Hailing from Buffalo, NY, is Aqueous, a head-turning band combining skilled songwriting with extra-crunchy jams and a strong community vibe. Their heavier, technically-demanding take on jam music combines swirling guitar leads and tight-knit drums, bass and keys, all contributing to rock-solid song construction with loose, flowing jams that take you on a trip.
Following in the footsteps of fellow Buffalo jam heroes moe., Aqueous is gathering a large fan base all over the country, opening for bands like Umphrey’s McGee, and playing large festivals. They took a few minutes out of their busy schedule at Summer Camp to talk with me about jams, building a following, and existing in today’s music world.
When it comes to jam music, improvisation is usually key. That being said, there are some situations where musicians rehearse the segments intended to be jams, just to give it a little more of a solid feel. Not so with Aqueous, as Dave Loss (guitar/keys/vocals) says: “More or less, there are sections of songs that we know are more likely to be jam segments. Sometimes the jams are a little more spontaneous in terms of what section of the song turns into a jam section but none of our jams themselves are ever rehearsed or anything.
Sometimes when we play a lot of dates in a row we may have some similar feels that we go to more than others, but it’s not planned out as in ‘we’re going to do this or that’. We just try to keep it really loose and let it be natural. We don’t really talk about it too much. We do have hand signals and non-verbal onstage communication that we will use just to get things moving, or make things more interesting sometimes, but I think the best jams are non-GMO, organic, pesticide-free, fair trade jams. That’s our thing.”
One common theme I found in my various interviews over the weekend was that the connection with the fans is becoming more and more important for musicians these days. Dave continued, stating, “Usually, if someone messages our Facebook page, it’s us that answer directly. We try to stay as involved as possible with a lot of the online aspects. We do have a small team of people that help us out with those things, but we jump in on really specific questions, because we want to be reachable and stay in touch with the people that care about our music. It’s interesting how critical Facebook is now. There are algorithms you have to learn, when to post and how to post, there’s so much strategy behind it, and that’s what our crew helps us with. But Facebook is very important in terms of trying to stay on top of how to be creative and navigate this whole new world.”
Mike Gantzer (guitar/vocals) added, “I think it’s cool that we have this fan page called AQuaintances, and it’s fan run. It’s neat, because they are able to communicate with each other about all of our music and other stuff they like, and organize meet-ups and stuff like. It’s so cool to see something like that happening for our band, you know? Mind blowing.” Rob Houk (drums) also chimed, “Even the way Phish blew up was right when the interwanet was getting started, and all of a sudden there were all these forums and Phish was everywhere. So we are so advanced now with the various forms of all that, and it’s really cool to have all these outlets and they’re basically free.”
Aqueous has also been quick to follow up on another Phish tradition that has become a mainstay of the jamband community. As Dave explains: “We record every show that we play, and they all go on nugs.net, so every show that we’ve played since the beginning of this year, when we started this practice, they’re all up there. So for our live album, Element Pt. 1, we picked a bunch of highlights from tour so far, which were actually mostly fan picked. They’re all from different nights, so it’s a good spread of everything that we were doing on that tour.”
As with many of the bands I’ve spoken to recently, their connection to each other and music goes back beyond the touring and festival phase of the group. Dave recounts, “We started when we were in high school. We graduated in 2007, so we’ve been at it for a good amount of time at this point. The three of us, Mike, Evan (McPhaden, bass), and myself, are from Buffalo, and Rob, who is from Cincinatti, joined after about a year and a half. We started in the Buffalo burbs, and it all grew from there.” That connection has led to where they are today, and in this author’s opinion, helps them stay connected with their fans. In addition, Dave says, “We were all friends before we started playing together, and we’re all pretty much self-taught. A few lessons here and there, but all basically self-taught.” If you’ve heard the music of Aqueous, you know just how impressive that statement is.
Aqueous is already reaching the ears of people all over America, and touring with bigger and bigger names. They are not a show to be missed, and check out their live album, Element Pt. 1, available now. If you’ve never heard them before, you’re in for a treat.
Aqueous opens for Humphrey’s McGee on tour throughout the United States, and The Stone Pony Summer Stage on Sunday July 9. Click here for tickets.