Aqueous is an improvisational groove rock 4-piece powerhouse band from Buffalo, New York. Grateful Web got the opportunity to sit down with Mike Gantzer of Aqueous to discuss the band, future albums, their summer/fall tour, and debut performance at Denver's Bluebird coming up on June 9th.
GW: Hey everyone! I am here with Guitarist and Vocalist of Aqueous, Mike Gantzer. How are you doing today?
MG: I'm doing great! How are you doing?
GW: Pretty great myself. So, I read somewhere that you began playing guitar around age 11. Is that right?
MG: Yes, I think it was somewhere around there: 11 or 12. I was naturally drawn to it. You know, my dad had one kind of lying around the house. It was funny because I had played trumpet in more of a traditional jazz band style growing up but really was not taken with it too much. I just didn't really like the structure of it, and it just was not super fun for me. I started feeling around with the guitar at my house when I was a kid with my Dad. I just connected with it right away. I used to sit with the guitar on my lap and use a penny and go up and down the strings. It was this whole fun time of my life discovering this instrument, and I just connected with it. I kind of dropped all of my other hobbies and dove head first into playing guitar.
GW: That's amazing. Very impressive. Who would you say your biggest musical influences are that made you who you are today?
MG: I'd probably have to say one of the biggest ones would have to be Pink Floyd. I think that their music just really spoke to me on an emotional level. Even in an artistic and theatrical level, everything that they did really resonate with me. It was powerful, emotional and purposeful. David Gilmour, the guitarist, is one of my favorites because one of the lessons I learned is that it's not always about speed and technicality. It's just more about finding the right notes and trying to get through to somebody with that. Saying more with less, I suppose. I think that's probably one of the biggest ones.
GW: Aqueous has such a unique blend of sound. You guys can get away with playing any genre across the board. I wonder who were some of Aqueous' biggest musical influences? Would you think Pink Floyd falls into that category?
MG: Yeah. I think that when we were young, that was probably the first bands that really brought us together. I think we all had a common interest with that group, so we would start to learn their songs and dissect their music. I remember being 15 or 16 and the other guitarist, Dave, and I were discovering vocal harmonies by singing Pink Floyd’s “Echoes” and just having our minds blown. It was so exciting, and it's funny because, over the years, there has been so much from this Classic Rock genre. [There were] bands like Supertramp, or, of course, The Beatles. Steely Dan and even the side projects The Beatles did like George Harrison, Paul McCartney and Wings. All that. They were, of course, big influences. Then we went through a period where we were all obviously really into jam music. For a lot of the structure of our band was from seeing other bands like Phish, Moe., and bands of that nature. Then, of course, we all really love the band Lettuce. More funky, almost hip-hop style with groove. It's really interesting, all of us are super into hip-hop. I love Kendrick Lamar, Nas, Beastie Boys and MF Doom. We also have a big cornerstone of music with the 90's. Influenced by 90's alt-rock and 90's pop-rock. Ween was a huge band for me. Also, bands like Incubus, Cake, and The Violent Femmes. I feel like we love everything. Recently, I've been on a folk kick: Fleet Foxes, Wilco, Simon and Garfunkel and John Mayer. Everything and anything you can imagine. We're like sponges open to whatever resonates with us.
GW: There are so many great bands you just named there. So, in 2017, you guys released your new single Weight of the Word, which is a beautiful song with great lyrics. I happen to wonder, do you guys all write for the band? Also, what inspired this song?
MG: Absolutely! I'm glad that you asked it that way because actually our bassist player, Evan, wrote that. I mean, we certainly, especially with the music side of it, all really collaborate. He had a few just ideas, like a section, some of the chords for the intro he had, and then he had some of these grooves. I then added something to the chorus, and he had the whole end section. So, the four of us will get together and work out whatever pieces feel best. He wrote those lyrics, too. I think that the general content seen is just about expressing a feeling of frustration and almost hopelessness about continuing to read the news every day and not being sure how to respond or how to help. We try to not be specific with political messages, and on that particular one, it was us trying to express that feeling of “what now?”. Things are getting crazier and crazier, so I think there was a lot of emotion in that tune. It's interesting. We were listening to a lot of Steely Dan at the time and took some production cue in terms of mixing it and graphing it, so we had a lot going on there. I am very glad that you like it.
GW: So with this NEW single, does this mean we can expect a new album from Aqueous in the near future?
MG: In the very near future, honestly. I’d probably say within the next month and a half you will start seeing singles being dropped from the new album. We're really excited because we've been working on it for over a year between touring. It's like one of the first times we ever recorded an entire album mainly [consisting of] brand new songs no one has ever heard. Songs that never have been played out that we held to our chest. Bringing brand new completed songs to our tour fanbase is something we had always dreamed about and that we've never really been able to execute out before. Trying to work with new material and have everything be fresh all the time. Finally, we were able to get to the point where we have been a band long enough that we can dive into our catalog for touring and play everything and jam on everything and integrate new covers. All while working and chipping away at this new album. We’re all really psyched about how it came out. We spent a lot of our time working on the production aspect of it and making sure the sounds are exactly right. The songs themselves this time have a real emotion to them. A lot of them are expressing really personal and honest situations and circumstances we have had in our personal lives. All kinds of things in the spectrum of life, and there was a lot covered here. So yeah, it is really soon on that you’ll start seeing and hearing a lot about what it will be called and singles coming out and such, but we’re very excited.
GW: That’s really exciting to hear. I actually remember my first time seeing Aqueous. 2013 Summer Camp Music Festival. I got pulled away from my campsite because needed to know who this incredible band was. I feel like when I look at festival lineups now, your name is moving higher up towards the headliners. How does it feel to know your band is rapidly growing in popularity over the last 5 or so years?
MG: Its one of the best feelings. It’s very exciting. We’re just grateful and its awesome for us to connect with all these new people, and have our music resonate with people. That was our first Summer Camp, and I remember it was pretty cold and rainy and I think that we played at the Campfire stage around 11:00 AM on Sunday. It was awesome to build our sets over the years and, like you said, kind of move up the line up a little bit and get our opportunities for set times and branch out. Example: last Summer Camp we did a Green Day set with the guys from Umphrey's McGee and actually ended up playing three times that year. I think Summer Camp feels the most like home for us. It’s where we seem to connect most with our fans. Midwesterners just seem to get our music really well, and we just love it.
GW: Now you guys actually played Bohemian Rhapsody at that Summer Camp. I’ve also seen Dr. Dre covers, Elton John, and so many other different genres. You guys really can do anything. Is there a specific cover you play that you love the most or means the most to you?
MG: Great Question. We have played Slayer covers. We recently did a Gorillaz set which was really fun. It feels incredible to be able to dig into the songs, and playing covers is really fun. I would have to say for me, Shine on you Crazy Diamond would be the most meaningful. A few years ago my Dad actually passed away, and it was a song that we really bonded over. He introduced me to Pink Floyd, and it really hits me deep and means a lot to me when we play it.
GW: Now, with the Summer/ Fall tour underway, are there any shows or festivals you’re most looking forward to?
MG: A lot of them, actually. Summer Camp Music Festival this week definitely. We are playing two sets at 2:00 AM. It’s all about the energy. We are actually playing both weekends at Electric Forest. We are really excited about that. We’re playing the Bluebird Theater in Denver soon: June 9th. There are so many more. We’re really excited!
GW: That’s amazing! Well, thank you for spending your time with us. I really look forward to the new album, and good luck on your tour!
MG: Thanks, Melissa!
For more information about Aqueous and their upcoming shows, click here.