Aqueous Interviews Big Something & Big Something Interviews Aqueous
Buffalo, New York-based Aqueous and Burlington, North Carolina’s Big Something begin a 20-date co-headlining winter tour tonight at The Bluebird in Bloomington, Indiana. The joint tour will make stops in the Midwest, Colorado, Texas and Louisiana and it marks Aqueous’ first West Coast shows as well. Prior to spending the next month on the road together, the members of the two bands interviewed each other. Read on to find out what Aqueous learned about Big Something and what Big Something learned about the guys in Aqueous.
Big Something Interviews Aqueous
Big Something: Hey guys, we’re really excited to join forces on this tour together! When Aqueous goes out on a long run like this, do you all have any tricks or life hacks you’ve learned to make the road easier, more fun?
Rob Houk: Life hacks … I used to hang a hammock from the back door of our old van to the front. It was the most comfortable spot in the van and I slept like a baby. As our old van got progressively shittier, the sliding door seemed to always be threatening to fly open. Falling out of a moving van seemed like a pretty terrible way to die. Now when I sit in the front seat, I take off a fourth of a hooded sweatshirt, secure the hood in the window and use it as a head hammock. This doesn’t work in the rain or snow though.
Big Something: What are some things about touring that you really like or look forward to? Anything in particular you’re excited about for this upcoming run?
David Loss: In particular for this run, I’m very excited to hit the West Coast! I haven’t been out there before and I can’t wait to take it all in. I’m especially pumped for California. Let’s go! In regards to touring in general, I really like how you can put a lot of distractions aside and just focus on the music – focus on playing your best and putting on the best shows possible. You don’t always get that when you only do a few shows at a time. It’s nice to get into a solid groove and be “in the zone.”
Big Something: Do you guys like any anime or science fiction programs Casey [Cranford] would like to know)?
Evan McPhaden: I’m not an anime guy but I do dig science fiction. I remember watching Twilight Zone marathons and Mystery Science Theater 3000 with my dad in middle school, and I really like the sci fi out now. I love Black Mirror! Really digging Man In The High Castle and Electric Dreams right now. Altered Carbon was solid, too.
Big Something: Mike, we noticed that you made the switch from your black Stratocaster to that sexy little PRS recently. How much of an adjustment has this been for you? Has it inspired any changes in your playing or musical approach?
Mike Gantzer: Man, I’ll always love and appreciate my black Strat, she was my warhorse for many years and has been there for me for a long time! That being said, really every aspect of the PRS was a step up for me – it’s so fluid and easy to play, and it’s been inspiring some new licks and playing that I didn’t anticipate, plus the tone is to die for. It can cover all of the single coil sounds but can get some really beefy, sustain-y humbucker sounds, too. It’s been pure joy forging a bond with the new git-fiddle lately.
Big Something: Rob, we’ve seen tons of meals you cooked on the internet and they look unreal. Do you have a culinary background or is it just something you have a knack for?
Rob Houk: I started cooking in restaurants when I was 15 and did it professionally into my late-20s. Now that I have stepped away from it, I find cooking at home to be a lot of fun instead of work. I can be as creative as I want to be without someone hanging over me and telling me I’m doing it wrong.
Big Something: Any chance of a Boss Tweed & the Carpetbaggers appearance on this run? Big Something also has a side project called Alien Sex Machine … That could be quite the mashup. Just saying …
Evan McPhaden: You’d have to ask the guys in that band, I don’t know. I’m scared to go to a show from what I’ve seen and heard online … Crazy fuckers. I’m interested in Alien Sex Machine though, tell me more!
Big Something: What techniques do you all practice for group improvisation?
Mike Gantzer: We’ve recently been working to jam a bit more thematically, which has been really cool. Often we’ll create an “A” section, and then call on someone to create a “B” section, and so on, and try to use elements that make it feel more like a song if you will. On the other hand, I think we’ve also been trying to be really tuned in with the audience and take them on the journey with us, and we try to respond to the energy of the room, whatever it might be – it’s super fun! As a guitarist, I’ve been focusing more of my creative energy on finding memorable lines and melodies and thinking more rhythmically. I think some of the best Aqueous improvisation typically comes from each of us settling into a groove and trying to complement and build off of one another organically, some deep listening going on.
Big Something: Who are some of your favorite groups or musicians from outside of the U.S.?
Rob Houk: I’ve been listening to the album Antenna by the Japanese band Quruli. It’s a musically perfect album. One of my favorites.
Big Something: We have nine total people traveling with us these days and we usually all share beds on the road? Do you all do this too and if so who bunks with who? Does your bunkmate look peaceful when they sleep? Dave must look very peaceful when he’s sleeping.
David Loss: Well, I’d like to think I look peaceful, but I guess you’d have to ask the rest of the band! We are usually sharing beds, as well. It’s the way of the road. Things get rotated a little, but I’m usually sharing with either Evan or Mike. Evan is peaceful for sure. Like my guardian angel. Mike, on the other hand, can be a wild card. You never know what you’re going to get with him. I’ll let you use your imagination on that one.
Aqueous Interviews Big Something
Aqueous (Mike Gantzer): Jesse, name three of your biggest “guilty pleasure” bands or artists!
