Quicksand were ahead of their time. They made intricate, aggressive and even accessible post-hardcore when most of the U.S. was still learning about grunge, but they also crested a few years before such muscularly melodic sounds made landfall in the mainstream. Three years after their 1995 album Manic Compression—their last before a lengthy hiatus—Refused landed a hit with “New Noise.” And two years later, At the Drive-In cannonballed their way to terrestrial radio with the hypercharged “One Armed Scissor,” making the case for a new era of abrasive, artful punk several years after most of the best post-hardcore bands of the ’90s had already packed in their Les Pauls. The counterpoint to that would be Rival Schools, Walter Schreifels’ post-Quicksand outfit which shared similar aesthetics and guitar punch but didn’t reach the same level of instant-sensation status as the likes of Refused or At the Drive In. Perhaps it was awkward timing, label mishandling or something else entirely—like a fickle hype machine deciding it wanted The White Stripes instead.
Quicksand never made a ceremonious exit like those bands did either, touring intermittently in the years following Manic Compresison, including some dates with The Deftones, whom bassist Sergio Vega would later join. Schreifels ended up taking on about a half-dozen different projects thereafter, including Rival Schools, the indie-rock outfit Walking Concert, the stoner-rock Dead Heavens, punk rock Vanishing Life and even one solo record. Yet as Quicksand returned via festival gigs in 2012, they proved that their chemistry not only still worked, it felt contemporary—even when working with songs that were 20 years old. It might not have been enough at first for the band to entertain the idea of recording new music, but the eventual arrival of Interiors proved not only that they could but that it was actually a pretty good idea all along.
Interiors, the first Quicksand album in 22 years, is entirely the album that Quicksand should be releasing now, considering everything that’s transpired since. The four members of the band have spent time apart and taken on various other projects, the diversity of which is certainly reflected in the depth and breadth of the material. But it also sounds like a Quicksand record and not a Rival Schools record or a Vanishing Life record or otherwise. The tense groove of opening track “Illuminant” feels a little like a more psychedelic, slightly less tense “Fazer” from their debut album Slip. It’s also easy to draw a line from the lingering skronk of “Delusional” to new track “Under the Screw,” which makes dissonant repetition sound pretty damn fun.
This update of Quicksand feels genuine, in other words. It’s not a band trying to figure out what they sound like again—they’ve got that figured out. It’s more a matter of determining the possibilities of Quicksand music a couple decades down the line. And not all of the songs necessarily carry explicit elements of past music, but the character is still intact. “Cosmonauts” is one of the best songs on the album, but it’s also one of the most restrained. Yet the sinewy climb of Vega’s bass and the muted tension of Alan Cage’s drums suggest an explosion that never comes—it never needs to. Similarly, the cosmic drift of “Hyperion” suggests Hum or Failure more than Quicksand, initially, yet soon enough it eases into a crunchy groove that only this band could ride so comfortably.
That Quicksand took nearly half a decade to deliver a new album after reuniting is telling. A rush to capitalize on the energy might have seemed wise, given the renewed interest in the band, though in taking their time they’ve made what ended up being a strong record, one that isn’t necessarily a continuation of their first two but is connected to them all the same. Instead of sounding like a carbon copy of the band they were 20 years ago, it feels like a natural progression—a real document of the band they are now. It turns out that they timed it just right.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.