Modern Aquatic are a Cincinnati Indie rock band, touting influences such as The Strokes, Vampire Weekend, and Beach Fossils. Their heavily melodic and multilayered styling of slacker pop is the perfect backdrop to the sound of summer.
Starting way back in 2015, the band finally are returning from a long pandemic and study induced hiatus with new material on the horizon across 2021, in time for post-lockdown revelry.
We spoke to Geovanny Esquivel, the man behind the music to get a greater insight into the basics of starting and building a band, the best of modern indie rock and even the mystery of UFO’s.
Hey, Geovanny, how’s Cincinnati? Are you from there originally, or just there to study?
Hey, it’s good and yeah, I did grow up here. I’m originally from Los Angeles, though, but I moved here when I was very young, five or six maybe, a bit too young to compare! But I’m still here, and now studying 3D design at University.
Oh wow, so does that mean you design all the album covers yourself?
Most of them, I think the Laurel Leaves EP was was an art piece by Cody Gunningham who’s a local artist, that’s my favourite one. But I’ve done everything else.
So, I always find it interesting to understand the origins of a band’s name, how did you settle upon Modern Aquatic?
So that was the hardest part for a while. I think, it was originally the name of one of our demos, one of the songs that we never released when we were starting out, we would just play it live. But yeah, the song was called ‘Modern Aquatic’ and we ended up choosing it because it was a good twist upon ‘The Life Aquatic’, you know, by Wes Anderson. I wanted to try to capture that sort of aesthetic and playfulness in the music somehow and it seemed like a good way to do it, and also our sound is very beachy, or surf rock inspired, which was something that we’re trying to go for as well.
I was wondering if it had something to do with the Wes Anderson film as your visual aesthetic, is very colourful, like most of Wes Anderson’s films. How and when did you decide upon that?
It definitely comes from that pop rock or tropical influence. I was really drawn to like, floral designs and artwork that, had lots of very vibrant colours, which was something that I wanted to communicate in the music too. So we got lucky partnering up with Cody Gunningham for that EP, because he does a lot of things like that, he has a lot of murals around the town that very colourful and very floral. I always thought that this would be perfect and that we should reach out to him and thankfully he was happy to partner up.
So now that I know you’re studying art and design, I guess I want to know if you have a favourite artist or someone whose style has influenced you and just your eye for design?
Oh yeah, Matisse, I would say was probably my biggest influence. I’m always trying to recreate artwork in his style, whenever I can.
How did you meet the rest of the group?
So our bass player, Max and I were in a different band together in high school. He has a brother and a cousin, that were in a different band at the time, and I didn’t know them. But after the band that Max and I were in broke up or we just kept doing our thing and then he put out the idea of having this brother and cousin join the band, and so we tried it and it really worked. We haven’t really been able to stop ever since.
Is there one figure in your life, who’s kind of shaped your music taste more than anyone else?
I’m the oldest in my family, so I think I’ve been the one shaping tastes really, I’ve definitely influenced my sister’s tastes a little bit, at least from what I can tell. As for my parents, the type of music they listen to wasn’t really anything that I was into. I do like it a lot, especially nowadays, but growing up I always thought like “Oh, no, I don’t love this”. For me it would be more about finding musicians on my own, like going to the library and picking up an album that looks cool and then figuring out my own tastes from there. A lot of it was thinking, I really like the look of that album cover, let’s see where this goes, I guess that’s really how I learned about indie rock.
So you grew up in the birth of the internet age, did you discover much of your music online as well? If so, who do you remember getting excited about discovering?
Yeah, I remember going on myspace a lot and just like scouring through all the bands, going down the rabbit hole and ending up somewhere that I never really expected. I think one of the bands that I was really excited about back then was Dance Gavin Dance. I’m not sure if you would have you ever heard of them, but I was really into that kind of music back then, the emo type thing. But yeah, discovering their webpage and how they decided to represent themselves visually was pretty cool to me. That’s definitely one of the big bands that I found online and got me really excited.
