Lansing band Squirrel Shaped Fish one of many acts in 2014 Common Ground Music Festival
With the Festival just around the corner, Squirrel Shaped Fish made the most of practice time before their big performance.
The band recorded songs in Lansing resident Dom Korzecki’s living room as part of a series of performances he calls “The Spaghetti Sessions.”
During the sessions, Korzecki invited local bands into his home for a pasta dinner, followed by a recording session on the cookware before interviewing them during his radio show “The Basement” on WDBM (88.9 FM), MSU’s student radio station.
Even though the indie rock band is preparing for their first performance before such a large audience, the band has deep roots in the local scene.
Building a following
Squirrel Shaped Fish formed in the summer of 2013, recorded their first EP in August and debuted live at The Loft in Lansing that November.
Communications senior Drew Irwin, who mans guitars and vocals in the band, said since then, the band has been playing shows at venues such as Mac’s Bar in addition to venues in Kalamazoo and Chicago, while trying to get their music out to the public.
“(We’ve been) trying to build momentum and sharing our CD with everyone that we meet and so far people have liked it and we’ve been getting on more shows,” Irwin said.
He said he met Lansing resident Caleb Knight, the band’s other vocalist and drummer, through mutual friends at MSU and the pair decided to begin writing music together.
Chicago resident Parker Langvardt, who plays bass, said he met Knight through their different high school bands playing in shows together. DeWitt resident Tong Kupatavetin, who is the band’s keyboardist, said he started off as casually playing with the group and filling in if a keyboardist was needed.
Langvardt said he didn’t meet Kupatavetin until the band began practicing for their show at The Loft.
He said he has been in bands before where conflict happens often, but the energy between the members of Squirrel Shaped Fish is more relaxed.
“(In other bands) even the songwriting process would be us all digging in at the same time where with this — we just show up and play,” Langvardt said.
Picking a band name
Coming from musical backgrounds, Knight and Irwin are the band’s principal songwriters.
Irwin said his grandfather and uncle played bluegrass music and he was inspired to play so his mother bought him a guitar when he was younger. Knight said when he was a kid, he was only allowed to listen to Christian music. Then, one of his friends gave him a few classic rock CDs — Rush, Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin.
“He basically said, ‘Listen to this and come back to me and let me know how that goes for you’ and immediately I was like, I would like to learn how to play drum set,” Knight said.
The name for the band sprouted from an idea Irwin had.
Knight said he received a text message from Irwin including just the words “Squirrel Shaped Fish” with no explanation.
“It was just so interesting and such a weird phrasing of words,” Knight said.
Irwin said the name came from a dish offered at the Chinese restaurant Hong Kong in Lansing.
The name Squirrel Shaped Fish accompanies a tale about a chef serving the Chinese emperor the dish for the first time, pleasing him and spreading dish’s popularity since.
Langvardt said inspiration for the band’s music and song writing process comes from the broad range of genres and artists each member listens to.
Kupatavetin is a fan of “clean pop productions,” while Langvardt said he listens to varied genres such as jazz and metal.
A dream realized
Irwin said Meridian Entertainment Group, the company that booked bands for the festival, approached the group to play at the festival this year.
“Basically they just noticed us and they thought that we would be a good addition to (Common Ground Music Festival),” Irwin said. “Last year, they had a lot more local bands play than this year so we were honored.”
Prior to being asked to play at the festival, Knight said it was one of the band’s goals to work hard and try to be a part of Common Ground Music Festival.
“Then it got offered to us, we didn’t even have to go out of our way to find them and to ask them and it was such a moment of triumph,” Knight said.
Knight said being asked to play feels like all the work the band has put in the past year has really paid off.
Langvardt said the idea of playing at Common Ground Music Festival is overwhelming, especially since he’ll be able to interact with artists he listens to and is a fan of, like the band 311 and Ben Kenney of Incubus.
Kupatavetin said he is new to the Lansing area and didn’t know of the Common Ground Music Festival before, but had heard about how the festival is a big deal in Lansing and became excited.
“Especially when I heard some names on (the lineup) too and saw our band name on their I was like ‘Oh dang,’” Kupatavetin said.
Langvardt said he used to write about music and was able to interview artists he looks up to, but interacting with them at a show as fellow artists will be a completely new experience.
“This will be a little different where it’s just kind of like we get thrown into the environment with them,” Langvardt said.