Based out of Bloomington, Indiana, Square Peg Round Hole consists of three percussionists who have developed a reputation for their eclectic style drawing from a wide variety of influences. The manner in which Square Peg’s music combines elements of indie rock, ambient, contemporary classical and post-rock without a single word spoken throughout their latest release, ‘Juniper’, is simultaneously engaging and emotionally stimulating.
Evoking an entire range of human emotions in listeners through a vast array of instruments it has served to collect a far from conventional sound that hypnotizes while reverberating through the air. I touched base with the far from ordinary gang and here is what I have collected along the way…
What does your band name mean and where did it come from?
When the group was in its infancy and we were brainstorming ideas for a name, I was practicing a solo percussion piece called “Square Peg, Round Hole” by a composer named Dennis DeSantis. We went through dozens of potential names, none of which we were happy with, and eventually realized how fitting the famous phrase “square peg in a round hole” applied to the music we were writing. We have never fit neatly into a genre and often struggle with how to label ourselves as a band, but rather than using that as a roadblock, we strive to be confident in our uniqueness and that in itself has become part of our identity.
What do you like to do outside of music that contributes to your musicality?
We all share a passion for art, design, digital media, and overall visual aesthetic, which contributes heavily to who we are as a band. We try to maintain a focused image throughout every platform on which we’re presented, which ranges from setting up antique Edison Light bulbs and wearing all black at our shows, to brainstorming together and executing DIY music video concepts. Musically speaking, the three of us have similar yet unique music tastes which are all blended together in the compositional process to create a complex hybrid sound.
The new record, ‘Juniper’, incorporates multiple elements that dip and dive into multiple genres; where did inspiration stem to create such a diverse piece?
Our compositions are a combination of our vast musical influences, which range anywhere from Beyoncé to Steve Reich to The Chariot to Apex Twin to Tortoise. We are always striving to retain our classical percussion ensemble roots while writing accessible music in a pop/rock context, and the result of that is music which is layered and technically challenging, but still has enough grit and intellect to hold the interest of a classical musician.
Tell us more about the instruments that you play.
The main three instruments are Rhodes keyboard, vibraphone, and drum set. Aside from those main instruments, each of our setup has a number of small percussive toys and electronics, including MIDI keyboards, sample pads, glockenspiels, hand bells, and auxiliary drums. The setup itself is a hybrid of our classical percussion ensemble origins (vibraphone and glockenspiel) and our pop/rock/electronic identity (drum set, keyboards, electronics)
Could you briefly describe the music-making process?
Most of our pieces are initially drafted by each of us alone on computer music programming software. From there, we bring in our ideas to band practices and writing sessions, where the other members give their input and make alterations to the parts to make them more personal and idiosyncratic.
Let’s talk tattoos. Any standout pieces amongst the band?
Sean & I both have several tattoos related to our families. Sean has Bullwinkle on his inner bicep, which is a tribute to his father that reminds him of his work ethic, kindness, level-headedness, sense of humor – all traits that Sean reveres and strives for. The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle is a show which Sean’s father introduced him to and which has become a mutual love for both of them, so they have matching Bullwinkle pieces. Sean also has a black band around his forearm, which signifies the low points in life when you are thrust into difficult situations and having the ability and willpower to bounce back from those situations.
I also have two tattoos related to my family. The first is simply my late mother’s initials on my wrist. The other is a band around my bicep holding two paper cranes, which I got with my brother. In the book ‘Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes’, the main character is diagnosed with leukemia and isn’t given much time left to live. There is a Japanese legend which says that if someone makes 1,000 paper cranes, they are granted one wish. Sadako sets out to make 1,000 during her time in the hospital so that she can wish to stay alive, but dies before she can finish them. Her family and friends finish the rest and bury them alongside her. When my mom was battling with melanoma, my cousins took it upon themselves to spend hours making paper crane after paper crane, which are now all strung across our homes. The paper cranes are a constant reminder of the strength and importance of family.
What is the ultimate direction for Square Peg Round Hole?
Our goal is always to simply get our music into as many ears as possible and to never let our creation become stale. We hope to bring our instrumental, sometimes complex music into the pop world through touring and recording, and reach as large an audience as possible. We want to connect with people who have never even seen a vibraphone before, but can still identify with the excitement of percussion and drums.
Are you touring at the moment or in the near future?
We have been keeping ourselves busy with one-offs as we’ve been formulating touring plans in the next year, and will hopefully be announcing some more substantial tours soon!
Are you well-rounded with music theory?
All three of us studied classical percussion performance at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, so we have all spent a good chunk of time learning about music theory, ear training, music history, etc. We’ve found those skills to be incredibly beneficial when communicating ideas throughout the writing and rehearsing process.
Last but certainly not least, do you have any final words or messages for your fans?
Stay on the lookout for big things soon! We have lots of announcements coming down the pipeline and are so excited to share everything with you, so follow us on social media to keep up to date!