Was there an album that changed your understanding of music, or something that you specifically remember made you rethink what music was as a whole?
Oh, yeah, when I found out about The Strokes, I think their album ‘First Impressions of Earth’ had just came out and I thought, I’ll check these guys out and loved it so went back to the very beginning of their discography with ‘Is This It?’ And that changed everything for me. I thought I’d never heard anything like that and it made me want to write music in that style with like, catchy guitar riffs. Everything that they were doing, I was obsessed with it. Istill can’t stop listening to them.
What do you think of the latest stuff from ‘The New Abnormal’?
Oh, I think that’s their best album since ‘Room on Fire’. It’s really in the top three for me.
As you’ve grown older, how has your understanding and approach to music change?
Yeah, I mean as I mentioned before, I now like some fo the stuff my parents used to play when I didn’t before. I can see what they liked about that music, and it’s like regional Mexican music or Hispanic and Spanish language music. I started to see like, where other artists I like also took inspiration from, so when it comes to like Mac Demarco, I can sort of see where he got some of his sounds from and the connections between his stuff and some of the synth music that my parents would listen to. I don’t know really, just listening to music from different cultures I think can broaden your understanding of music and I can appreciate everything a little more. My tastes and my music has changed so much, it’s a bit more all over the place now instead of just pure rock music like it was back back in the day.
Do you try and bring any of your heritage into the stuff that Modern Aquatic does?
I try, I don’t know if it necessarily shows, but I tried to bring like some sort of tropical dance vibes into the music. But you know, it’s sort of what indie rock is already doing, like Vampire Weekend, there’s not a whole lot of bands like that, or were doing the same thing that they did with a great dancey tropical edge. But it’s definitely something I may try to do more of, in whatever ways I can.
Do you have any advice for someone who’s hoping to start a band?
I would say, don’t listen to people if they tell you that it sounds bad, or that you can’t do it. It’s definitely something that I regret, you know, listening to people who told me stuff like that. As long as you want to do it – do it. You’ll succeed as long as you love it, just try your hardest and if it’s meant to be it’ll, it’ll definitely happen.
Is there an artist that you’ve been listening to recently you’d recommend?
Yeah. There’s a band called Good Morning from Australia. They’re my favourite band right now, I just love everything about them. I just haven’t heard anything like that in a while, if not ever. Their first EP, the first time I heard that, it blew my mind – it’s perfect all the way through and I just wish I could write something like that. I’m definitely trying but you know, I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to do what they did, it’s so effortless.
Have you have you bought any new equipment or anything over lockdown?
Yeah, I just bought a Mustang Bass, which has been nice because I didn’t have a bass at all beforehand. So I figured, why not? That has sort of led to this little demo that I came up with a few weeks ago and it’s a little more shoegazey, a little heavier that what I’m used to. It’s kind of like a bit more like Alex G.
Is that what we can expect to hear next for Modern Aquatic when things when the world kind of returns to normal?
Yeah, I’ve been just trying to do whatever, trying to record whatever comes to me. So it’s been all over the place, that shoegaze idea that I came up with, then there’s a song that I’m trying to write the lyrics for that is more like simple and very chill, there’s like 20 guitars on it.
I’m obsessed with that Twin Peaks aesthetic, so I’m trying to write more music that wouldn’t feel out of place on that show. But when the band was practicing a few weeks ago, we came up with this Punk Rock song. So, it’s hard to tell where this is leading sonically at the moment. I think if we can we’ll put out an EP or an album with just songs of whatever style we want and you know, if people like then that’s awesome.
Do you feel that artists are expected to be more diverse in their sound nowadays?
I actually feel like it’s the opposite and people are often put into boxes nowadays. I wish it wasn’t, and I personally haven’t really paid too much attention to that because we definitely do want to do different things. If that is the way things are moving then that’s awesome, because more freedom to just explore different things you know can only be beneficial.
So you mentioned Twin Peaks. Is there any other film or TV scores or just TV shows in general that have influenced you?
