In 2012, after a decade-plus breakup, post-hardcore heroes Quicksand regrouped to play the Revelation Records 25th anniversary celebration. The response, predictably, was massive. Since calling it quits shortly after releasing their second effort, 1995's Manic Compression, Quicksand's legend had grown by leaps and bounds, assisted by the members' latter projects, which included Deftones, Rival Schools, Seaweed and more.
Five years after that reunion show, the band was back in full swing with their first full-length album in more than two decades, Interiors. The record was well-received amongst fans new and old, and the band's revival had gone from victory lap to full-fledged return.
Now in 2021, Quicksand are back with their new and fourth album, Distant Populations (due digitally on August 13th with vinyl to follow on September 24th). In the lead-up to Distant Populations, the band — vocalist/guitarist Walter Schreifels, bassist Sergio Vega and drummer Alan Cage — dropped the stomping lead single "Inversion," which was followed by the eerie, soaring "Missile Command."
"It really kind of focuses on Sergio's whole motif in a very simple way," Schreifels says of "Missile Command." "He and Alan [Cage, drummer] just have this really kind of trademark groove, and I think that really sings on this one to me. I just felt like it's a kind of song that is very us, but we hadn't written it yet."
"Sergio had a bassline and Alan locked into it in a really interesting way but it kind of sat around as a jam for a while," he continues. "While we were making the record, we started to revisit some of our old jams. We had a good bit of the record already finished already, so we felt like we could tackle this jam. It kind of developed into something that was pretty special for us."
With Distant Populations on deck, we spoke to Schreifels about the origins of the new material, the concept behind the awesome cover art, how he juggles writing for so many projects and more.
WHEN DID YOU START WRITING DISTANT POPULATIONS?
WALTER SCHREIFELS We would just record anytime we're rehearsing and even soundchecks a lot of the time. So we would just record it and archive it — in a not too organized way. I think at some point when we said we wanted to make another record, we just went through our voice memos and just said let's pick out the top song that we each like and use that as a starting point.
So, we were always writing, but I guess it started to take more of a shape when we had more of a goal in mind. I think it was summer 2019 when we were like, all right, we're gonna schedule something. And once some sort of date is on the books, that's when the ball starts to roll seriously.
YOU TEAMED UP WITH PRODUCER WILL YIP, WHO ALSO WORKED WITH YOU ON INTERIORS. WAS IT GOOD TO BE BACK IN THE STUDIO WITH HIM?
We had such a good experience on Interiors working with Will Yip. I worked with Will to produce the Title Fight record [2011's Shed] and when I was thinking who we could bring into our little closed loop that is Quicksand that the other guys would be comfortable with — I thought he would be a great choice. He's just a trusted creative force as well as a fun guy to hang with and a very talented engineer and producer/songwriter. So when it came time to do another record we chose to take the path of, "Let's expand this creative relationship with someone that we had such a positive experience working with." That worked out really well for us. We felt comfortable to take the necessary risks to expand and grow as a band.
We recorded it in February 2020, so it was right before COVID lockdown — we finished tracking on my birthday on March 10th. So it was kind of awesome to slide into home plate before everything got complicated. Mixing and mastering was our activity during COVID.
So we were able to build the concept beyond the songs and really take our time with the mixes. We were very lucky to get Josh Wilbur to do the mixes. We were just really stoked to work with him and he kind of was that cliche of "fresh ears" in that he really heard something in it that we weren't hearing. And I would say it's really this sort of bigness that he somehow brought into it. And so we just took our time with that, made sure that we were all happy with it. The artwork too — we took our time to do it.
I WAS JUST ABOUT TO ASK ABOUT THE ARTWORK. IT SEEMS VERY ATYPICAL TO THE QUICKSAND STYLE.
The reference point was Manic Compression in some ways because it's an illustration, and you're kind of creating this other world where your imagination can roam. That aside, like we wanted to say something different and say something kind of exciting and fun. And I was just a really big fan of Tetsunori Tawaraya's artwork. We had mutual friends and I just love his work.
We kind of started out with Sergio — he had this idea of this monster type of theme with a 1960s motif, which I think is actually pretty on point for our world right now because there are monsters everywhere. Everyone's so stressed out and afraid of everything. And I think that big business is taking advantage of those monsters and creating some of their own. But we wanted to have something that looked different and didn't say, "This is another post-hardcore record from this band." We wanted to have something that was exciting and captured people's imagination and said, "We're doing something different." I feel like the artwork really has layers to it and it's married very well to the music.
SO YOU SAID YOU HAD A LOT OF TIME TO MIX AND SEW UP THE LP DURING THE LOCKDOWN, BUT DID YOU GET THE CHANCE TO WRITE?
During the lockdown period, I didn't see those dudes and actually we didn't really play until very recently. I was living upstate for most of the lockdown time. Alan came up a couple of times and we jammed and compiled some inspirational ideas without getting into the weeds with them. So not really on the Quicksand front — and on the personal front, it was kind of the same vibe. Some people really put their nose to the grindstone and wrote their great novel or whatever it is. I followed my inspiration but tried not to buckle down and get serious: just sort of see where it went. That said, I got a shitload of sick Quicksand riffs ready to go, to be honest.
AMAZING AND GOOD TO KNOW! WHEN YOU WRITE, DO YOU COMPARTMENTALIZE BY PROJECT? OR DO YOU JUST WRITE AND SAY "THIS IS MORE SUITED TO THIS PROJECT? IS IT BASED ON WHO YOU'RE SITTING WITH AT THE TIME WHEN YOU JAM?
Yeah, I guess it'll generally be like, "What would rule for this project I'm writing for." And then I'll write for the project. I'll think, What do I want to see us playing? and I'll do that. Sometimes there'll be something that might fall in between a couple of things so I will try to think of where a different song idea might be useful. And then sometimes, I'll present it to the band and once those guys kind of see their space in it, it becomes something else. Our philosophy is kind of like a turtle: a turtle goes to the beach and lays eggs and some of them are gonna make it and a bunch of them might not.
OUTSIDE OF QUICKSAND, YOU AND YOUR BANDMATES HAVE WORKED WITH SO MANY AMAZING ARTISTS OVER THE YEARS. DO YOU HAVE ANY FAVORITE ALBUMS DONE BY YOUR COLLABORATORS?
I love the records that Sergio's made with Deftones. Deftones are one of my favorite bands to begin with, so it was great to see how they made these amazing records together, carrying on their legacy and rocking huge crowds. I also love the record Alan did with Seaweed, Actions and Indications. Quicksand toured with Seaweed a lot back in the day, so Alan was a natural fit, like when your cousins live with you for a while in the summer, it's a family thing.
QUICKSAND RECENTLY ANNOUNCED 2021 DATES TO MAKE UP FOR LAST YEAR'S CANCELED SHOWS. IT'S A WILD TIME: EVERYONE IS HUNGRY TO GO TO SHOWS AND THE FIELD IS MORE CROWDED THAN EVER. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON TOURING THESE DAYS?
With so many bands hitting the road I suppose people are going to have to make some tough choices but that's kinda the way it's always been, at least in New York. So now maybe the whole country will get to feel that New York / L.A.'s abundance of choice, where everyone's playing through, which is not the worst thing. I think the positive is that this fall, it'll be that first time for many to get to hear live music again — be with your friends, pre-game, after-party, whatever! I think that shared experience is what's most valuable to people, so in a sense you can't go wrong with whatever band you choose to see.