I’ve loved NYC post-hardcore band, Quicksand, since the ‘90s. When I heard they were releasing their first record – Interiors – in 22 years, I was beyond excited. All the things I loved about Quicksand – melody, energy, feeling, intensity – is still there but now, they have an even more interesting and deeper sound. While Quicksand were in town, I sat down with guitarist-vocalist, Walter, to chat about the record and creativity.
How did you guys reignite the chemistry between you after so long?
WALTER SCHREIFELS: Our first thing back was for Revelation Records, who put out our first EP, they had an anniversary show and we were the surprise guest. For that show we played five songs, that experience was like, wow, people really love this… it came back into us, how it sort of works and why it works. That kind of ignited it, just the feeling, the reaction from the audience. There’s some sort of muscle spiritual memory in hitting those songs again, I think it woke something up again.
It took us a while to be comfortable in writing new material. To play the old songs is one thing… but that kind of came with improvisation; we didn’t want to play the songs as set pieces when we came back to play again for a tour, so we just left it open to improvisation and in those moments when it’s like, we’re not having to play the song so to speak, started to hear the voicings and where we are now. We’re still our authentic selves although we’re totally different people with vast experience since that time, essentially when we play with one another the chemistry is there; we just nurtured it a bit.
What’s exciting for you about the new music Quicksand is creating?
WS: Quicksand was a very unique band, a lot of the other things that I’ve done I’ve taken a on a role that’s similar whereas in Quicksand we had a certain process, it was not always easy. It was very unique from the different things I’ve done in music. Us coming together with all the different experiences, musical and in life, and being able to mix those up again in new ways presents an interesting challenge—it’s a really cool opportunity. We have all these things that work naturally but, how do make them contemporary to who we are now? I like the challenge of it. Once we got it down it was very easy and felt very natural, I feel like we threaded something for ourselves and for our audience and also gave it… people don’t even have to care about hardcore to be into our band or even use it as a reference point. It’s interesting in a contextual way but I don’t think we’re tethered to it, or really anything.
When you guys started hanging out and jamming again; what was the first song you wrote that you that, yeah, this is a Quicksand song?
WS: “Illuminant” which is the first song on the album. We had a bunch of cool riffs here and there and little jams that I thought has a cool energy but, putting them into actual song structure was tricky to maintain the energy once you started to structure it. “Illuminant” just seemed to me right away to have the energy and structure as a sort of a template. When we went in to record it I didn’t necessarily put the pressure on it to be the opening track but when it was all said and done… it was what our producer [Will Yip] chose as well and it was fitting.
I noticed that on Interiors there’s lots of references to light, shinning, the sun and warmth; what’s behind that?
WS: Thanks. I noticed it as well too and I think it’s a good message to put out. If I thought about it in a ‘what does it mean?’ kind of way, my feeling was that we live in a dark time, we were recording the record just as [Donald] Trump got elected – it’s not a political thing, I’m not trying to be like against Trump thing; I might be in my own personal way but in a musical expression, I don’t want to get caught up in that. I think that’s one of the problems, that on that front society is clouded up and people don’t talk to each other, people are disconnected; they think they’re communicating but they’re really more just pushing each other away and isolating themselves. I feel maybe at the time we were recording the record, on the one hand that that was just going through my head and wanted to kind of answer to that. Also just how that overhanging feeling that everyone is feeling from if it’s Trump or whatever, let’s just say that that’s what it is, for some people it’s the greatest time in American history, you know what I mean… for some people they feel everything is great, other people are really concerned; I think it just boils down to your own personal life and how do you relate to people, within your family, within your friend group. I think light, communication and those kind of things—I just plug into that. There’s no riddle to it, I just thought those themes were good ones.
WS: Even with the cover of the record, just opening up and trying to get outside of your tight room, outside of the box.
I got that from it.
You were just talking about connection and how people don’t talk to each other enough and it reminded me of a line in a song [Feels Like A Weight Has Been Lifted] of the record: new phone, who is this? I read it as new phone, who dis?
WS: [laughs] I was trying to be contemporary and trying to get away it.
[Laughter] I laughed when I heard it.
WS: Good! We were like, can we get away with this? I feel like if you want to meet someone, the amount of texts and emails and all these things… like the schedule could change or your plans, all these adjustments, all these massive communications to just have a meeting or whatever it’s going to be… no one talks on the phone, I don’t talk to anyone on the phone. I find that we’re communicating excessively but actual human-whatever where you talk to someone else on the phone, I find it anathema because I’m trying to keep up with all the other micro-communications, that I’m not present. I don’t mean that in a hippie, be here now way, I just mean it in a I just want to hold onto my life… that sounds too big but like, experiences like where they’re just not flying off of you and just passing, holding them a little bit.
I understand that. I’ve always been the kind of person where I do stuff, like my interviews, which I’ve been doing for 24 years and I just keep moving forward; I don’t really take time to stop to celebrate and realise all the things I’ve done, it’s always what’s next. Recently I looked back and realised, wow, I have done a lot.