Yeah, the soundtrack to Submarine, which Alex Turner wrote. I think that definitely inspired me to write music, I always find myself listening to that. As I may mentioned before, Wes Anderson’s films inspired me aesthetically inspired me. But honestly, everything about Twin Peaks is really cool to me and has been a big inspiration. I am obsessed with the paranormal and stuff like that so I often try and convey that in my music as well, if it’s possible and appropriate.
As someone who is also interested in the paranormal, I’d like to know, do you have a favourite paranormal mystery, or anything?
I’m obsessed with anything that has to do with aliens. So like, the recent declassified videos by the Navy, that claim to have proof of extraterrestrial life, you know that’s pretty interesting to me. Having seen weird things myself too, that just makes all of that stuff more interesting to me.
Woah, what kind of weird stuff have you seen in Cincinnati?
I feel funny talking about this, so please no judgement, but anyway… My girlfriend and I were just chilling on the trampoline one night looking out for shooting stars and this weird light sort of seemed to be coming from a clear sky. It was such a clear night that you would be able to see where it came from if it was like an airplane, but it just it came and just popped out of nowhere. It then just seemed to get brighter and brighter, like it was getting closer. Then, it started moving to the left, in towards us and sort of flashed a light on us, like it looked at us. Then just took off. So yeah, we both saw that.
Woah, that’s crazy!
I guess there’s many things it could be but yeah, definitely an interesting experience.
So, bringing us back down to earth, what do you hope to accomplish over 2021?
Definitely to write a full album. Get enough new songs together to where we can start playing shows again, because we don’t really have that many right now and we haven’t been able practice in over a year now, actually. Our first practice back was like a month ago. I think.
That’s a bummer. How was is it reuniting with the band after so long?
It was weird at first. Because there was a period where we weren’t sure if we were going to get back together or not. But then we Kyle, our guitarist, he’s built this studio, and we all met up there and the first day, we just knocked out this punk rock idea that I had, just jammed on it. It sounded pretty legit already from the first go, and it just really gave us all the confidence to get back into it.
Do you find ideas flow much easier when you’re all together in a room than when you’re writing on your own?
I would actually say no. I realized this the hard way, but the best way is always to come into the rehearsal with an idea and then build it from there. Because when we just show up, it’s really hard to get started and most of the time nothing happens. I learned this a few weeks ago, but I need to come in and listen to demo and then we can just jam on it until it turns into the fully formed track here. But in terms of creating a concept, it is easier to think about it by myself I think.
When do you find yourself in the right headspace to write?
I would say definitely, at night, for some reason, it’s just easier to sit down and focus on your music. Or maybe it’s just more fun at night, I guess!
What is your favourite track that you’ve written? Like, what track that you’ve written means the most to you and why?
Probably the last one, it’s definitely more mature than the last songs. That’s the song that I did all by myself; wrote and recorded most of the parts by myself. I sort of wrote it for my girlfriend too so, you know, it means a lot to me.
Have you got a dream collaboration in mind to like someone you’d really like to work with?
I mean, The Strokes would be like the ultimate honour.
If you could only have one and had to choose between Julian or Albert for the collab, who would you pick?
Julian, I think. They’re both really talented so it’s really difficult but Julian’s voice is so iconic. Outside of The Strokes I’d maybe pick Mac DeMarco, because he seems like a really fun person I think it would be a really great experience.
Have you got a guilty pleasure track, one that you’re ashamed to say that you love?
Yeah, let me see… I don’t know if this would be like necessarily be one to be ashamed of, but this song called Azul by Natalia Lafourcade, it’s like a really beautiful song.
That is a that’s a good option. In your opinion, what’s the best hit song ever written?
That’s too big a question for me to answer, but the best pop song right now to me, I think is The Difference by Toro Y Moi and Flume. It’s very poppy for my tastes I wouldn’t normally like something like that but I can’t feel guilty about that one because he just pulls it off so well.
Thanks for chatting with us man, is there anything else that you’d like to mention to our readers?
We should have new music coming out soon, hopefully. Nothing concrete just yet, but hopefully soon, look out for it…