I'll Keep This Safe Here: An Interview with Bottom of the Lake
Midwest Band Series
by Bailey Gabrielle
Photos by Josh Giesfeldt
Fon Du Lac, Wisconsin-based rock band Bottom of the Lake rehearses in an office in the center of a repurposed school building. The room is just big enough for band members Brett Schlidt, Keegan Sweeney, Emeric Meilhon, and Zacoda Glass to stand between their equipment. A single line of string lights illuminate the dark brown walls. Here the members of Bottom of the Lake speak a new language, one made up of riffs, drum fills, and inside jokes about cream cheese. I was a fly on the wall of their rehearsal in July. I was given a spot to sit and a pair of earplugs before the band serenaded me with the song that started it all: “Everybody Knows Everything About Everyone.”
During the song, Glass caught me in a state of awe and laughed at me from behind the drum set. Glass, 25, is the oldest member of the band. He is friendly and talkative and led a tour of the building during a rehearsal break. The intimate setting made the performance of the OG Bottom of the Lake song even more special. It was as loud and sweaty as a typical Bottom of the Lake show, except I was the only audience member. I sat less than a foot away from vocalist and rhythm guitarist, Schlidt. He could pass as a relative of Alex Turner from Arctic Monkeys. As he sang, he rocked onto the toes of his Vans, and I worried about accidentally tripping him. Brett Schlidt’s voice conveys emotion melodically while keeping the raw edge found only in songs by the indie folk-rock band Bright Eyes. In my few encounters with Schlidt, I have never seen him wear something other than band merch.
The events leading up to the start of Bottom of the Lake are filled with jealousy, shared interest in a girl, and a later resolved grudge. Founding members Glass and Schlidt first encountered each other through Glass’s on-again-off-again girlfriend. Schlidt had been with Glass’s girlfriend during an “off” period in their relationship, sparking jealousy from Glass. After Glass’s relationship officially ended, he found Schlidt on Instagram.
“I saw him and thought, I hate this guy. But then I was like, ooh he’s got a Bandcamp link in his bio,” said Glass. “I listened through his songs and covers and they were actually really good.”
At the time, Glass was trying to start a band so he set aside his grudge against Schlidt and reached out.
“I said, ‘Hey. You play guitar and sing and I play drums.” said Glass. “We should like, hang out and possibly write music or do whatever.” Schlidt was wary to accept the invitation.
“I was terrified when he first DM’d me because I knew who he was, and he was being very vague,” said Schlidt. “I thought, he’s literally going to beat me up.”
The meeting was successful and the pair hit it off. Schlidt and Glass began writing their first EP Everybody Knows Everything about Everyone in November 2016. Bassist Emeric Meilhon was invited to join Bottom of the Lake in February 2017. Everybody Knows Everything About Everyone was released in May 2017. Kristian Pearson was later added as a second guitarist. Pearson left after recording the band’s first album, I’ll Keep This Safe Here, which was released in July 2018. Keegan Sweeney replaced Pearson in 2018. The members identify their style as “emo-indie-alternative-progressive-rock”.
Two years ago, the DIY music movement spread across the previously quiet Oshkosh area. A scene formed as a fresh crop of bands simultaneously made their debuts in new venues.
“I think at first [the scene] was definitely a community of creators, dreamers, anything of that sort, coming together to make a community where everyone could express themselves as they want,” said Meilhon. “It definitely started off as creatives hanging out.”
The cool kids of Oshkosh hang out at Bottom of the Lake shows. A typical crowd is made up of sweaty teenagers and twenty-somethings sporting hair of every color sprouting from Carhartt beanies. Gig photographers and other local bands salt and pepper the crowd—these are the people that have become vital to Bottom of the Lake’s success.
“There was pretty much nothing going on around Oshkosh for music when we were starting and it’s really cool to see where it is now,” said Schlidt. “We’ve played a couple out of state shows and there aren’t a lot of scenes that are like the one that we have in Oshkosh. I am very grateful for it."
For Bottom of the Lake, the most important part of playing shows is forming a connection with the audience.
“I really love the atmosphere that we set as a band,” said Sweeney. “We really want people to feel the words and relate to them.”
Bottom of the Lake’s debut album I’ll Keep This Safe Here is an emotion-fueled and reflective album. At times, vocals are timid and reminiscent of the painfully poignant shaky singing of Bright Eyes singer Conor Oberst. In “429” Schlidt sings, “You don’t own your flesh/It’s merely a rented hotel room/You’re only just a guest whose frame rots inside of its tomb”.
A year after the release of I’ll Keep This Safe Here, the boys have returned to their cramped room to write their sophomore album. The new album will have a more upbeat sound than I’ll Keep This Safe Here but the lyrical content will stay the same.
“We don’t have a set release date at all. We’re focusing on writing the best songs we can, and we will demo them to no end, making sure they’re all to their highest potential,” said Glass.
One thing is clear, the band knows what they want to accomplish with their music. They want to bring people together and continue to cultivate a local scene.
“It would be cool for [our audience] to be a part of it so much that it’s something they talk about when they’re older,” said Glass. “Hopefully that would spark the next generation.”