By combining elements of folk, jazz, and alternative rock, The Squid and The Whale have crafted an original sound that’s unique and enchanting. Their songs are sweeping melodies of dream-like soundscapes built on acoustic guitar, light synths and an organic rhythm section. Each composition is like an emotional journey straight from the pages of a storybook but performed in a way that’s natural and comforting.
The Squid and The Whale have been a functioning project in the Hattiesburg, Mississippi are for a few years, but now they’re now ready to take on the rest of the country and eventually the world! Just ahead of the release of their vinyl debut single on Deal With The Devil Records (a label that houses the likes of Oh Jeremiah and The 86 Olympics) I had the opportunity to chat with The Squid and The Whale’s mastermind, Sarah Bryan. It’s the perfect introduction to one of the most promising alternative-folk acts in independent music today.
Thanks for taking the time to chat with us here at 50thirdand3rd! Who is The Squid and The Whale?
Sarah Bryan: We are a four piece band from Hattiesburg, MS. Jaime Jimenez (keys, vocals), Sarah-Bryan Lewis (guitar, vocals), David Meigs (bass, vocals), and Dusty Weiss (drums, percussion). We are the charming dysfunctional family next door, and we want to break your heart in the most beautiful way.
For those who don’t know, what does The Squid and The Whale sound like?
SB: Like that space that exists between atoms. You know that lecture in school that we all halfway slept through while the professor discussed the physics behind two objects touching but never truly touching? The impenetrable space? We sound like that. That description leaves you no better off than before you asked the question, I know, but that’s my point. It’s still a mystery to us. We all come from different backgrounds. Jaime is pure genius and has a background in jazz studies as well as classical training, and he also has a soft spot for synthesizers. David has the ability to be tastefully wordy and at times shoegaze-y on the bass, and he has the room to carry that since we don’t have a lead guitarist. Dusty is an engineer, so his drumming is calculated, technical, reserved, and the perfect foundation. I’m stuck in the 90’s on an acoustic guitar, constantly trying to get out of that box with my writing, so I’m all over the place. Basically, our sound genuinely varies with each song we write. Every time we write a new song I think, “Now THAT’S our sound,” and then the next new song carries us elsewhere. So really, it’s us finding a common ground to gel while we bring our diverse musical backgrounds to the table. Unbridled. Eclectic. Melancholy. Emotional. So that’s the best way for me to describe something that I feel is indescribable.
The new EP. How did working with Deal With The Devil come about?
SB: We were approached by Deal With The Devil about a year after our first EP was released. It was quite an honor, because Casey (one of their members) had been a fan of ours for quite some time.
Was there a reason why you chose those particular songs for the EP?
SB: We were on a budget, so we had to be quite selective. Deciding which two songs was a two week process where we would play groups of songs back to back and review how they supported eachother. In the end, we realized that we wanted to take something dark and make it light. Every night has a day. From a sound perspective, Canyons is our darker, more ambient song. Flip to the other side and Sea Horses is immediately the opposite- bright and upbeat. The sun to our moon. However, if you listen to the words, you may find little easter eggs of the phrasings that almost refer to the other side in each song. We didn’t write those like that, but it’s funny how things pan out.
Your songs have a certain sentiment about them that’s both sad yet comforting, what’s the story behind “Canyons”?
SB: I tend to avoid explaining my lyrics. My goal with writing- never chain it to a concrete meaning. I may write something that means one thing to me, but you may walk away with something completely different. That’s the fun part. My words only have the power and meaning that you give them. I’m an extremely sentimental person, my greatest quality and my greatest downfall. For every word I write, it can quite seriously mean 30 different things. Sometimes I even take away different stories from the same song. For the sake of explanations though, for me personally- Canyons represents my existential trench. Sometimes I stand on the edge and peer down, sometimes I purposefully dive in head first, sometimes I lose my footing and tumble in- but while I’m down there, I always make sure to climb out pulling something with me. For this song, I wanted to raise the question of illusions. “Show me a man worth worshipping and I’ll show you the blood on his hands, show me a girl who ‘doesn’t give a damn’ and I’ll show you the cuts on her legs.” Things aren’t always as they seem. The beast you feed is the beast you become. Be mindful. Be aware. Beware.
What are some of your influences? Who inspires you to create music?
SB: I think it’s different for each of us. We are all extremely open minded. For me, it can be the water running down the drain, my feet in the dirt, those rare moments when I take a deep breath and actually truly feel the bottom of my lungs. Moments. As far as musical influences, I think a great quality about each of us is that we are willing to listen to anything and everything AT LEAST once. I’m motivated more by words and certain sounds because writing is my thing. The boys are influenced more by the musical aspects of songs. Example- currently my playlist consists of Jason Isbell, Courtney Barnett, Kendrick Lamar, and The Brian Jonestown Massacre. Each very different but all lyrically intriguing. However, the longer I contribute to this band, the more I’m finding that my three biggest inspirations and influences are usually standing in the practice room with me on a Thursday night.
What so you hope to achieve with this release?
SB: I think that with each release, a band has the potential to grow musically and individually. We’ve already grown so much more since those two songs we recorded. Those songs feel like ages ago. For listeners, we just want to share with them something that means the world to us. If they enjoy it, awesome. If they hate it, that’s fine too. Regardless, if just one person in the room can walk away feeling something, good or bad, then we’ve achieved our goal.
What’s next for The Squid and The Whale?
SB: Taking over the world (and maybe playing some shows and recording more songs along the way)
To purchase The Squid and The Whale‘s vinyl debut, please go to Deal With The Devil Records
For more info on The Squid and The Whale, please check out their Official Website