Belfast’s Not Squares took a strange route to becoming a dance band, and are all the better for it. Their sound is by turns anarchic, willfully madcap, heavily percussive and, by their own admission, still yet to hit their stride. Still, their debut album Yeah OK is a real statement of intent; these guys are here to make you dance, and not to be too self-conscious or clinical about it.
Read on for their particular insight into the impetus behind Ireland’s current burgeoning alternative scene, a bizarre re-imagining of the notion of tribal influences and one of the best interior design puns I’ve heard in a long time.
Hi Not Squares. Could you start by telling us a little about your background?
Yeah sure, we’re a three piece from Belfast, we started in 2008 with the premise of playing upbeat tunes that people could dance to. We practice in a crypt (it’s basement really, but crypt sounds cool) of a falling-apart church building and we have a staple diet of cheesy chips and energy drinks.
There are a lot of great Irish bands making waves right now and Ireland is going to be the ‘country’ sponsor of next year’s The Great Escape. Does it feel like there is a real scene in Ireland right now, a music boom?
Yeah it feels like the island has become smaller for us and we are well aware of the burgeoning scenes in Dublin, Galway, Derry, Belfast and more. I guess there are great examples of labels and promoters doing their best to keep a healthy flow of national and international bands touring through the cities and towns. We’re really excited about what’s happening and glad to be a part of it.
What do you think has caused it and where do you think it will take you?
I think a sense of belief in Ireland and a bit of that late 70’s DIY punk attitude that saw the likes of Stiff Little Fingers, Outcasts, Rudi, The Undertones have such a lasting impact returning to a younger generation – there are also currently so many different bands in different genres who are equally determined in taking their music around and beyond the island. Also, with solid BBC ATL and BBC Radio One shows and a well presented music magazine AU, there is a healthy system of reviewing live music, harnessing public opinion and mixing local bands with international bands with regular chances to support.
You know to be completely honest we’ve no idea where it will take us, we’re just focused on making new tunes now and thinking about what we’re gonna put on our next record. We’re curious to know what people think of ‘Yeah OK’ as we toiled on it, but we would like it to take us to a place where I think everyone wants to go, where music pays for your rent and touring becomes a little easier.
You seem to be a band caught happily between dance and…a more rocking kind of dance. How did you hit upon your sound?
We have been through a couple of filtering processes that have defined our sound but we feel we’re still to hit our stride. I guess to put it simply, we all grew up playing guitars and drums and so transferring these over to dance music made sense for us.
And how do you hope it will develop in the future?
Increasingly with our live sets we are blending songs into each other and creating more of a concept for a live experience, this may develop further into a studio setting too. The music we are making now is becoming more simple, stripping away the fuss and trying to let strong melodies and bass riffs shine through.
Every band dreams of making it big one way or the other, but if you weren’t Not Squaring, what would you all be doing?
Well we all do quite a lot anyway, I (Keith) make art, Ricki is just about to become a Dr of Philosophy (here’s hoping Ricki) and Mike is an architecture enthusiast with a good eye for interior design (you should see his minimalistic house). I guess if we weren’t not squaring Mike would be Djing and producing music, Ricki would be lecturing to hopeful academics and I would be living in a hole in London trying to make an art career.
What country would you most like to tour, who with, and why?
Well we have the chance to tour in Japan next year we hope with our label Teto Recordings who are releasing the record there, and we are very excited at the prospect of touring with our label mates Miaou. We would also love to play with LITE and TOE during this tour, mostly because of the energy of those bands and also the organisation of the gigs there, really awesome country with awesome people. Aside from Japan, we really are happy to play anywhere with just about anyone that will have us.
Now that you’ve finished the debut album, are you fed up with hearing the songs, or is it a relief to be playing them live again?
Good question.. yeah it’s fun when other people hear them for the first time, but yeah we’re refreshing ourselves with new material now. Playing the album songs live is always fun though as they take on a wilder persona.
Without wishing to put words into your mouth (or fingers), would you say there is a slightly tribal theme to the album?
Haha – tribal makes me think of the Navajo Indian dudes playing panpipes in shopping centres with feathers and shellfish bracelets and a massive PA system – which is a great look btw, one that TEED seems to be rockin at the minute, but really in response, perhaps there is a tribal theme or element to our music, we do come from an extremely tribal society I guess, one with very strong polarised communities and one which is used to marching, drums and territorialisation in the streets, this may in some way incite us to a reaction, a reactivation of the pasty white Irish tribal spirit.
What’s your favourite shape, and why?
I think our favourite shapes are trapeziums because when joined end to end they create a whole new pretty system of infrastructure.
Who do you think is the biggest competition for you right now, or the band closest to your sound/ethos?
We’re not really positioned to consider bands as competition, we’re really stoked for good bands that do well and so many from Ireland are doing that which is great. In terms of our sound and ethos I guess we feel akin to our friends Adebisi Shank who bring a savage live experience and one we feel enlightened by, while acts like The Juan MacClean, Mi ami, Tortoise, !!! and more, although not always in the same genre, inspire us with their attitude and determined approach to writing fresh music.
You’ve already been remixed by the likes of The Fur and David Holmes; how did you decide to work with them?
Rob (The Fur) very kindly responded to a request to remix us for a 12” vinyl of Release The Bees, while with David we just Myspaced him and asked for his advice, he then offered to do a remix which was a fantastic experience. We are really privileged to have worked with both of these guys.
Who would you most like to remix you?
Siriusmo would be pretty cool, or more locally Space Dimension Controller, The Japanese Popstars or ScreenDeath.
Lastly, where would you love to be in a years time?
Playing at 3am at Primavera Sound Festival with a stage invasion.