What Happened to the Squid Kids?
We sit in this living room surrounded by boxes stacked high and towering all around us. Some are leaning against the wall. Others I observe impressively defying gravity on their own accord. Some of these boxes are staked low in a manner suitable for furniture replacement.
He sits on a well cushioned very old couch. It’s the sort you can sink into and don’t mind the stains. I have a stiff kitchen chair pulled up and a clipboard in hand. I lean my arm on one of these boxes and glance at the writing in sharpie marker across the cardboard. Orange Milk records. Inside are brand new CDs, and records. They are freshly printed carrying that new factory plastic scent.
It’s been a while since any of us had heard anything from Squids Eye record label. You remember them right? The Dayton based record label which signed and released the very best of Dayton local bands as well as a few from outside our city? Well I in particular had been quite a fan. I owned a copy of nearly everything released that first year and a few into the next year as well. Over time however I got caught up in my own life and didn’t have as much time to devote to following the local music scene. By the time I looked back it seemed that Squids Eye had all but disappeared. Sure there were still the some CDs available at the local record store but actual new releases and any news or upcoming plans seemed nonexistent.
I found myself feeling a bit melancholy that such a great start up label had fizzled and nearly disappeared while I wasn’t looking. I found myself wondering, what had happened to all those great bands? Surely they were still out there somewhere making music!
These questions nagged instantly me like an impatient child for quite some time. Finding some answers it turned out was easier than expected.
I had been hanging out with some friends and we journeyed to the nearest bar within walking distance of their house (South Park Pizza Tavern if you really must know). And it was here that we would see this new band I had heard previously about called Pharoahs. As it just so happened Pharaohs features several prominent Squid kids. Brian Baker who heads Astro Fang and had released solo music under the name Grizzzzzy Bear also provides the vocals for this new band. The team of Brian and his brother Justin along with Keith Rankin was something I’d seen before with Yukuza Heart Attack an 8-bit inspired instrumental progressive explosion of a band. With some flavor of YHA and the punk tendencies of Astro Fang this new group Pharoahs had emerged. I found this new creation to be an interesting and delightful mutt. I would describe it as something like punk charged vocals poured over over catchy synth. As the show progressed I heard talk about a new label, one on which albums are being released on vinyl and cassette tape as well as CD. I was instantly intrigued, this sounded really cool.
After the show I found my way to Keith Rankin. He had been a particularly strong player for Squids eye, good friends with the guy who started it all and possibly the single biggest contributor. Keith performed in several bands as well as creating some top notch solo work under the pseudonym Keith Kawaii. I found out there that he now lives in Columbus and made arrangements for the interview to come which brings us back to an apartment filled with cardboard boxes.
Me: So, what are the squid kids up to?
Keith: Tony (The man who started the Squids eye record label.) had a baby, but I’m not sure what he’s doing now music-wise. Last I heard he still had some plans for Squids Eye, or to at least keep selling the back catalog. As for everyone else… I live with Justin and Brian (Baker) now in Columbus, Brian is doing a lot of great songs as Pharoahs and in Astro Fang. Andrew from the Gluons and Joey from Jet Kid Committee moved to New York and are still doing music. Dustin Rose from Toads and Mice also moved to Columbus and is now making music under the name Drose. Half of The Sailing moved to Philadelphia. (Two members James Webster and Tech Honors teamed up under the project Rebekka Peake and are now releasing solo works under the names HCMJ and Dinosaur on fire.) I think Dayton is an amazing breeding ground for creativity, but everyone probably had some desire to stretch out beyond the insular scene there. Even though it’s an extremely supportive place too.
Me: Tell me about your new label and how that came to be?
Keith: I run the label Orange Milk now with my friend Seth Graham. We met in Dayton and connected over a love of some more, I guess you would call it esoteric music. We wanted an outlet to release that exploratory stuff, both our own and from other people we were admiring at the time. So we started the label around 2010, and it’s been going pretty well. There is a hardcore niche audience for that stuff. It’s small, but dedicated.
Me: Why Columbus?
Keith: Mainly for the change of scenery. I wanted to stay close to my friends and family around Dayton, so Columbus served that purpose. Also the rent is still pretty cheap. It’s an alright place, though it’s difficult to get past the college centered aspect of everything. There’s obviously ups and downs everywhere, you know, but you could be in the most amazing city in the world and if you had awful friends you’d still be miserable.
Me: What are your goals for the next year and what projects are you currently involved with?
Keith: My goal is to make enough money doing music to live off of. I don’t know if I ever talked to you about this before, but I have been working on the music for an animated children’s TV show on Moroccan television. It’s actually about to wrap up, but it’s been so much fun writing unabashedly cute music. I also make music under the name Giant Claw, and have three or four albums that I’m trying to finish for other record labels. Those should be released next year.
Me: Where is your favorite place to perform in Dayton and why?
Keith: It seems like every show goes down at Blind Bobs now. I kind of like the atmosphere of South Park Tavern more, it’s a bit more chilled out! I also really liked playing at Luke Tandy’s house, which usually hosts harsh noise type stuff, but everyone there was very friendly.
Favorite place in Columbus and why?
Keith: I haven’t even played much in Columbus to be honest. But I did play in a cool little record store last month, called Dreadful Sounds, which was awesome. And another Gallery space off of High street near campus called Till Gallery, which was also a super nice place. I think they are only recently getting into hosting shows, though. I think there are generally two types of venues, one where the music serves as the background soundtrack to bros trying to get laid, and the other where a bunch of nerdy music fans go to hear whatever obscure act they’re into at the moment. Guess which one I prefer!
So it seems that the Squid kids aren’t dead after all, in fact most of them have moved on to new exciting projects. The fact that a good handful still perform in Dayton somewhat regularly is fantastic news to me. Keep an eye out for these kids they may be more spread out now but they’re still producing some really great stuff.
According to rumor Astro Fang recently played their last show at Dayton Music fest. I might be in denial.
Info about upcoming shows for mentioned bands.