QUICK HITS: Mike Gantzer of Aqueous talks Fall tours, rituals and Peach Festival


by Chris Snyder

The band will embark on a Fall headlining tour in a few weeks. What are you guys most excited about for this tour?

I honestly think this is the most amped we’ve ever been for a tour because the band has been really hitting its stride lately and we’re so excited and grateful to have the opportunity to show people what a headlining Aqueous show is all about! We’ve been rocking some truly amazing support slots this year, but often times it’s between 45-60 minutes and it can be tough to really let the improv develop as patiently as we’d like. We’re rocking two sets nearly every night of the tour so we’ll get to “scratch that itch” and get creative with our setlist writing, segues, etc. We love playing live and we’re psyched about the idea of connecting with our fans and delivering the best possible experience to them!

Touring throughout the country can be an amazing experience and can also present some challenges. What is the best advice you have for newly touring groups in the circuit?

I’d say the two biggest pieces of advice I have are to stay as patient and enthusiastic as possible with the whole experience (play your heart out EVERY night, regardless of the situation), and do your best to eat healthy and keep your eye on the prize! It’s a ton of fun being out on the road, but it can also be very taxing at times, so prioritizing a solid diet and pacing yourself (even moderately) can really go a long way on the longer stretches of tour. Also, be kind and respectful to everyone you meet. That goes double for your bandmates. [laughs]

Do you guys have any surprises up your sleeves for your fans (that you can announce) in the near future?

We’re really close to dropping the next installment in our live series called ‘Element’—this will be Pt. II—and there’s some really awesome stuff collected from sections of the Spring Tour and some more recent Summer dates as well. We’re also chipping away at a studio album and will be releasing a new single really soon that no one’s ever heard, so that’s exciting! There’s also some really rad stuff we’ll be announcing as part of the Brooklyn Comes Alive festival and there’s still some TBA dates on our tour that we’re excited about, particularly our New Year’s Eve announcement. There’s a lot going on in camp AQ!

Aqueous just had the opportunity to share the stage with Umphrey’s McGee as well as have members play the official afterparty in NYC. How did the collaboration originally come about?

Over the past few months we’ve been grateful to start getting to know the Umphrey’s guys a bit between support dates with them. Recently, I worked on a project with Kris Myers and Ryan Stasik for Summer Camp Music Festival. It was a Green Day tribute set. I think the idea is that a certain level of trust had to be built for those things to really work. We needed to make the UM guys feel confident that we were going to do our homework and be super ready when they jumped into the mix with us.

When our camp approached Jake and Joel about the afterparty concept they were incredibly humble, kind and willing. I reference that particular evening as a career highlight for sure. Often times during a “superjam” style evening it can be really cool, but not necessarily dynamic or musical. That was not the case at all during our Highline show! Those guys came in with wide ears, open eyes and had really dug into the material that we talked about ahead of time; we ended up getting pretty deep into all of the improv that was created that evening. I’d also be lying if I said that trading guitar licks with Jake Cinninger all night wasn’t a dream come true [laughs]. It’s always inspiring to play with top-notch musicians and those guys have built something incredible. It’s good to get the chance to learn up close and have these musical and personal interactions.

Are there any rituals that the group has before a live performance?

Yes! We’ll sound like old boring men when I tell you this, but we definitely go through a whole series of stretches before shows. Ideally, we always take at least an hour before a performance to warm up to metronomes, run songs, or go over setlist ideas and such to try and be as in the zone and ready to nail it from the moment we begin! That’s the goal at least and that goes better some nights than others.

You will be performing at one of the premier festivals on the East Coast, Peach Music Festival, in August. What are most looking forward to at this festival?

Peach Music Festival is one of my absolute favorites and holds a lot of special memories for me personally. My dad saw our band perform there for the last time before he passed away after a tough battle with cancer, and I’ll literally never, ever forget having him in the crowd with the biggest smile on his face. Beyond the personal aspect, I think the lineup is truly incredible and I’m so excited to play two sets this year. It will also be great to get the chance to hang with some of our other band friends and take in a bunch of other sets!

How would you guys define success in the music industry?

Man, that’s a tough one, but what stands out to me is sustainability and engagement; building something strong enough to count on, and also to keep you and your fan base happy, growing and engaged. I think that “success” is being re-imagined constantly, but those two things in my eyes are adequate to utilize the term itself. It’s all about perspective too because in many ways what we’re experiencing even now at whatever level you’d define this as, is successful, especially when considering how I viewed things growing up. Success can even be finding the courage to step on stage and play music that represents you honestly. There are a lot of ways to look at it I think.


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