Jesse Hensley: Tracy Byrd because nothing pulls you through an overnight van ride like listening to “Watermelon Crawl” on repeat for four and a half hours. Just ask [sound and lighting crew member] Cameron [Grogan]. Gregory Abbott’s song “Shake You Down.” The cheesy keyboard sounds paired with his dreamy vocals really hit me in the soft spots. The Strat tones on this track are pretty killer too! Diana Ross. That’s all I’ll say.
And to be real with y’all, I feel no shame. If an artist or song makes me really feel something or keeps me from being able to stand still, that’s good enough for me.
Aqueous (Mike Gantzer): Does anyone in the group love hip-hop like I do? If so, who, and which artist/album is your absolute favorite and why?
Casey Cranford: Some of us love it! To Pimp A Butterfly by Kendrick Lamar is one of the most powerful records I can think of in recent years. In my opinion, the first three albums by A Tribe Called Quest are among the best in any genre to come out of the ‘90s. I have recently been enjoying a group called Typical Cats, which is a bit like Jurassic 5 but with a more of a jazzy vibe mixed in.
Nick MacDaniels: I love me some hip-hop. Like Casey said, you can’t go wrong with Tribe Called Quest. They are also one of my faves. I just got The Low End Theory on vinyl – it’s such an incredible album especially in the vinyl format. I’m also a huge fan of Dr. Dre as a producer. And I love the sound and character of Snoop Dogg’s voice. The Straight Outta Compton movie was amazing – that really gave me a new appreciation for those guys. Also, the HBO docu-series The Defiant Ones with Dr. Dre is incredible to watch, too. Definitely one of the coolest music documentaries I’ve ever seen.
Recently, I’ve also been getting really into some new school hip-hop artists like Anderson .Paak. His album Malibu is a masterpiece from front to back, maybe even one of my favorite albums of all time. Not only can he rap, he’s an amazing singer, lyricist, composer, drummer and entertainer. Definitely one of my favorite current artists around right now.
Aqueous (Mike Gantzer): Casey – you’ve recently been asked to sit-in with Umphrey’s McGee on some of the support dates you guys did with them. What was that experience like?
Casey Cranford: Those are some truly remarkable people and musicians, so it was an honor to get to jam with them. Trading licks with Jake [Cinninger] is like getting caught in an equilibrium vortex. It was just such a wicked and inspiring experience to stand on stage in between those guys and feel that they, as well as their audience, trusted me to do my thing as best as I could. A one-word description of the experience would be “heavy.”
Aqueous (Mike Gantzer): You are called Big Something, but Aqueous has an old album called Giant Something – was the AQ/BS tour an ancient written prophecy that’s just now coming to fruition?
Doug Marshall: It was definitely written by the ancient aliens. I think i read it in Chariots Of The Gods.
Casey Cranford: It seems to have been written in stone. Have you guys ever thought about covering “Aqueous Transmission” by Incubus?
Aqueous (Mike Gantzer): Who’s the nerdiest member of your band? AKA who can I geek out to Zelda and Mario games with?
Casey Cranford: [Keyboardist/trumpeter] Josh [Kagel] is a Mario and Zelda master. I’m more of a casual gamer who kinda sucks at video games but still loves playing for fun. Doug and Josh are both on the Nintendo Switch now and have been raiding dungeons in Diablo III and beating the shit out of each other in Smash Brothers.
Doug Marshall: The cool thing is, we all nerd out on different things. I’m a huge wrestling nerd and yes I love the games! Josh and I crush on Diablo going down the road, it’s awesome!
Aqueous (David Loss): Who is the best driver in your band/crew? Who is the worst?
Doug Marshall: Cam our sound and lighting engineer is hands down the driving master. I would say I’m the worst because I’m an old ancient alien.
Aqueous (David Loss): How do you guys go about writing songs? Is there a primary songwriter or is it more of a group effort?
Nick MacDaniels: It really depends on the song and the situation. We like to experiment with lots of different approaches. On the musical side, usually one of us will come to practice or sound check with a new idea to try and then that will evolve as everyone starts to feel out their parts. Lately, we have been writing more with our producer John Custer who is always a great source of musical wisdom. Most of our catalog features lyrics that I collaborated on with my lifelong friend Paul Interdonato who unfortunately passed away last year.
Aqueous (Evan McPhadden): Tell me more about Alien Sex Machine!
Nick MacDaniels: Alien Sex Machine is a rare Big Something side project featuring Josh and Casey wearing alien masks making very weird sounds using synthesizers. It’s a bit — avant-garde — but awesomely strange.
Aqueous (Evan McPhadden): Do you guys have a favorite food stop out on the road?
Doug Marshall: My personal favorite is anywhere that serves mashed potatoes.
Nick MacDaniels: We eat way too much fast food on the road. It’s hard to avoid on the highway sometimes, as I’m sure you guys know. We used to go hard on Wendy’s to the point where we’d joke about having junior bacon cheeseburger withdrawals. We’ve chilled out on it a little bit since then. Doug also developed a mysterious “aversion” to it [laughs]. We try to mix it up a bit more these days. The “surf and turf” at McDonald’s is a great way to go: filet-o-fish combined with a cheeseburger. Pro nourishment.
Tour Dates for Aqueous
Tour Dates for Big Something