New Music on Campus: $quib and Homechild

As you scroll through Brock’s Instagram, one would assume @explosivetemper would be the epitome of a liberal arts student. As Brock puts it, he likes “small things in big places”. I wasn’t surprised to see exactly that when walking into Brock’s South Hall dorm: a piece of printer paper taped to his wall above eye level reading “401k” in blue ink, a disproportionately small mirror hung on the opposite wall in an equally inconvenient place, and Brock seated in the middle of the two, wearing an emerald-colored sweater, surprisingly not tucked into his high waisted black skinny jeans. Everything about Brock makes sense, even beyond his liminal aesthetic and hyper-pop adjacent music. I wanted to understand the nuance behind his tactical approach to life and music. 

Laura: So Brock, I loved your EP so much. I’m curious as to what inspired you to make the $quib E.P? 

Brock: That’s a really good question. I had a breakdown in like junior year, ok well, let me start by telling you how $quib started. I went to a vocational school so everyone was spread out across the county so I found myself going on online forums alot to talk to people cuz it was just easier to communicate with them than to drive 30 minutes anywhere. I would go on these discord servers cuz I’m an incel. I would get bored because these communities would be kind of insular, you know. They would be like “Did you hear the new Tyler, The Creator track?” and everyone’s like “Yes! So good!” and I got kind of bored with it so I made a joke ARG, you know like a creepypasta kind of thing?

Laura: I actually don’t know what that is. 

Brock: ARG just means alternate reality game,…

Laura: Oh okay. 

Brock: It’s just stupid bullshit, I made mine kind of a joke. It was just a cyclops named Fish chasing me. So there were just low-res pictures of me from far away that I would post on servers. I’ve been making music for a long time and this ARG came at a perfect time when I was starting to have a freak out about this idea that nothing I say will ever be interpreted how I mean it. There’s always buffers when it comes to thinking  thought, forming a sentence, saying the sentence and somebody else hearing it. There’s so many ways to get off the beaten path with that, and I feel like that would make sense with how my experience online has been. There’s no inflections, it’s all text. So, just this idea that my internet persona being a derivative of me and then Fish would be the second derivative of that, or something. Just to the point that I don’t even know what the fuck is going on. And I was like, “Wouldn’t it be funny if me and Fish collaborated on a music project?”. “Fish” in quotes of course because he doesn’t exist because he’s a cyclops. I used this as a way to sabotage myself musically under the guise that a cyclops that doesn’t know how to do anything or any music is like “Here let me try something!” You know what I mean? 

Laura: Mhm.

Brock: I’ve always wanted to be like “I’m making a conceptual project.” I really appreciate that you like it because I thought everyone would think it was stupid if I explained it to anyone. And the thing about Fish is not that I’m perpetuating this suspension of disbelief. If someone asks me if Fish is real I’m going to say “No.” but I think that’s kind of part of it, because it’s the same thing where I can openly acknowledge that I don’t feel like the same person through text. Everyone code-switches in some way with everyone. 

Laura: Does the idea that someone listening to your music doesn’t understand it in the same way that you do frustrate you? 

Brock: Well, with $quib the whole idea was that I was going to be a little bit vague so that it would encourage that misunderstanding. I was going to make a concept album and everything would be super personal and specific and I was like “I want people to understand this!” But I realized that’s kind of stupid. But Bunny Rodgers, this artist I really like, she talked about this concept of the perfect audience of one in an interview, and it’s the artist themself. Because there’s all these little references and everything is especially poignant to the artist themselves. 

Laura: Since we’re talking about the meaning of $quib and how people interpret it, how would you interpret each of the songs? What is “L’hôspital” about? 

