It’s safe to say Aqueous have had an amazing 2017, with a slew of big shows and music festivals it’s safe to say that the future is bright for this Buffalo New York based Groove Rock band. We recently had the pleasure of chatting with Mike Gantzer of Aqueous about their upcoming Gorillaz themed New Years Eve Bash at the Town Ballroom in Buffalo. (Get Tickets Here) as well as their plans for 2018, which include two weekends at Electric Forest! (Tickets)
Mike Gantzer (Guitar/Vocals)
Dave Loss (Guitar/Keys/Vocals)
Evan McPhaden (Bass)
Rob Houk (Drums)
So could you tell us a little bit about the New Year’s Eve show and what made you guys pick the Gorillaz? Could you give us a little insight into what that’s all about?
Mike – Absolutely. So it had been a few years since we’d really done any kind of theme set. We kind of make a distinction between the tribute set and the theme set, because with the theme set we integrate our own music and find interesting cross-sections between their music and our music, where we can segue in and out of them and improvise our way from one section of our song into their song. We try to get really creative with finding cool ways to segue in between the material and make it like this “amorphous blob” of music between our stuff and their stuff. We had done that a few years ago. We actually did that with Cake’s music. We did a Cake theme set and our fans started calling us Cake-quious. It was a fun thing to do and we’ve done a couple of things like that over the years with artist that we really love and think its more unique to the scene. I think being in the jam band scene, there’s a lot of bands that get paid tribute to or covered. We like to do things that are a little bit off of the normal grid for that style of music and are also honest and true to things that we grew up loving and that influenced us in a unique ways. We decided we wanted to make this a really unique and special night in Buffalo. So we decided to go with the Gorillas theme and we’re really excited about it.
That’s awesome man. Cool. So, I saw you guys perform at this year at Night Lights music festival. How do you prepare for something like that? I mean … you guys had three sets and I saw you with performing with Mihali (Twiddle) Is that something that’s extensively planned out way in advance, or is it something you guys had the ability to do because you’re such talented musicians?
Mike- Maybe it’s somewhere in between. We definitely do a lot of homework on our end and we love that. I say the word “working” in parenthesis, because we’re playing music and it’s an honor basically. That’s how we think of it. We feel very grateful to play and have these opportunities. So when we get them we decide to really … pay as much justice to the thing as we can and just make sure that we’re ultra prepared. I think a lot of it comes down to scheduling for us. We’ve had a really busy year where we’ve been on the road a ton and it’s just been going out and doing a ton of music festivals and doing a ton of clubs dates. It’s been awesome, but what that usually means for us is rehearsing in hotel rooms or rehearsing in green rooms and doing back stage stuff and just always staying on that grind of being prepared as we can, making sure that we’re making the shows that are happening currently or at that time awesome. Making sure those experiences are taken care of first and then making sure that we’re at least a week or two ahead of ourselves starting to prep for the bigger things like Night Lights or a theme set like what we have coming up. With Night Lights, knowing that we had three sets and doing an acoustic set for the first time ever, we did have dedicated rehearsals for those. Mainly just for the acoustic sets. With covers and stuff like that, pretty much everyone on their own, each band member learns the tune. It’s just understood that by the time you get to practice you’re ready for it. We usually only have to run cover songs once or twice with everyone. It’s kind of like and unspoken rule in our band, that practice is the time to actually have it ready and make sure we all get on the same page with little things.
When you first started out was it difficult with the style of music that you were playing to create a following or do you feel like the Northern New England, New York area is pretty conducive to the style of music you guys play?
Mike- Yeah. I think on one hand it just … anytime you have an original artist endeavor that you’re pursing, I think it takes time. I think people gravitate initially toward familiarity. You start off in a city, it’s easy to engage people with covers and get the idea that covers are an easy pursuit of music, which can be the case sometimes on a local level and there’s nothing wrong with that. It did take a few years for us to really a) get our sound together b) get a following of people that believed in us and wanted to see us grow. I attribute a lot of that to the city of Buffalo, because we have some of the most passionate fans in our home town. I think Buffalo is inherently a very proud city and they seem to be very proud of us, which is a wonderful feeling because … I remember the days when there was a core group of fifteen people that would come to our shows and we knew all of them by name. It was a very personal and awesome experience and we had a lot of fun with that. A few years passed and those people planted seeds within the community by saying, “hey, you should check this band out. You should check this band out” Then all of a sudden a few years later we noticed we didn’t know anyone at our shows. Those fifteen people were still there so we knew, but the other 300 or 400 or however many people that started coming to the shows later, it just grew organically. I think … we’ve actually been a band for eleven years because we started so young. We started in high school without much intent other than to just have fun and play music with each other because we were friends. I think having that long of a time-span has given us a lot time to really work out our vision for our music and creatively get a lot on the same page and be ready for some of these bigger opportunities and experiences that we’ve been having this year and the past few years. I think it’s kind of a mix of all of that.
So, In your eleven year career so far, do you have a defining moment? Is there a moment where you stepped out on stage and you were like, “I can’t believe this is happening?”
