Not Squares are a three-piece from Belfast on the Richter Collective label. If you don’t know yet, that’s kind of like being stamped as “deadly and slightly weird”. They’re at acute angles and they play synths and DFA-esque drums and shout while you dance. This is the sound of smart people ignoring their head and following their body. They have one single out on the RC singles club called Aye Yo Pa, and the Asylum single will be out early in 2010, but they’re one of the best live bands around, so if you can get out to see them, do it.
Not Squares – Asylum (BBC session)
Q0.5 How are you?
Q1 Nowadays, when everybody has a decent computer and gear is more available, it’s much easier for anyone to make music and have it heard quickly – does the bedroom music explosion devalue music at all by making it so easy to do?
We have never really thought about music in ‘industry’ terms. Growing up in small towns without much of a culture for alternative music we were always subject to the limitations imposed by mainstream media’s presentation of which music had ‘value’. Copies of U2’s ‘Zooropa’ were easily acquired in local music stores, but it was difficult to pick up anything by the Pixies and Slint’s ‘Spiderland’ was completely beyond my reach. A world where anyone can make their own music AND get it into the ears of people in any town or city destroys this monopoly and develops a scene that is is as diverse as it is accessible. Demystifying the process ups the game. People are making wonderful records in bedrooms, people are making wonderful records in expensive studios and we all benefit.
Q2 Is downloading a good thing? Does the fact that it’s possible to get so much music so easily and for free make it more disposable at all?
Downloading makes music more disposable in the sense that it makes music listeners more impatient. Whether that is because they have a reduced attention span or because they are more discerning is case specific. Perhaps sharing music for free has helped more bands than it has harmed. We have been able to tour, have been played on the radio and have met countless new people partly because some of our music is easily available. However it is not to cheapen the product, music should be available but still retain a value and people, if they are decent, will respect this with varying thresholds (listen to Stephen Fry’s ‘Copyright Talk’ at recent itunes Festival for further info).
Q3 Is there anything that makes your music quintessentially Irish? Is it intentional?
We all live in Belfast and have developed alongside bands from North and South – I guess this makes us quintessentially Irish, no? We love to meet people and have developed a great camaraderie with other bands and promoters in Ireland, particularly with Richter cohorts like Bats, Adebisi Shank and the superb Cap Pas Cap, also with Small Town America’s fine roster. Those labels are doing great things to define music that is associated with being Irish and contemporary.
Q4 Do you find it difficult to self-edit, or to take a step back from your music and look at it objectively?
Most of our music is borne of improvisation in the practice room and so songwriting has been about self-editing from the very beginning. Sometimes ideas are demoed at home and then brought to rehearsal in which case we work purely on feeling. So far the songs we have been excited about have been the songs that have solicited the best response so we are growing in songwriting confidence. Our only flaw is a reticence to slow down (BPM-wise)!
Q5 Is there a Dublin scene, or even smaller genre-based scenes? Are you a part of one?
We feel part of a scene in the sense that we feel that people involved with The Richter Collective, Skinny Wolves, Ordinary Days, Small Town America etc. will always do what they can to help us out. In return we play/DJ for them when we can. There is a great feeling of support in these networks that make playing in a band a real pleasure.The venues we have ended up playing in and the bands we get billed alongside suggest the genre we are perceived as and it is great to form links. It is different from the gigs we played in previous bands and so feels like a development.
Q6 Name a non-musical influence on your music.
Smiling, sweaty people dancing like maniacs.
Q7 Take one of your songs and explain the process of writing it from the beginning to the finished article.
Our next single ‘Asylum’ – out in January – came out of a jam. Michael came up with a catchy bassline hook on top of some drums Keith was playing, Ricki added a killer chorus vocal line, while Keith wrote the words to the verse. The song was then played around summer festivals and a tour in July hours after it had been structured till it kind of grew up and groomed itself.
Q8 Has music criticism ever influenced your music, or at least made you think about it differently? I mean proper reviews, but also blogs or even just hearing someone you don’t know talk about you.
Yes to an extent, we listen to what our close and trusted comrades say and reviews and remarks from informed people always make us re-evaluate our music but mostly we are our own biggest critics.
Q9 Have you ever felt guilty for trying to get other people to take an interest in your music, if you aren’t making the effort with new music yourself?
No, all three of us understand that it is important to support other local acts and new music in general, to promote a scene whether it is gig attendance, promotion, sales – whatever.. the point is we feel almost an obligation to support the new, fresh and good music that is coming out of any particular place we are in. Sometimes even to support the people even if their music isn’t to our taste.
Q10 Would you call yourself a traditionalist with regard to music, either as a listener or in how you go about writing/recording/performing?
You would need to define ‘Traditionalist’ but probably not as so far we’re all open to new systems of music production and listen to a wide range of music within genre’s which at times change and adapt to our personal tastes.
Q10.5 What’s something you’re listening to right now?
Literally? Suttlerlin – ‘Bandscheibe’, LCD Soundsystem’s ‘Bye Bye Bayou’, Tussle’s ‘Meh-Teh’
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