Brock: Yeah! I love to talk about and I’m kind of embarrassed to say I love to talk about my own shit because it was another example of something coming together really well after the fact because with every $squib song I was like I’m going to plug in a really shitty mic and not care about mixing too much. But with “L’hôspital”, there was this instance of feeling like I exploited a friend. I was making art with them and it felt like I was exploiting them unintentionally in a way. I was writing about Fish but it turned out to be the story of my friend. The lyrics—there are two vignettes about art buying and artifact buying, and being a landlord, two very exploitative things from the perspective of the person perpetuating that thing. It’s just the idea of Fish being exploited as an archaic thing, like a weird fuckin’ cyclops. And after that one instance where my friend confronted me, I felt like this is something that I could accidentally do to anyone. And the “invest now” thing, it’s like, at what point does a friendship change from mutually helping one another to like, a weird quid-pro-quo or like, just a one sided thing. So that’s what that thing is about, but ‘L’hôspital’ is also L’hôspital’s Rule which is a calculus thing, and just that idea of derivatives, of like, kind of reducing someone to something two dimensional. 

Laura: So the intro for “L’hôspital”, was that a sample or did you create it? 

Brock: That’s a sample of “Pictures at an Exhibition” (a classical piece) which is kind of about walking around an exhibition seeing art pieces and they mean different things. I guess in a way it can topically connect but I don’t know why I sampled it. I think I was using the trumpet line (in the song) so I started the song out with that bit also. 

Laura: So in the lyrics for the song you wrote “He was an artifact he never chose to put. I saw the sign and number through the bust. Invest now.” 

Brock: *giggle* Sign and number is kind of a thing that people do with their artwork, where they number the artwork and sign their name, but it’s just this idea that like I don’t want to take intellectual property of this person. If I accidentally kind of commodify a person because I think what they’re creating is really cool and I get tunnel vision. Or just specific aspects about people, this can really apply to anything where I fucked up by diminishing a person down to a certain value of them. Just this idea that they never wanted to be treated like that and that’s what “He was an artifact he never chose to put” means.  “L’hôspital” is definitely the most conventional out of all of the songs, but in a way that makes it really effective because the subject of it is a really universal thing. Like I don’t think enough people talk about unintentionally fucking up with friends. 

Laura: Would you say you have any influences? 

Brock: That’s a good question. I like a lot of artists and I think they probably have an influence on me, but I never really thought about going into making a “type beat”. I remember the first time I was getting really into Dean Blunt–

Laura: I love Dean Blunt.

Brock: and then the first song I made for the EP was “Bullet” and I didn’t even think about making it for the EP but I was just like, “I want to make a sad country sounding song”, and so I picked up my electric guitar, which I like, barely know how to play, and I remember I made this song and a month later I was listening to the song “Mass Appeal” by Dean Blunt and I was like “Oh fuck these are the same chords.” because they’re such simple chords! I think artists that approach music in the same way, who like don’t overthink it, but not in the Kenny Beats way I fuckin hate Kenny Beats. 

Laura: Yeah I don’t like Kenny Beats either. 

Brock: Ugh. But um, I really like Deerhoof, just songwriting wise I think even if sonically there aren’t a lot of parallels I think just songwriting and the simplicity but really powerful brevity to the lyrics. The fact that two stanzas can stretch throughout an entire song and still be really good, really is great to me. 

Laura: So how long did it take you to actually make the $quib EP? 

Brock: That’s a, that’s a really revealing question actually. Because I’m so slow with making music… um … because I have a fucking stupid obsession with not making songs sound similar at all. And so if I’ll make something and I’m like, “I already used this chord progression,” I won’t make the song. And so this 4 song E.P. took 2 years.

Laura: Haha. That’s all fine.

Brock: “Bullet” and “l’hopital” came together really quickly, I remember. And I think –

Laura: Those are my 2 favorites also by the way.

Brock: Thank you. “Le Wedding” is essentially 2 things stitched together but I’m actually happy with how it turned out, cuz it feels kind of logical. Like I wrote the lyrics for them separately and they both… make sense together. Like “Tetragram For Duties”, it’s very obvious that that song is like a bunch of different ideas. But I weaved them together, I think, decently. And I’m actually really proud of that song. Everytime I make a song it’s like, this is the last idea I’m ever gonna have and it is for a month and then I come up with something else. This E.P. took me 2 years of on and off work but I think that’s okay because I feel like if I tried to make it longer or I tried to make it quicker I think it would dampen the effect of it.

