In the interest of journalistic integrity—ignoring for the time being that I am not nor have I ever been a journalist, but rather a lowly blogger with obvious delusions of grandeur—let me get this out of the way first: I am hopelessly biased here (though, [ahem] let me also point out, in case you haven’t been paying attention, that “hopelessly biased” is a banner we fly pretty high here at Corduroy). During my high school years and a few thereafter, squint more or less constituted the small but lively local music scene in my tiny north central Louisiana hometown, or at least served as the de facto figureheads thereof. Many were the night I snuck into overcrowded bars, wedging myself between sweaty drunk college students, to watch them perform. They released their first studio album during this time, Beeker, which earned them opening slots for the Goo Goo Dolls, the Toadies, and several other high-profile acts of the time.
Fast forward to the present, and the band, now based in Austin, is celebrating its third studio release, Goodnight, Bad Intentions, and has already put out a music video for the single of the same name (Psst! There’s hookers and guns!). They have also snagged endorsements from Jagermeister and Atlas Microphone Stands.
Side note: Shortly before my interview with vocalist Dane Adrian took place, the band’s tour trailer was stolen, along with most of their personal effects and several thousand dollars’ worth of music equipment which, as most professional musicians will tell you, is often the kiss of death for independent acts (the trailer was later recovered by police—empty). And yet squint has managed to maintain their touring schedule, using whatever resources are at their disposal to continue performing. And so if you like good music and you like helping people and you have even the slightest inkling of decency in you, you will go here and donate a couple bucks. Because you care.
Okay, so here goes:
1. Your third album, Goodnight, Bad Intentions, just came out. Tell us a little about it. What have the songwriting and recording processes been like in comparison to your previous albums (Beeker and Tinsel Life)? Is songwriting a collaborative process for the band? How do you determine which songs make it onto an album?
With every album we write, I believe we grow a little bit. Likewise, I believe we grow a little bit with each song we write. Guitarist Matt Fredrickson and I write all the songs. I can really only speak for myself and how I craft a song lyrically as to whether or not songwriting process has changed over the years, and it has. I used to sit and write and write, aimlessly writing down words and ideas in notebook after notebook, and this yielded me a lot of notebooks with very few concrete song ideas.
Now I only write down ideas for songs. Virtually every song on Goodnight, Bad Intentions started as a sentence that began with “Write a song about BLANK.” I view songs as 3-minute over-reactions. You really only have a very short amount of time to try to get your point across, a couple of verses and a chorus; about all you can accomplish, if you are lucky, is getting one point across. So I like to make that point and then pretty much go off about it for 3 minutes. Hopefully at the end of the song you can step back and say “that was a song about BLANK”. If that happens, I feel like I did my job.
One thing we did differently on Beeker was that we tried to self-produce the album. We thought we knew what the best songs were and in what order they should be in and what sounds would work best for each track. This was fun, but after recording Tinsel Life with producer Ed Stasium, we knew that introducing a 3rd party to help guide and mold the album was the correct way to do things, at least for us it was.
For our new album we recruited producer Dave Percefull. We brought Dave about 25 songs, and from those, he picked the tracks that would make the record. He picked the order. He picked the sounds. We of course could veto whatever we felt compelled to, but for the most part you have to put your trust in your producer. We like the end result; I think you will as well.
2. You just released your first music video–”Goodnight Bad Intentions,” directed by Jeff Adair. Tell us a little about what the filming was like. How much creative input did the band have? Do you think that the video is an accurate representation of the band’s character (inasmuch as that’s what music videos are supposed to do, which is sorta debatable)? What did you hope to accomplish with the video? What has the response been like?
“Goodnight, Bad Intentions” is our first video, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive. The entire filming experience was amazing. I cannot wait to do it again. Producer Jeff Adair was a spectacle to watch work. He took control of the set and didn’t let go—I don’t think I saw the man eat for 3 days!
The concept for the video was pretty much a literal translation of the song. The words of “Goodnight, Bad Intentions” tell a story, a story of temptation, a story we all know so very well. It is that moment when you can either do a very bad thing, or just roll over and go to sleep. I think Jeff managed to nail it on the head with the video. He captured just about every visual I was painting lyrically and captured them well.
The video world has changed so much over the last few years; we really aren’t quite sure what we are going to do with the video just yet. It’s a very powerful tool, but how exactly to engage the tool is still up for debate. We plan to take a run at as many outlets as possible, everything from local stations up to MTV and Fuse, but as an indie band, we really aren’t sure how much traction we are going to get. The video has already been picked up by HDNet and is airing nationwide, so that is a start!
3. In terms of content, Squint’s songs tend to focus on relationships, or perhaps more specifically, the dissolution of relationships, and by extension, the process of recovery (I’m thinking of tunes like “Anthem for Closure” and “Postergirl”). With respect to Squint’s songs, what is the relationship between the actual music and the content? Do you go into a song with a certain subject or premise in mind, or does it generate naturally from the instrumentation?
I think I sort of already answered this question, but I can elaborate a bit. Matt generally brings me some music. I give it a few 10′s of listens, get a feel for it, chart it out and start messing with melodies. Once I have a few starting melodies, I start leafing through ideas for songs that I’ve written down. I generally try to match the mood of the music, but since there are two separate writers and two separate opinions, I don’t always get the mood that Matt was envisioning. You brought up “Postergirl”—a very good example of Matt writing a happy, pop song, and me writing a set of sad lyrics to go over the top of it. A lot of times I will actually ask Matt “what do you believe the mood of this music to be?” Sometimes I will follow it, sometimes I will pay it no mind whatsoever.
I think you’ll find the new squint album covers a lot more ground lyrically than previous albums. I write from the heart, and when crafting both Beeker and Tinsel Life, heartbreak was what I knew best.
4. Okay, so, here’s a radically condensed version of Squint’s geographic history: Originated in Michigan, relocated to Louisiana, and are now based in Texas. What’s the deal behind all the moving around?
Matt and I have been best friends since we were 8 years old. We met in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (the U.P.). As we made our way through school we started writing music and started to get pretty serious about it. We wanted to hit the road and play live music as much as possible at first, so being in the U.P. was a rough place to try to do that. We had snow on the ground about 70% of the year and the nearest town of any size was Green Bay, Wisconsin, which was a 3 1/2 hour drive south. Not the most conducive home base to tour out of. So we decided to go somewhere where there wasn’t snow and somewhere in the middle of the country. That landed us in Louisiana. We toured out of Louisiana for years, playing from LA to NYC and back to the U.P. After touring the entire U.S. for years, we decided that we wanted to start focusing on putting out more music. We were living in the small town of Ruston, Louisiana, where there wasn’t a single studio in the city. So we decided to move to a music town—we picked Austin, TX.
5. You guys have been at it for awhile now, and, if the blog on your site is any indication, you have been through a lot together. What do you think it is that keeps a band together? I’m not talking about just success or acclaim; rather, I mean in terms of musical chemistry: do you think that’s something that comes naturally, or is there any way to foster it?
There are 3 things that keep us going:
1. Fans. I know I get great pleasure from giving the fans a great show, or a new song.
2. Friendship. It’s not hard to keep hanging out with your best friend—what better way to do that than travelling around the country making music together? Good times, good stories, every single night.
3. Stubbornness. I love our songs, and I know we can convince the rest of the world if given the chance.
6. What do you ultimately hope to DO with your music? Is there a collective vision among you, or does each band member have his own ideas of what squint’s music should do?
This is an answer that has changed over time and will probably continue to morph forever. At first it was fame that drove me, but that is a very distant thought at this point. I think we all have a similar vision at this point – we just want to be able to play music and call it our job. No more slinging drinks or punching clocks or whatever it is that each of us have to do in order to make music every possible chance we get. So, to answer your question in one word, “career.”
7. What is the future for squint, and what kind of advice can you give to bands or musicians who are just starting their careers?
I don’t know what the future holds for squint—I think that is the most wonderful part about it. I never have known what was coming next. If someone told me I would be sitting in Austin in 2010 still playing in the band that Matt and I formed so many years ago in the U.P. while in high school, I would have laughed at them. What I do know is this: squint will be making music for as long as we can possibly keep squint going.
As far as advice goes, that is simple: DO SOMETHING. Get up every single day and do something that pushes your music forward. That could be something as obvious as writing a song or building a website or something that isn’t obvious like calling companies for sponsorships or setting up a charity event—just do something. Some of it will work, some of it will not, but if you do something every day for a month and then look back at where you were at the beginning of the month and where you are at the end of month, you will be surprised how far you’ve come by doing just 30 things. Now, get every member of a 5 piece band doing something every day: that will be 150+ different things that have been done each month to push your career forward—you will be surprised.
There is no syllabus to follow to become a rock star—you have to make your own. *