WS: Yeah, like this is your life. You have documented it and created something with it at the same time, I love that. At the same time it just proves what you’re capable of and what you should be going for and what you should be getting, by getting I mean, well, what do you want to do? Obviously you’re accomplished in some regard… that’s just my thinking right now. It’s not like it’s a unique way of doing it but, in the past I wouldn’t… it’s kind of an evolution for me, I think it’s having done it a while.
How easily do words flow for you when you’re writing lyrics?
WS: It’s hard to get it started, it’s like going for a run. Putting on the clothes is a big part of it and the first fifteen minutes is usually annoying and kind of sucks [laughs] then you get in a groove finally. We were recording the record and the expectation was that I would do all the vocals within that time, so that put an added pressure on me; if I don’t come up with my best thing then it’s not going to be my best thing, so you better come up with our best thing! There’s things that I thought of later like, oh shit, if I used that line there that would have worked better but, I don’t know if you can improve it—I’m happy with the feeling that went into it, that’s the more important thing.
Why is songwriting important to you?
WS: It’s more of a compulsion. It’s important to me because I think a lot of people are looking for some sort of function in their life, some sort of purpose. I think for me, this regurgitation, this compulsive regurgitation of my experience and putting it into a song, my relation to the song, my relation to the people that I work with, how that goes out to the public and my relationship with the people that hear it… then it kind of just spins back in on itself—that’s a cool thing.
I like that when you make something and put it out into the world that it can take on a life of its own and go places you might not…
I find creativity and even just words, so amazing. I remember reading an interview with you and you were saying how your song “Feels Like A Weight Has Been Lifted” was called that because it conjures a feeling.
WS: Yeah, and I’ve written so many songs… there’s themes that end up repeating in different ways and I’m always like, ugh, I’m doing it again! I want to get out of it. I always try to push myself. If something is about the same subject, I’m trying to do something else. I’m also trying to tune into just the feeling and allow the words to fall into it. At the end of it you’re like, oh wow, it could mean this; it’s only how I feel about it… I might think, oh I nailed this, explaining this idea but someone else will hear it and it will mean something more personal to them, they’ll have a different twist on it. They might be right and I might be wrong, but I don’t care anymore because it’s out.
What’s one of the most fun moments you had making, Interiors?
WS: Besides listening back to it at the end and not having to work on it anymore [laughs] and feeling good about it! I really like the moments that were really loose. I really love the second track “Under The Screw”. There’s this moment where it just falls apart and I got to bang on a piano, I couldn’t make any mistakes, there was nothing that I could do that would be wrong.
That would have felt really freeing?
WS: Yeah, it’s fun to just be a baby and yell [laughs]. Within every song there were challenges and struggles and funny parts too. Like one lyric that was funny, me saying I want it to be funny but I don’t want it to be really funny… I wanted to work with the lyrics, and getting how you sing it conceptually… I tried it a few different ways ‘cause I thought it was a good line. Those things, that’s the fun of it.
How has your creative outlook changed after making this record?
WS: A friend of mine said, if you have a certain amount of experience and a certain actual real weight or context to what you do… confidence in your moment to moment ability to do well and you go into something and you’re yourself, your baseline is going to be solid so trust it. Go! Don’t question yourself beyond a certain point because it could be your own method of just shutting yourself down. Within this record there’s a lot of pressure because if we made a shitty Quicksand comeback record it would be a bummer. Especially because we paid for it. There’s a risk to it. You can’t make it work, you have to allow it to happen. That’s something I think is a skill that I really have become more aware of, it’s like a child’s mind, children don’t question things as much.
What’s something you do to nurture your creativity?
WS: I travel, I like to do nothing, I like to sit. I like to do exercise like yoga and walking. I haven’t been running much lately, but I like running, you just tune out. Having that rest is important. Just my life experiences outside of playing music feed what I’m doing.
What’s something outside of music that you’re passionate about?
WS: My family! I have a ten-year-old daughter, I love her. My wife and I still have a great time. We just got a puppy too, that’s a real light in my life. My friends. My experiences. Look I’m in Australia hanging out with a bunch of friends I’ve known for a long time and we’re staying in nice hotels doing cool, fun things—I appreciate that, I don’t take it for granted, that helps me.
I totally understand what you’re saying. That’s like me, when I’m not travelling I’m at home hanging out making stuff and playing with my puppy.
WS: Yes, and when you have to do something that fuels it, it energizes it. I’ll go up and play and it will be intense for an hour but I’m also just lost and it’s just happening… maybe not lost but just in a different time zone.
WS: Yeah! You are actually in the moment completely, that’s another cool thing that I love.
There’s going to be more Quicksand?
WS: Yeah, we built the runway so to speak… I’m not interested in hyping anything because for me, I’d just like for it to appear again, it’s a nice way to do it. For bridging our former selves into our current selves musically, I think that was such a cool trick, I’d love to go further with that—it’s just been fun. I feel like we could do anything really and it would be us.
QUICKSAND Interiors out now on EPITAPH Records. For more Quicksand go here.
*Images courtesy of @waltertown IG.