Squeaky Burger Rocks
It may be hard to believe that the group Squeaky Burger made up all of their songs as they went along. For the mostly-instrumental rock band, nothing is ever written down, rehearsed or played a second time. No pre-planning is made; no keys are announced and once a Squeaky Burger song is heard, it will never be played live again.
“We have a jazz approach in a rock context. We actually compose everything on the spot,” said Kevin Stark, who plays bass, keyboard and drums. Each member plays a multitude of instruments to keep things interesting. Justin Williams plays guitar and saxophone, Mark Bratcher plays guitar and keyboard and Kevin Campbell plays drums, keyboard and bass.
They focus on the creative part of making music and try to steer clear of repetition. Like a painter, they don’t want to keep making the same work of art over and over again. When someone comes to a Squeaky Burger show, they always get a particular sound and a similar experience, but they get different music every time the lights dim.
“The thing about jam bands that most people don’t realize is that they have written music and take a particular section and jam that. We don’t do that at all. Every time we perform, it’s always something new.”
Stark cites a certain mental ‘telepathy’ between him and his band mates that allows such intuitive, on-the-fly song writing. It comes from playing together for nearly a decade and knowing each others’ styles so well that cohesive, melodic music comes from a process that would end in garbled disaster for most musicians.
But they’re more than just an experimental Oklahoma four-piece with hints of King Crimson, Frank Zappa and Dark Side of the Moon-era Pink Floyd. They’re a band of equals – they’re four musicians who value obscurity over glory and anonymity over fame.
“It’s really not about ego and it’s really not about solos. If you want to be in this band, you’ve really got to leave your ego at the door,” he said.
They’re currently cutting a new album, due in the fall, and a look at their recent CD titles like Sweet Obscurity and Conceal Yourself gives clues to their selfless philosophy.
“Our way of music is so against the American or Western idea of music. It really is more of a meditative thing than it is a commercial thing,” Stark said.
Starting in 1997, Squeaky Burger had nine members before they whittled it down to the current four. They were originally called Dog Toy, but then they found out there was another band with that name, so they renamed themselves after Stark’s dachshund Winston’s favorite toy – a squeaky burger.
“We wanted a name that didn’t tell what kind of music we played, because it’s always so different. Secondly, we wanted a name that people would remember, and we wanted a name that nobody would steal. Nobody wants that name. And it also has a sense of humor. We’re serious about our music, but we don’t take ourselves seriously,” Stark said.
As for why the band shies away from overloading their songs with lyrics, aside from a few choral vocals, Stark said they want their listeners to have a more personal experience with their music, and not be directed to a certain place by words that may limit what the song might mean to them.
“It’s atmospheric and emotional, and a lot of times lyrics will ground you,” he said. “Some of our stuff kind of takes on a symphonic sound. We really are more akin to soundtrack music than rock music.”
What goes with the soundtrack Squeaky Burger provides may be different for each person who hears it – and that’s the point. However, one thing about Squeaky Burger that’s likely true for everyone is that they’re a concert experience that has to be seen to be believed.