Buffalo, New York is a city on the shores of Lake Erie in upstate New York boasting a 398-ft art deco City Hall, the Frank Lloyd Wright–designed Darwin D. Martin House and the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, a Greek Revival museum with works by Picasso and Warhol. Obviously, that’s all very impressive, but now-a-days something new is hailing from the city, and it’s the band Aqueous. The four piece is gaining tsunami strength momentum while doing their thing alongside some of the top acts in live music today. The band was formed in 2007 by members Mike Gantzer (Guitar/Vocals), David Loss (Guitar/Keys/Vocals) and Evan McPhaden (Bass). They brought the last piece of their puzzle, Rob Houk (Drums/Vocals), on during later years.
Taraleigh: Your band has been coined a groove rock powerhouse by music critics. Is that how Lisa Simpson would describe Aqueous?
Rob Houk: Although we are considered "Groove Rock," we also like to go into deep exploratory improvisation. Given that Lisa’s a jazz fan, I think she’d love that aspect of our live shows. Is it possible to get a Lisa Simpson hologram to sit in with us?
Taraleigh: Anything is possible, so yes. Maybe you could get a Mr. Rogers hologram too just to spice things up even more. I bet he would bring the funk. How would he convey your sound?
Rob Houk: Mr. Rogers would appreciate the welcoming, dare I say, "neighborly" vibe that AQ fans bring to every show. Our fans are truly some of the nicest people you will meet.
Taraleigh: Your fans sound like a mystical breed of human beings. One may say they’re unicorns. If a unicorn was talking about Aqueous, what would it say?
Rob Houk: I'm a huge Lisa Frank fan. If you don’t know who she is, Lisa Frank is the woman who founded a company whose corporation's artwork features rainbow and neon colors and styled depictions of animals including unicorns. Her artwork can be found on school supplies such as lunch boxes, Trapper Keepers, toys, and stickers. Chances are, you or one of your friends has owned one of her designs. Lisa Frank represents the unicorn in a positive light and makes them look super dope at the same time. Me+unicorns+Lisa Frank=unicorns are Aqueous fans! You heard it here first.
Taraleigh: Samantha Jones from season six of Sex in the City said it best when referring to the order of success in the entertainment industry, "First come the gays, then the girls, then the industry, then the unicorns." Now that the unicorns are on board, you’ve officially arrived! Your newest live album, Element Pt. I, was just released to the world. What are you most excited to tell people about it?
David Loss: I'm more excited about this live release than any other we've put out so far. The band has never sounded better and these are some of the best live versions we have to offer of these tunes. The highlights can be found within the improvisational sections. Some of our most exploratory and exciting jams from this year's spring tour are featured on Element Pt. I, and we're already excited to release Pt. II when the time is right. We strive hard to always keep things fresh during our live shows, so every time we play a song, there will always be something unique or different about it. We never know where the music might take us on any given night and we're always trying to keep ourselves and the audience on their toes. Each song was taken from a different stop along our 2017 winter/spring tour, giving each track a little different flavor and showcasing the best of AQ so far this year!
Taraleigh: Practice makes perfect. Being a band that tours as heavily as you do, you have so many opportunities to play and to go to places in your songs you’ve never been before. Keeps it interesting I’m sure. With so many live tracks to choose from, how did you pick which ones would make it onto this album?
Mike Gantzer: One big aspect to our approach as a band is to always keep in touch with what our fan base is into and what has stood out for them at our concerts. We started keeping our eyes out for fan responses to the shows that were posting throughout the spring tour. We even went as far as communicating directly with some of our longtime fans and trusted listeners asking them to compile some of their favorite versions of our songs. A few versions kept coming up consistently, so in many ways, the fans picked these versions out for us. We just compiled what we thought was a good order and variation in material! (Thank you fans!)
Taraleigh: Your fans really are magical unicorns. What was the biggest challenge you encountered when making this live album?
Mike Gantzer: Being a band that improvises so much in the live setting, there's an inherent risk built into it. Some nights there's this incredible magic and everything seems so easy, fluid and like it’s all clicking between band members. Other nights it can fluctuate a bit and be harder to achieve that magic. I'd say the biggest challenge, ultimately, is our own perception of what is good and bad. Certain shows that we might've thought we didn't play our best, or get to the places we wanted to go for the improvisational side of it, often times ending up being a large percentage of our fans' favorite show. It's been super interesting to take a step back from the experience of being onstage and just listen to what we actually did on those nights. Oftentimes, those are some of the most interesting/listenable shows. In many ways it's been validating that the risks we’re taking are worth it. We’ve learned to trust our fans' ears along with our own instincts as musicians and band mates.
Taraleigh: We can be our own worst critics. The monkeys in our minds can talk so loud, it’s hard to hear what’s actually true. What a blessing it is to have your fans there to open your eyes to the greatness you’ve created. Together, you put out an amazing album. Why did you choose to release a live album instead of a studio album?
Mike Gantzer: A huge factor in that choice was the availability of material to choose from thanks to our sound engineer/lighting designer Ryan Bress. He multitrack recorded and mixed nearly every single show of the entire spring tour (which, for what it's worth, is no easy task). He made it easy for us to have a wealth of options to choose from that were mostly already "album worthy" in terms of how clean and balanced the audio was. We have so many thanks to give to Ryan for his dedication and care over his work for us. In many ways, he's becoming our "fifth member," and we're grateful for him.
Taraleigh: Are you going to put out a new studio album anytime soon?
Mike Gantzer: We're working towards a studio release right now and there's already material recorded that our fans have never heard. We’re so excited about that too!
Taraleigh: I’m excited for all of it. When people come to see you on tour, what should they expect?
Evan McPhaden: People coming to an AQ show should expect a very high energy grooving and powerful rock show. We push to deliver an immersive experience for the audience where they’re soaking in the lights, feeling the sound, singing along and dancing to the music. We think of it as a two way experience and do our best to really lock in with the crowd and take them on the journey with us. Trying to make every show totally different than the one before it, we spend a lot of time and effort to make sure that things are always fresh, new and exciting.
Taraleigh: What would fans not expect to see at your shows?
Evan McPhaden: I'd say that if someone comes to a show shouting for "Freebird," their request simply can't be granted. We're sorry, but it just can't happen!
Taraleigh: I’m totally going to yell “Freebird” the next time I see you. Just kidding. Maybe. Whether you play Freebird or not, I’m really looking forward to shaking my booty at one of your shows soon. I always work up quite an appetite from all the boogying. What's your favorite healthy post show snack?
Rob Houk: Tacos and/or burritos! They have all the good stuff I want in a handheld snack. I don't know if there's a day that goes by that at least one of us doesn't have a taco or burrito in some form. Taco Pro Tip: You can shake your booty AND eat a taco at the same time! No need to wait till you've stopped dancing!
Taraleigh: Shaking my booty to Aqueous while eating a taco at the same time? Hopefully I can handle that much awesome at once. If you’re interested in taking on that challenge, check out my favorite healthy taco recipe here that was inspired by Aqueous. After eating so many tacos, it’s important to balance them out with a run. Which track off your new album would be the best to go for a run to and why?
Evan McPhaden: If you're looking to go for a run, I'd say Aldehyde would be the best track to listen to. This song is fast and upbeat, and will definitely keep ya going. Try to keep up in the jam too!
Taraleigh: Which song would be the perfect one for a slow walk-a-bout?
Evan McPhaden: A track that’ll make ya feel stylish while walking around town would be Second Sight. Smooth grooves all day long.
Taraleigh: What if you’re looking to zone out for a bit?
Evan McPhaden: Staring into the Sun is your go to for sure. Specifically the improv section because it builds really slowly with a nice, deep pocket. Lots of space in the jam to get lost in.