Laura: Do you think you’re a perfectionist? Do you think that’s what it is? 

Brock: I am a recovering perfectionist. With $quib you can tell there’s so many things wrong with it, but it’s kind of like the Bladee-y thing where “IT’S SUPPOSED TO SOUND BAD!” not that $quib is supposed to sound bad, I just kind of gained a real appreciation for imperfections and wonkiness in music. Around the time I was listening to Dean Blunt, there was this artist Gaby that totally changed the way I think about music. I think you can use humor in music and I think a lot of people don’t think about that and now with hyper pop,… I’m actually really happy that 100 Gecs is kind of opening the gates of sorts to people of being silly in music. 

Laura: I feel like with being a perfectionist it helps in some sense, and it’s fine to take your time. And I think if this is what came out of it because you took your time, I say why not. 

Brock: Yeah! I didn’t walk up to the piano and go “COME ON BROCK THINK THINK THINK!” you know? Or like search up “how to write a song!”. A lot of what I would do is that I would listen to what I had so far and I’d be like “Okay” and then bike around and think of melodies. A lot of the melodies on the $quib project are pretty simple and juvenile sounding. 

Laura: But the chords are so complex! 

Brock: Yeah, I really love weird chords. That kind of fucked me over when it comes to discovering new music because I really like weird chords but I really like pop song structure and usually its like weird chords means the thing has to be disjointed in ten minutes long or if its a pop songs it’s gonna be like oh,the 1 4 5 progression. But yeah um I think I’m ok with taking a really long time on this and also like…. Ah shit I forgot what I was gonna say we can like move on.

Laura: How old were you when you actually started playing music or producing it? Did you play the piano before or the guitar? What’s the history of Brock’s music?

Brock: Hehe. When I was a kid I would bang on shit all the time with like spoons and whatnot. *high voice* They just couldn’t stop me from making music. No, uh, they got me a drum set at like 4 years old which was prolly a mistake for them. But it wasn’t for me. I really liked it and then in middle school I was learning piano. I was already kinda fucking around on the piano before, but in middle school my mom was like “YOU HAve to learn how to play it with like technique or whatever.” And she dragged me there, kicking and screaming. But it did help me out… I think. So drums and piano were my main 2 things. And when I started producing music I think it was like… 7? 7 or 8. And uh I sucked till I was 17, but I was like making shit on Garageband. I remember the first few things I was making were kind of just like joke.. 30 second joke songs. Or if not joke songs, really bad songs. 

Laura: How would you describe your music to someone who has never listened to it before? 

Brock: I’d say a little goofy, electronic pop music with sometimes jazzy chords and I don’t know I think that’s it. The Squib EP was an exercise in writing a good song, and I’d say if you like silly pop music, or silly sad pop music. There you go. 

Laura: Do you have anything in the works? 

Brock: Yes! Under a different moniker. 

Laura: Oh really? Why is that? 

Brock: Because I don’t use them as names where someone’s like, “Oh! It’s $quib!” you know? They’re kind of containers for concepts. Like $quib is a project that’s about communication, it sounds like this, this is what it looks like. It’s specific. And this other project that I’m making is an EP under the name Home Child and it’s actually coming out in 3 days.  It’s kind of just jumping into super nostalgic things for me like Nintendo, low res photos, the internet, certain things that just resonate with me in a certain way. It’s a lot less song writing based and a lot more sound design based, but all the songs are pretty short. Very inspired by Animal Crossing. There’s no irony. It’s probably the prettiest stuff I’ve made. It’s the music I wanted to make when I was 8. This whole project is just how I felt 

Laura: Well thank you so much for sitting and talking to me!

Brock: Thank you!

You can listen to Brock’s new E.P. on Spotify, Apple Music, and Bandcamp now, under the new name Homechild: