for now though the five-piece are ready to rest and reflect on all that’s come to pass so far.


“It’s been a good year,” bassist Laurie Nankivell nods, speaking from Warp Records’ London office; a selection of gold discs hanging across the wall behind him. “We’ve kind of just been knuckling down and writing these last few months. We’ve had a quite intense year of touring last year so it was nice to be in one place for a change and get back into being creative."

Consisting of drummer and lead singer Ollie Judge, Arthur Leadbetter on keys, and guitarists Anton Pearson and Louis Borlase alongside Nankivell’s bass, the now Bristol-based group admit within two weeks of their debut’s release, they'd begun working on their sophomore effort. Setting off on a mini-tour in May and June of 2021, this journey to O Monolith in essence began on the road, as the band tried out new tricks and gave in to their most creative and experimental tendencies, all in front of a live, unsuspecting audience. By the end of their mini-run, they were in the studio.

In contrast to Bright Green Field, which was recorded at producer Dan Carey’s London studio, Squid made the decision to experiment with a change of environment. Upping sticks to Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studio in Wiltshire, Corsham, O Monolith took form surrounded by nature. Notably, this recording period marked one of the band’s first chances to take a breather and really let loose both spiritually and musically, an element evident sonically. The result is an album of epic proportions, self-described by the group as a “musical evocation of environment, domesticity and self-made folklore.” In other words, O Monolith sounds like a band learning to breathe again, uninhibited by all that surrounds them and unafraid of what anyone outside of their ecosystem would care to think.

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“[It was] super important” Judge enthuses, when asked about the value of space in the creation process behind the record. “Comparatively, Dan’s studio is the basement in his house which was very hot which gave the record its own intensity, so even just being in a space where you can see the countryside from the big windows was huge.” Continuing, he explains, “naturally when playing acoustic instruments with the choir and orchestral components, being in that space allows for it to feel like the music is singing back to you to a certain extent, and you also have some space to write things individually and having a another room to work on different pieces was brilliant too.”

The success of Bright Green Field opened up a whole host of new opportunities when it came to putting together their next record. It’s possible for some less headstrong artists to find themselves too far removed from what made their work special in the process, however Squid state that there was never a fear of slipping in standards. “We’re always talking about having boundaries whilst also creating music that’s spacious and has room to breathe,” Nankivell notes. “I think sometimes we might have a tendency to layer more things than not.” With a smile, he suggests keyboardist Leadbetter in particular has a tendency to stack as much as he can: “it’s semi-representative of how we write as a band, with all these different layers and ideas.”

Interjecting, vocalist Judge remarks “because we’re on Warp and we’ve got all this support, sometimes you do feel like the sky is the limit. But you’ve always got to remember that maybe less is more, which is what we were also trying to do with this record in some ways. Not clutter up the sound but get some extra players on it. It was just as important for this record to be able to take things away.”

It’s worth noting that recent years have seemingly welcomed a host of new Irish and UK post-punk acts, with the likes of Fontaines D.C., The Murder Capital, Shame, Dry Cleaning, Squid and Mhaol all touching down on the scene within a few short years of each other. Reflecting on the shared themes of growing up in a broken and unfair society, Nankivell notes “when all of us started out it seemed like everyone was making an angry version of the music, it was quite punky and angsty, but over time we’ve all transitioned away and got a little bit more introspective all at the same time which I don’t really know why or how.” With a grin, Judge remarks “just blame it on Brexit… Post-Brexit punk isn’t that what people are calling it?"

“We still feel angry to some extent about the state of the world, but you can represent that in different ways. You don’t need to be a shouting man to represent that in the best way possible,” Nankivell continues. “Realising that you don’t have to just shout to get that point across, that was quite a big thing about this record too, reigning in the shouting because that’s not me. There’s a lot more that we have to offer."

Now the band have had a chance to reflect, they muse over what they hope listeners will take away from O Monolith. “I hope that any listener understands that our love of so many genres of music shines through on the record and it doesn’t sound pastiche,” Judge responds earnestly. “If someone who likes electronic music listens to our music and comes away thinking ‘maybe folk isn’t so bad’ that would be great as they are all so interwoven in some ways and I think if we can help draw those gaps together it would be quite nice.”

O Monolith is out now via Warp Records

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