Bridget and The Squares by Emerald Pellot

Emerald Pellot chats with Bridget and the Squares about their combative songwriting process and aggressive live performances on the onset of their first nation-wide tour.

Bridget And The Squares 1

Photo courtesy Jenn Sweeney

Bridget and the Squares is an indie pop-rock duo based in Brooklyn. Five years ago, lead vocalist and pianist, Laura “Bridget” Regan—the only original member left—ditched her band in Boston and went searching for a more aggressive counterpart to her melodic-pop sound. She found Kyle Thompson, a NYC-newbie and improvisational drummer from Las Vegas. Together they’ve reformed Bridget and the Squares as a more abrasive duo, embarking on their first nationwide tour this summer, and recording their first EP.

After playing a show at The Pine Box Rock Shop to a few dozen sweaty hipsters, Laura, Kyle and I chatted on a graffitied stoop.

Emerald Pellot Bridget and the Squares wasn’t always a duo or collaborative effort. How did the band evolve to become just the two of you writing together?

Laura Bridget Regan When the band first started in 2006 for the most part I wrote everything: the lyrics, the music, I basically dictated the entire aspect of every song except for the overall sound of the band, which I felt that my other band-mates had a lot of control over because I was really bad at communicating what I wanted and I had a drummer that wasn’t really hitting it home the way I wanted.

Kyle Thompson When we first started playing together in ’09, I had just moved to New York from Las Vegas and I wasn’t involved in anything band-wise and I saw Laura play solo and really liked her music and thought, I wanna work with her. We started with a song we do called “Winter” and we kind of nailed it right off the bat. We went on tour in January and we brought along Amanda Dellevigne of Night Fruit and she played bass for us. We have a song called “Treat Me Bad” and she wrote this bass-line for it, it was straight-up metal, and it suddenly clicked in my brain that, Wow, we could be doing so much more with this music. After we got back to New York our bass player couldn’t make it to the shows so we started playing as a duo and we were getting good feedback. Then we made the decision: let’s be a duo.

LBR We were trying it out, we played and played, and it just clicked, it just made sense. This is how loud we can be, this is how heavy we can be, this is how dramatic we can be. We can take the music to another level that we didn’t know we could do with just piano and drums. That was such a cool feeling and such a cool thing to be able to explore. Then we started writing new stuff together.

EP If you’re both pulling from personal experience, how does that change the songwriting process when there’s two of you?

KT With “Nothing’s Right, Nothing’s Wrong”, for example, Laura will come to me with a song that’s just her singing on the piano, but it’s just a concept, so we sort of snowball off that concept and see where it takes us, and literally just talk about what we are trying to say until we come up with the right words.

LBR I brought him a song that was not finished at all and asked him, what direction do you see it going in? That song is inspired by a good friend of mine’s dad passing away, relatively suddenly. The whole song is inspired by watching him go through that with his dad. But it’s my interpretation of how I would feel if that were my situation. The whole beginning of it is, Tell me a story, tell me a lie, I don’t want this to be the truth, I don’t want this person to die so tragically and so suddenly. But it goes into this place that I didn’t expect it to go where we talk about how we wish we could undo the things we did to this person as children and as teenagers.

EP Do you think people respond to you guys in a certain way, because you’re a guy and a girl? Do you think it creates a tension between your dynamic?

KT One thing we have to deal with a lot is the sound guys. We’ll be like, we really need the piano really, really loud …

LBR They see the little girl with the piano, the skinny guy on the drums … . We’re two alphas in a band, it’s kind of ridiculous to watch. Sometimes I feel like we’re so cohesive I don’t even know he’s there when we’re playing or we’re so connected I can’t look away from what he’s doing. It depends on the show, like tonight, it just sounded so good and I was so comfortable, we didn’t even look at each other.

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EP Can you feel people react to your aggressiveness?

