Originally published in MOO Magazine (Issue 10, March 1995)
The members of Quicksand were born and bred on the independent hardcore scene of New York in the 80s and the bands that were part of that scene: Sick of it All, Agnostic Front, Leeway, etc. Singer/guitarist Walter Schreifels true passion growing up in New York was attending hardcore shows and being part of the scene. “I just fell in love with it,” he says from the band’s press office in the Big Apple. “I was pretty active being in different bands and going to all the shows.” Of the bands he either helped to form or was a member of, Gorilla Biscuits, which released material on the Revelation label, was probably the best known.
“I played in all kinds of bands you’ve probably never heard of for short stints of time,” Schreifels admits, “Somebody showed me this reissue of the band Warzone that I was in for like three months. There’s all these pictures of me with a skin head and no shirt on, playing bass, going sick with this band when I was 17 years old.”
It was toward the end of the 80s that many of the New York City hardcore bands began to re-evaluate their sounds, “A lot of bands were like, ‘Fuck it, we want to create, we want to express ourselves and not try to write around the basic hardcore structure’,” says bassist Sergio Vega. “I think a lot of these bands just started experimenting and bugging out.” It was this search for a new sound, with roots still embedded in the hardcore foundation, that brought Schreifels, Vega, guitarist Tom Capone and drummer Alan Cage together.
“Quicksand isn’t really hardcore,” Schreifels says. “Quicksand is just what it is.” What Quicksand is is a sonically-charged beast that journeys to both highs and lows within the same song, often allowing both hammering rhythms and lighter melodies to meet head on. At times, Quicksand songs begin with a simple, gutteral bass line while, at others, it’s the power-core guitar partnership of Schreifels and Capone that makes you think you’re standing on the runway of an airport with planes approaching from all directions. Schreifels says the band’s sophomore effort, Manic Compression, “has a lot of flow. It’s up and down. It’s lifting in some parts, and in other parts it chills out. I think it’s got a lot of ebb and tide.”
Manic Compression’s release coincides, almost to the exact day, with the band’s first tour date in support of the multi-platinum, flavor-of-the-month punkers, the Offspring.
“Quicksand can play with a lot of different types of bands because we’re heavy and melodic,” Vega says. Following the release of Quicksand’s 1993 debut, Slip, the band toured consistently for three years with the likes of Helmet, Rage Against the Machine, Anthrax, White Zombie and Seaweed. Chances are that in the past two years, Quicksand has passed through your neck of the woods a number of times.
“Sometimes I just want to chill in the same place and hang out with the same people, ” Schreifels says about Quicksand’s relentless tour schedule. “When you get in that, they you’re itchy to do something else. No one is ever satisfied with what they get. They always want more. They always want something different. The grass is always greener.”
Originally scheduled for release around Thanksgiving 1994, Manic Compression won’t hit the record stores until February 28. Vega explained that the band kept writing new songs for the album and they weren’t concerned with sticking to a set release date. “I think that it’s really important in a band that everyone is psyched about the stuff and all pumped up,” Vega says. “You have a united front within the band and you totally feel proud about your stuff.” Needless to say, the entire band is ecstatic about the release of Manic Compression.
“I think my songwriting is more to the point,” Schreifels says. “I think that I’m singing better too. There’s something about Manic Compression (Chip note: Yeah, it blows me away!), there’s an uneasiness about it that’s kind of intentional. Our first record, we were going for a more wide open rock n’ roll sound. This record, we wanted to go a little more lo-fi.”
While in most music listeners’ minds, lo-fi is synonymous with bands such as Guided by Voices, Sebadoh and Pavement, Quicksand was aiming for a less-polished, more simple and direct album, not necessarily a cheaper-sounding album and that’s what they got with Manic Compression. While Slip was recorded in Massachusetts (“That was too much of a shock for us,” Vega says. “Doing it out of New York, in a real rural area really sucked!”), the band stayed closer to home this time, recording in New York City with producers Wharton Tiers (Dinosaur Jr, Sonic Youth) and legendary New York hardcore producer Don Fury (Sick of it All, Orange 9mm).
“With this album, I think it’s a lot more true to what we are,” Vega says. “I think we made a more conscious effort to make this album capture what we are really about and not try to make this big, grand artistic adventure.” As a whole, the band reflects its city upbringing with its gritty outlook on life. “This is where we’re from and your environment definitely shapes your personality, and your personality is all that goes into your songwriting,” Vega says.
Lyrically, Schreifels shines throughout Manic Compression. Many of the songs are based on strong feelings which the singer has towards particular people (from “Delusional”, a sample of the lyrics read: “Delusional / I’m not impressed / You want to tell me so bad / Who is on your guest list tonight / But I don’t care”). In particular situations (“‘Brown Gargantuan’ is about breaking out on your own. The song sounds like the kind of soundtrack you’d want to that experience. Like, I’m moving the fuck out. I’m doing my own thing. I think when songs can be soundtracks for the story lyrics tell, that can be cool,” confesses Schreifels) or particular personal experiences such as divorce.
“‘Divorce’, outside of the literal meaning, is about breaking the tight bonds, like you’re with a certain group of friends or a girlfriend, these people aren’t leading you where you want to go anymore, and they are not helping you find your direction,” says Schreifels, a product of divorced parents. “You have to break away from that. It kind of makes you cynical about relationships. Maybe cynical isn’t the right word, but apprehensive to be like, not everything always works out. You have to be realistic about things and proceed with caution because people get hurt.”
As for the future of this young band, Vega feels that the time is right for listeners to start appreciating Quicksand’s music and message. “The acceptance for this type of music has been slowly getting larger for the past couple of years. Different bands, who have done things us, like Jane’s Addiction, had humble beginnings and were playing tiny places to hardcore and punk fans for a while, and now a lot of the bands that are totally punk are getting big,” Vega says. “I don’t think that has anything to do with us specifically, I think we’re just part of that. We’re part of the struggle to keep music real.”