Taraleigh: When we’re done with this interview, I’m going to do all of those things. It seems that you have so much to be grateful for. What are you most grateful for in this moment?
David Loss: I’m grateful for all the truly amazing opportunities we've had so far this year and all the ones to come throughout 2017. We've had the pleasure of touring with some great friends like Twiddle, Dopapod, and Pigeons Playing Ping Pong. We've hit great venues like the 9:30 Club in DC and the Playstation Theater in NYC. In general there's been so many crushing/high energy shows throughout the tour and it's been so much fun. Our new sound engineer/lighting designer, Ryan Bress, has been doing amazing work for us and has been a huge asset for us on and off the road. We're also incredibly grateful for our awesome and passionate fan base who are helping us realize our dreams. It's very inspiring.
Taraleigh: I know I’m inspired! What are you most excited about?
David Loss: We have a fantastic summer tour coming up with so many great festival stops along the way. We'll be returning to Peach Music Festival which is always a highlight for us. We're also rocking the first-ever Canyon Jam (September 8 and 9) at The Mishawaka Amphitheater, located in Bellvue, CO. On top of that we'll be supporting Umphrey's McGee for several dates this summer including a date at Central Park Summer Stage on July 7 in New York City. Our dream is coming true as we’re going to be a part of Jam Cruise 16 happening in January of 2018. There's too much awesome stuff to list here, but we're psyched about all of it. Also, for newer fans looking to dig even deeper into our live catalog beyond the new compilation, we offer downloads of every single show in it's entirety on Nugs.net within days of performing the show. If you come out and see us, you can relive it pretty soon thereafter!
Taraleigh: I’m sure after this interview, Aqueous will have a bunch of new fans. Thank you all for taking a moment out of your busy touring season to chat with me. Freebird!
Taraleigh is a weird and wild sequin-and-feather wearin' live music fanatic living in Burlington, Vermont. When she’s not at home practicing yoga, enjoying the local live music scene, watching sunsets or hanging out with her hubster or her friends, she can be found galavanting around the world leading retreats for live music fans with a healthy twist, presenting talks and workshops, writing or dancing at music festivals. Life wasn't always this magical. It's given her some majorly sour lemons that kicked the sparkles out of her and caused her to fall from her unicorn onto her sweet ass. But she got up, dusted herself off and started to realize that good times don't have to end when the festival does. Her newest book The Sweet Ass Self-Help Book is slated for release this fall.
Find out more about all of that and get some sparkles, smoothies & rock-n-roll from Taraleigh >>> HERE.
Listen to Aqueous
Catch Aqueous on the road.
2017 Tour Dates:
5/25 - Chillicothe, IL - Summer Camp Music Festival
5/26 - Chillicothe, IL - Summer Camp Music Festival
5/28 - Clarks Grove, MN - Revival Music Festival (Tickets)
6/8 - Stephentown, NY - Disc Jam Music Festival (Tickets)
6/15 - Artemas, PA - Mad Tea Party Jam (Tickets)
6/29 - Eureka Springs, AR - Highberry Music Festival (Tickets)
7/2 - Chicago, IL - Live on Lincoln (Tickets)
7/7 - New York, NY - Central Park SummerStage NYC * (Tickets)
7/9 - Asbury Park, NJ - Stone Pony Summer Stage * (Tickets)
7/15 - Buffalo, NY - Cobblestone Live (Tickets)
7/16 - Buffalo, NY - Cobblestone Live (Tickets)
7/20 - Cascade, WV - Deep Roots Mountain Revival (Tickets)
7/28 - Burlington, VT - Tumble Down (Tickets)
8/11 - Raleigh, NC - Red Hat Amphitheater * (Tickets)
8/12 - Scranton, PA - Peach Music Festival (Tickets)
8/17 - Pittsboro, NC - The BIG What? (Tickets)
9/9 - Bellvue, CO - Canyon Jam (Tickets)
* dates w/ Umphrey's McGee