KT How I feel it: I’ll tell people what band I’m in. They’ll see that Bridget is my band-mate. OK cool, you’re a guy in a band. After we play, the same people will come up to me and say, “Wow what the fuck did I just see?” So I feel we do knock people’s expectations down a bit.

EP Do you think the aggressiveness of your live performances translates into your studio recordings?

LBR It’s something we’ve always been concerned with. We do have a very intense live show and I’ve always been worried that it wouldn’t come across because recording is definitely not my strong suit.

KT Part of the process is when we became a duo, we made a conscious decision: Laura started playing stuff more on the lower end of the piano and I bought cymbals that fill out the empty spaces—and I’ve gotten a lot more aggressive on the kick drum. So we’ve built this low end that we didn’t have without a bass, but because it’s two percussion instruments—piano and drums—it’s much more aggressive.

LBR And I have to really hit that low end to get it to resonate, especially in the newest song, “Nothing’s Right, Nothing’s Wrong”. We come out of that second verse and it’s like BOOM, it creates this pulse, we didn’t think we’d be able to make that sound come across without a bass player. Not everyone can do that, not everyone can hack it.

KT (mocking Laura_) We are better than everyone else. (_laughter)

EP You’re both two alphas in one band but that resonates on stage, because when I see you on stage I am looking at both of you, whereas in other bands one person becomes the focal point.

LBR That is the coolest thing I have ever heard.

KT (mocking Laura_) I’ve heard a lot of cool shit, but that’s number one. (_laughter)

LBR But that’s what we want from the band, especially when we decided to be a duo. That was a decision, we are the band. It doesn’t matter how many people are in it, we are the band.

KT Me and Laura were friends before we started doing this and we got really close as friends really fast. So when the bass player was gone I felt like I could just do what I want and say, “Fuck you,” to Laura because I know her really well.

LBR Kyle is like my brother. We’re at a level in our friendship where we can literally beat the shit out of each other emotionally and the next day we can be like, “Sorry.”

LBR The best practice for me is playing a show. It’s important to have feedback from people. I will go to open mics a lot and play these songs on my own because I want to know what people say about them and I want people to hear the lyrics, it’s how I get better by exposing the music on several different levels.

KT The intensity at these open mics—people are so rude, so when you get a good reaction you know it’s real.

EP How does Swag Faggots and HAWT ME$$, your comedic alter-egos, fit into your identity as musicians?

LBR Kyle has Kyle the Animal and Swag Faggots. I have HAWT ME$$, but it’s just fun. Me and my friend Lauren were coming back on the Chinatown bus from Boston and we were hungover as fuck, I turn to Lauren and go, “Lauren, my booze eyes are on fire”, and she goes, “That sounds like a song lyric.”

KT I was going to do Swag Faggots as a joke, but it really turned into something else. I am playing drums and singing at the same time … Bridget and the Squares to me just makes sense. It’s what I do, that’s me and that will always happen. These other projects are just stuff I want to pursue. Bridget and the Squares is destiny, not that we are destined to be anything, but in my own head that is destined to happen, and I’ll do my best to make it happen. This stuff is just going outside of that to see if I can do something else.

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Photo courtesy Jenn Sweeney

LBR It’s really just challenging yourself to do something different from what you already do. That’s the best part about music, you can always get better and you can always do something else. You never have to be pigeonholed.

EP You’ve expressed a kind of distrust in record labels and management?

KT We’re getting so much indie cred right now. (laughter)

LBR I’m not interested in how someone else might want to market us right now. We’re not at the point where we want anyone to interject their opinions, we’re still working on our own opinions about what our band sounds like and what it looks like. Adding a third party, like management and booking, and record labels, it gets really complicated, I want us to be set in stone about who we are as a band, not to say we wouldn’t evolve from that.

KT I don’t want to get bogged down in anything besides getting better and changing and keeping it fresh. You have your tastes, what you think is good, I want to keep making music that I would think, Oh, this fresh and new.

Go here to see if Bridget and the Squares is touring in your neighborhood or to download their latest singles for free

Emerald Pellot is writer based in New York City.

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