Inflatable Best Friend: Fuzzed-out, punk garage rock

Jan 17, 2013

From left to right: Bassist Austin McQuater, guitarist Tanner Boerman, and drummer Ian Howell
Credit Rebecca Thiele, WMUK

The Kalamazoo band Inflatable Best Friend has just come out with their first album called DMT Bike Ride. Guitarist Tanner Boerman, drummer Ian Howell, and bassist Austin McQuater say the band has come a long way from when they started it in high school. 

Tanner Boerman: “We ended up walking around our hometown of Richland and like asking for cans to get a drum set. And we ended up coming up with $500 worth of cans and we got a pretty decent drum set.” 

Ian Howell: “We would just tell people the truth, like we didn’t lie or anything. We would just tell people ‘Yeah, we’re collecting cans because we don’t have jobs and we need a drum set.’ And they’re like ‘Oh, I support the arts. Here’s $30 in cans.’”

Austin McQuater: “I also think some people misunderstood us and thought it was the school band, but we never said it was.” 

The band members are influenced by ‘90s grunge and experimental bands like Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr., and Lightning Bolt. Boerman describes their music like this.

“It’s fuzzed-out punk, garage rock type stuff," he says.

He says there’s more to the name Inflatable Best Friend than what you might think.

“If an adult hears it, it’s like a lifeless sexual object kind of," Boerman says. "But a kid could hear Inflatable Best Friend and be like ‘Oh, that’s like that bouncy castle that I really like playing on or like that blow-up dolphin I take to the beach with me.'"

The cover of the album looks kind of like a cartoon, with song titles like Worm Battle on DMT Mountain and I Wanna Ride a Sabertooth. Bass player Austin McQuater says members of the band are kids at heart.

“Kids want to have fun with everything they do," says McQuater. "So I feel like…you think about putting an album together and being a band and stuff, if you take it too seriously you’re going to take a lot of the fun out of it. So, if you just keep thinking about it like you’re a kid, you’re just going to keep having fun with it. It doesn’t matter if you have success or anything, it just matters that you enjoy doing it.”

Though they try not to take themselves too seriously, Howell says they put a lot of effort into their live shows. They even break out the fog machine for songs like Moon Flower Soul

“Kalamazoo can be somewhat saturated with music, but I mean it’s almost like an incentive to go," says drummer Ian Howell. "Like how many times are you going to go to see a band play and they’re microwaving metal, you know? I mean, you just don’t see that.”

Most of the band members are under 21, but they’ve already toured several states in the Midwest and even Texas. And on that trip to Texas, they say their car broke down in Arkansas and a man in a suit performed what looked like a miracle.

Tanner Boerman: “He splashed the engine with water and then he was like ‘Do you boys believe in God?’ And we were like ‘uh?’ And we went into the car and turned the key and then it started miraculously.”

Ian Howell: “It roared to life.”

But McQuarter says, when they took the car to the shop…

Austin McQuater: “We found out that his starter was broken. So when it started at the gas station in Arkansas when the guy asked us if we believed in God, it should have never started in the first place.”

Ian Howell: “Yeah, they were like ‘You don’t even have a starter, it just fell out of the car.’

Austin McQuater: “So we don’t know how our car started.”

Ian Howell: “Yeah, some insane miracle, but yeah we ended up making it to the show that night and met some really awesome people in Fort Worth, Texas and had an excellent time.”

You can pick up a copy of Inflatable Best Friend’s new album DMT Bike Ride in Kalamazoo at Green Light Music and Video and the Corner Record Shop.