Walking into the back entrance of the Woodward Theater and watching Modern Aquatic get ready for their headlining show there that night, I had a good feeling.
Despite the rain outside and my increasing hunger, I was excited to be interviewing a local band that I both enjoyed and respected.
Although Modern Aquatic hasn’t been on my radar 24/7, when they did pop up again, they were doing something particularly cool – playing with bands like The Greeting Committee or being featured as WNKU’s Local Discovery last October.
I met with the band after soundcheck and we headed out front of the venue to a small line of fans. One girl had brought lead singer and guitar player, Geovanny Esquivel, some black sunglasses.
Fans waiting in the rain and bringing gifts is always a sign of a band that’s going to catch on hard. We crossed the street to Another Part of the Forest, an Over the Rhine record store that’s hidden in plain sight. We headed down to the basement and arranged ourselves amidst the stacks of books and records to discuss both the musical and personal details of the band.
“We started two years ago, but we went through some lineup changes. It wasn’t until a year ago that this group came to be,” said Esquivel.
Modern Aquatic has a unique lineup of three guitar players, a bass player, and a drummer. The sound is heavily melodic and multilayered, giving their indie pop sound a different spin.
“We all have our own distinct guitar styles, and it comes together to make something really full and big” said guitar player, Anthony Maley.
This sets the band apart from a lot of the indie pop going around Ohio right now, especially after the success of bands like Walk the Moon.
“One thing that makes us different from the mainstream pop bands is that it rides more on the guitar riffs rather than a hook,” said bass player, Max Maley. “For example, with a song like ‘Laurel Leaves’, the riff becomes the whole song.”
The riff based song concept has proven a successful formula so far – “Laurel Leaves” appeared on their first EP, Beach Monster and has since hit nearly 100,000 plays on Spotify. It has also garnered them the attention of bands like Hippo Campus.
“We gave them a t-shirt of ours, and we saw that shirt pop up in promotional pictures they were doing,” said drummer, Chase Stephens. “We got the show with them on Fountain Square last month, and we couldn’t believe it. We talked with them after the show and they’re all super cool guys.”
Their first official EP, Laurel Leaves, was freshly released the night before the show. It packs a refined style of Beach Monster, with tighter production and new hits like “Edgar Allan Poe Was a Hardcore Dancer”.
“We had to figure out what we wanted to take from the old EP and re-release, and then we each brought in some songs,” said Esquivel. “We were going to go up to Columbus and record a full length album, but a friend of ours who plays in a band around here said to come out with an EP.”
“We started recording last fall, and here we are on the release date,” said guitar player, Kyle Kubiak.
“We love Cincinnati to death, but we’re ready to get out, since we’ve played most of the venues around town. We’ve made really good friends with local bands like Multimagic and The Yugos, but we’re doing a lot of this on our own. The next step is to make the tour happen,” said the Maley brothers.
They all nodded in agreement, and Stephens gave his final thoughts on the future of Modern Aquatic.
I think we all have the outward bound spirit. When we went to Chicago, it was just the five of us. We set it all up, got everything there, and took care of business. It turned out to be a lot of fun; we came back from that trip on a high, and we want to chase it. Don’t do drugs, though.
The show later that night proved they were close to outgrowing the city – there was a packed several rows on the floor and the balcony of the Woodward lined up while they steamed through songs new and old.
Modern Aquatic was obviously having fun on stage, but still meticulously focused on playing – bright enough to engage an audience and technical enough to sound fantastic while doing it. This philosophy seemed to align with their work ethic and future plans, too, and it seems like that’s going to be a recipe for success.