Mike- Honestly, I feel like I’ve had a few of them this year. We did maybe six or seven shows with Umphrey’s McGee and playing some of those venues, like the Stone Pony in New Jersey or … just some of these larger venues…..you have these dreams to play in rooms that we’ve been given the opportunity to play in. Honestly beyond that, even getting the opportunity to share the bill with a band or bands that we grew up looking up to and were influenced by is pretty surreal. It’s really weird in a really wonderful way. I guess to answer your question, definitely. There’s been a couple of defining moments at some of the bigger festivals and bigger venues where it’s like, “oh shit.” Beyond that, I think every night we think, “wow. This is amazing. Like Wow.” It’s kind of a gratitude thing.
Are there any bands that you guys have met along your travels that are very well known right now or maybe somebody that you’re just like, “wow. These guys are amazing. I can’t believe nobody’s heard of them?”
Mike- Yeah. That happens all the time man. One recent one I can think of is we just did a couple of shows and we were in Boston and New York and this band called STIG opened for us and they were really impressive. It was like … they were like kind of a funk, sort of progressive-fusion funk thing. They’re all Berkeley cats, so they’re all incredible musicians, but they also hold a really solid groove and build together nicely. There’s shows are pretty rad and I think people would be psyched on them. Also, one that I really want to make sure that I give credit to that I’m stoked about that not that many people know about yet is Mungion, which is a band out of Chicago, Illinois. They’re a four piece kind of like prog-fusion jam bands thing. I don’t even know how to properly describe them. Their musicianship is through the roof and their shows are super fun and they’re also really great dudes that really deserve it. They work really hard. Unfortunately they’ve come up against some obstacles this year with their van and tailor got stolen in Detroit. So I’d say Mungion and one other band I definitely want to mention is Organ Freeman, which is like a soul trio out of L.A. We’ve recently done … we’ve played with them at the Mishawaka Amphitheater amphitheater earlier this year and they were unbelievable. As their name would indicate, Organ Freeman, they’re an organ based keyboard trio. They’re really powerful they just opened for Twiddle at the Capital Theater and they’ve been crushing all kinds of dates, but that’s another band that I think a lot of people are be hearing about in the next couple of years.
What made you pick jam music. In other words, what made you say, “this is the kind of music I want to be doing” instead of something like more mainstream?
Mike – I don’t think it was ever a conscious choice. I just kind of found myself there. It was a bit of a natural progression of the things I was into. When I grew up I started off with a lot of punk-rock and a little bit of hip-hop, because I was really into skate-boarding. That’s how I was finding my music was through skate videos and also … like the Tony Hawk pro-skater games I found out so much cool metal and hip-hop. From there I got really into classic rock and progressive rock because that’s what my dad was really into. A lot of … Pink Floyd is my favorite band of all time. Even bands like Gentle Giant and YES and RUSH and all that progressive stuff was pretty cool. …Hendrix. I was on that classic rock kick for a long time. Then I saw Moe. When I saw a Moe show and I was like, “what is all this?” They opened with a tune called “Seat of my Pants” that deviates between jazz and rock and funk. In the first song I was like, “what did I just see? What is this?” Then I got really into Phish and then Umphrey’s McGee and so on and so forth. When were starting the band we were kind of just influenced by those sounds that we were hearing and it just happened naturally that we started participating in every aspect of the culture in terms of the two-set shows and the heavy improvising and segue. It’s interesting now because our tastes are so diversified now. We listen to all kind of interesting stuff and that’s why it’s cool to have that mix with some of the earlier jam influences. There’s some neo-soul stuff we’ve been incorporating. Some hip-hop feels, but then also still having that foundation of dual-rock, jam band guitar sounds. It’s yielded some really cool results. It’s was just kind of a natural pull for us to come to the jam scene. I’m so glad that I did, because being a musician that is on the road the entire year, playing shows every single night, I think that my brain would explode if I had to play the same set list every night. You know?
What does the 2018 year hold for you guys? Do you plan on any crazy tours? New music?
Mike- Yeah. We’ve got a lot coming up and huge plans for 2018. We’re going to be releasing a new full length album, which we haven’t done in about two or three years now, so we’re really stoked on that. We’ve put out EPs and things like that and some live albums recently, but we haven’t done an official studio release and we’re extra psyched on this one because it’s a bunch of music no one’s ever heard. Which has been really hard to keep under our hats with the live shows. We really want to play it all but we thought … we’ve always wanted to put out an album that has mostly new material on it and so we finally executed on that for 2018, so that’s cool. We’ve got a jam cruise to kick off the year, which is unbelievable. I’ve never played music on a boat, so that’s like … we’re really stoked on that, today we announced a show at the Palace Theater with Moe. We’re doing a bunch of dates with Papadosio and then we’re going to be doing a whole album release tour and headlining shows of our own right after that. So we’ve got a lot of big plans for 2018. Oh! We are also playing both weekends of Electric Forest so that should be amazing!
Awesome man! Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us!
Mike- Alright brother. Good talking to you.
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