Aqueous (pronounced “ay-kwee-us”) was formed in Buffalo, New York back in 2006. The band, known for its groove-rock style, has cultivated a unique vibe that is composed of meticulous compositions and elaborate exploratory sounds. Members of the group, guitarist Mike Gantzer, guitarist/keyboardist David Loss, bassist Evan McPhaden, and drummer Rob Houk, showcase their talents by transitioning from laidback grooves to high-intensity jams. As longtime friends, members of Aqueous are so well-versed, they can maintain complex layering with remarkable precision. Without question, the band has an impressive record; and whether they’re headlining shows at sold out venues across the country or performing at festivals like Summer Camp, The Peach Music Festival, Suwannee Hulaween, or Jam Cruise, Aqueous is sure to deliver a dynamic performance that will leave fans in awe.
You guys have played a number of times at Summer Camp, what do you think about the festival? Is there anything about it that sets it apart from others?
Mike: “Yeah! This is actually our fifth year playing there, which is hard to believe… the years have just flown by. To me, it’s like probably one of my favorite festivals. Collectively, it’s probably the band’s favorite as well. I think there’s a lot of reasons for it. The lineup is always so diverse, there are so many different types of music fans there, and it always has a little bit of something that works for everyone. I think there’s a lot to be said about the particular weekend, with it being that of Memorial Day too. I feel like it sort of represents the onset of summer and festival season. I feel like there’s this energy, almost like a fever pitch, when people walk in. Especially because the Midwest and the surrounding areas have gone through a little bit of winter blues…everyone’s ready to throw down! So there are definitely some really specific vibes going on at Summer Camp, which is just so awesome. We are very stoked to play this year!”
Do you guys ever get a chance to venture out into the campgrounds or to catch other sets when you’re at Summer Camp?
Mike: “Yeah, absolutely! I’ve seen some pretty crazy stuff going on in the woods there! *laughs* That’s definitely one of the great things about festival season though, especially one that’s as big as Summer Camp. We’ll definitely get a chance to go catch music. If you get that opportunity before your set, it can really inspire you to play the best you can, or it’ll get you really hyped up and ready to go. With a lineup like Summer Camp, there’s just so much going on… it’s so awesome that we’ll be able to see other acts that we will truly love. That’s been the case over the years, for sure.”
How did you guys meet?
Mike: “We met in school, probably when I was in like 8th grade. Then we started becoming pretty good friends freshman year of high school. You know, we bonded over our love of music, but also for our love of Nintendo video games, skateboarding, and all kinds of other nerdy 14-year-old stuff.”
How would you describe your music to someone who had never heard it before?
Mike: “I’d probably describe it as groove-rock with pop sensibilities, and improvisational leaning. Something like that! It’s funny, I feel like we’re sort of within the jam-band realm in that we definitely improvise during our sets. But I think that when we write music, we draw from a lot of different inspirations and styles. It’s not always derivative of or influenced by jam band sounds. Sometimes it most certainly is, other times it has like nothing to do with it. Maybe we’ll be influenced by Incubus or Cake, you know, one of our weird influences outside of the jam realm. I’d like to think that we encompass a lot of things about music that people tend to enjoy. I think that almost anybody can get down with a little bit of Aqueous…but maybe that’s just me being optimistic!” *laughs*
Do you have a pre-show ritual? If so, what is it?
Mike: “One of the aspects of our pre-show rituals is stretches. That’s the lamest answer I could ever give you, but it’s true! *laughs* We sit back stage, and before we start warming up on our instruments, we will do these little stretches for our hands. We found that when we started touring a bunch it just became a necessity. Our hands like needed that. Then right before we walk on, we always do this weird hype up scream that we learned from Shia LaBeouf’s YouTube video. It’s the one where he’s got that rat tail, trying to motivate you, and he’s screaming that. That’s our thing, we all count to a number, and then we’ll do these like caveman “ooooohs!” On the last one everybody shouts, “just do it!” And then we do the Shia LaBeouf arm movement from the YouTube video. So yeah, we’re pretty weird!”
How did you guys end up selecting the tracks that would be featured on your album, and where there any challenges to making the album?
Mike: “It’s interesting, this time we took a different approach and sort of just wrote as we went along until we had a good batch of music to choose from. I think each song was specifically written to be a part of this new project that we’re working on. Usually we will kind of road test songs and then bring them into the studio, and that’s when we will whittle them back down into a studio version. But this time, we went in the complete opposite direction. We booked studio time and wrote songs for a couple weeks prior, we would record an early rendition of the tune, and then kind of chip away at it from the other end. So, we really tried to write songs that were well-suited for a studio. It was challenging in a new way but really exciting in a fun way. We’re really stoked with how it came out, I think sometimes it’s good to change up your format and keep yourself inspired. I think this time around, we got some really cool results and I’m very stoked for people to hear it.”
How did you choose the stage name Aqueous, were there any other names that you guys considered using?
Mike: “You know, it’s funny, the name was chosen so long ago… I remember conversations among us with other names being brought up, but that one just stuck. Largely because at that time we were definitely big chemistry nerds. I think that had a lot to do with it, we were just like 11th graders thinking ‘oh, cool, our jams kind of sounds like water… aqueous is a water soluble solution, let’s have that be our name.’ It was definitely a super high school choice, but 10 years later, I think that the name definitely works for us. It’s just our identity and character now. So there really wasn’t an elaborate plan with the name, but I guess that’s just the innocence of being an 11th grader.”
Have there been any difficult obstacles that you’ve overcome as a group of musicians?
Mike: “Yeah, honestly, I think just the longevity of keeping a band together. There’s a lot to be said about that. It’s a lot like a relationship that you would share with a significant other, except times 3 or 4, or however many people are in your group. Finding a band dynamic that works, figuring out how to communicate, working around each other’s issues. We’ve been a band for over 10 years at this point just because we started so young, and in that time we’ve all dealt with a lot of personal stuff. 10 years goes by in anybody’s life, you see some struggles and some ups and downs. Everybody has their unique story within the band. Just kind of learning how to be a unit over the years and how to support each other as people first, then play music second… this is probably one of the bigger challenges that we faced when we were younger that we’ve kind of overcome and built on in our later years.”
Is there anything that the band is currently working on or anticipating?
Mike: “Right now the studio album is the big thing! That’s what we’ve been keeping under our hats so we are very very excited to get that out. We’ve got really big plans for a fall tour, it’ll be a headline tour behind the album.”
What would be your spirit animal?
Mike: “In terms of an actual animal?”
It could be a make-believe animal!
Mike: “Wow, okay, you know, I think even if I could pick a make-believe animal, I would still go with a monkey. I don’t know why, I just feel like I kind of identify with one… I want to be in the trees, I want to be soaring! *laughs* That whole thing looks pretty good. But I betcha in like 2 days I’m going to message you guys with a different answer because I’m going to start thinking about this now!”
Aqueous at Summer Camp Music Festival:
Date: Friday, May 25 and Saturday May 26, 2018
Time: (Friday) 2:00-3:30AM ; (Saturday) 2:00-3:30AM
Location: (Friday) Campfire Stage ; (Saturday) VIP Tent
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