Where are you originally from, Phil?
I’m from a small town about an hour south of Chicago, called Momence. It’s a quiet town, surrounded by cornfields and then some more cornfields.
When did you start singing and playing guitar?
I got my first guitar for my 8th grade graduation. It was a starter Fender acoustic. I took 3 lessons to get me up and running, then I discovered the internet and guitar tabs. At that point, I started learning how to poorly play my favorite songs from Melon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. Singing didn’t really come in until my high-school punk-rock band days. Because you really didn’t need to be a good singer to perform that kind of music at that level.
Did any particular band or concert inspire you to become a musician?
I remember being a freshman in high school and thinking of how cool it would be to play the Smashing Pumpkin’s song Mayonnaise in front of the student body. I wanted to blast people’s faces off. I guess this is the energy that I was feeling from my teenage angst and it was no doubt fueled by listening to 90’s alternative rock, including Smashing Pumpkins, Veruca Salt, Stone Temple Pilots, but mostly the former.
It’s been said that Sidewave was your brain child. Could you tell us the origins of the band, and how it all came to be?
It’s a long story… Back in Chicago, 2007(ish), I met Bill (our guitarist) through his girlfriend at the time (now his wife) because we had gone to high school together. She knew that we had similar music tastes and introduced us. He put out an ad on Craigslist, talking about starting a band and listing our musical influences. We hit the jackpot when Brandon responded. We ended up rehearsing weekly in a studio that Bill was working at. We had a handful of songs, some that I had written and some that Bill had written and rehearsed and recorded them as ‘Big Bend’. We didn’t really have aspirations at the time and we all seemed content to just be playing. Soon after, Bill moved out to Los Angeles. Then a couple years later, my wife and I moved out to San Francisco. Not long after that, Brandon and his wife also moved to Los Angeles. So we all migrated west. At the time we had no intention of continuing making music together. Well, I had apparently been inspired by my new environment and was writing and recording a new song or two every month. This is where the Weightless album came from. I continued writing new stuff, which would eventually become the Big Time demos. Around this time, Bill and Brandon reached out to me, having heard the stuff I had been posting online. They were interested in starting a project around these tunes. So for about a year, I would fly down to LA to rehearse once or twice a month. We were lucky enough to be introduced to Matt to give us ‘more bass’ towards the beginning of our existence. But it wasn’t easy for me. When we started playing out, I had to make that long, awful drive from SF to LA for each and every show. This got to be pretty expensive and very draining. So about a year ago, I moved to San Diego to be closer. Well that commute sucked too, so now I find myself in Orange County. Close enough to make things work without living day-to-day in the cluster-fuck of LA.
Your demos spread pretty quickly once posted online. What did it feel like to see your music being heard all over the world?
It was kind of addicting. I didn’t have a release schedule, so as soon as I’d finish a song, I’d post it on SoundCloud and started promoting it. I worked the social network aspect of it and gained a lot of followers. This was what I always wanted, people listening to and enjoying my music. It was fun and rewarding to meet people from Singapore, London, Germany, Italy, etc.
Your music has been described, among other things, as “shoegaze”. Could you describe this style/genre for those who may not be familiar with the term?
Shoegaze is pretty much a wash of sound made by a rock band. Vocals tend to have a lot of reverb, guitars tend to have several effects on them, but the drums seem to take a back seat. The overall effect is a dreamy, confusing, yet beautiful sound. Shoegaze is definitely an element of our style, but we like to showcase a bit more power, heaviness and drive than that.
A lot of your music seems to have planetary and space themes (Which we obviously dig!) Do you have a particular interest in space travel, planets, or anything in that realm, that influenced your music? Any themes you’ve weaved together?
Yes, yes, yes. I’m into all of that. I’ve always been fascinated by space, time and the complete unfathomability of it all. This is an unlimited fuel for me. I often think of what it would be like to transcend our limitations and feel a one-ness with the universe. This reaching out and super-existing is almost always the image in my mind when writing music and lyrics. The ungraspable is what I want my music to point towards. I’ve read a bunch of sci-fi books and have seen all of the good sci-fi movies and tv shows. I have to say that I’m just as inspired after a good dose of sci-fi as I am after seeing a great band perform live. When writing about this kind of stuff, I try to keep it relatively vague. It’s way more fun and personal, as a listener, to make your own interpretation and paint your own picture.
Your debut full length album, ‘Glass Giant’, is due out in October. How did you decide which songs would make it on to the album. Were there many that didn’t make the cut, or some you wish you’d included?
It was a tough process. There were about 23 songs that I had written for the album. We just decided to vote on which ones we wanted to re-record and have mixed. We could only really afford to do 12, and that seemed like a good count anyway. There were a few that I really wanted that didn’t make the cut. But I value the opinions of my bandmates, and wouldn’t want to override them. The left-overs, in my opinion, are just as good as most of the songs on the album. Some are better, but they wouldn’t necessarily have made the album better. At some point after the October 5th release, we will release these demos as b-sides. I’m looking forward to that almost as much as the release of Glass Giant.
How was the experience of recording the album? How long did it take? What did you find most interesting about the whole recording process?
The recording process wasn’t ideal. We didn’t have any financial backing and as four young guys living in California, we didn’t have a ton of money to throw at it. We spent 4-5 long days recording drums in our practice space with all the gear that we could borrow. We had to call in a few favors, but we’re pretty satisfied with the results. Then the guitarist all recorded our parts individually. Bill and Matt went into our practice space, and tracked their parts with Brandon manning the console. I ended up re-amping all my guitars at a studio in San Diego called Back to Bassics. I had a great experience there and it was through the owner that we met Aaron Harris, who mixed the album. We were stoked to work with him because not only is he a really cool guy, he has been working with some of the best rock bands in the last decade. He was concurrently recording Puscifer’s new album while mixing ours, he plays in the band Palms and he just got back from touring with the Deftones as their drum tech.
Have you toured at all with the band yet? If so, any exciting, weird, or interesting stories from the road?
Touring is something that we plan to do in the near future. It’s really difficult to make that kinda stuff happen financially, not to mention finding time when most of us work 40+ hours per week. But believe me, we’re itching to get out of LA. Ironically, it seems that a big portion of our fans are on the east coast. Hopefully we’ll make it there someday.
You are also releasing a music video in the coming weeks for the song, ‘Pines’. How was the experience?
It was different, that’s for sure. We found a decent studio to shoot in and had an excellent crew to work with. We spent a full 8 hours shooting in the studio and on the roof of the studio for the performance scenes. It was a little strange for me to be the center of attention as the singer. Even when we play live, I just see myself as one part of a larger sound. A couple of weeks later we shot the story portion of the video in Malibu on a very very hot day. We had exhausted our water supply and were begging for the shoot to be over. But it was still a lot of fun. Film is an art form that I’ve never really been a part of, so it was really cool to watch a completely different creative process take place.
Why did you choose this song to make a video for? Who directed the video, and what was the whole process like?
Originally we all kind of assumed we would do a video for ‘Sundrop’, as it seems to be the most popular song. But we wanted to showcase some newer material and Pines fit the bill. It’s a dramatic song with highs and lows. It definitely had the right makeup for a video. So we brainstormed a short but loose storyline and went with it. Jefferson Fugitt directed the shoots and his cohorts Trevor, Tyler and Jeremy worked really hard to make things happen. We’re currently wrapping up the final edits and I’m stoked to see the end product! They sent us a work in progress the other day and we were all really impressed at the vibe they created.
There is no doubt that the music industry has changed in many ways in the past twenty years or so. With the advent and growth of digital music, streaming, and illegal downloading, how do you personally view the music industry in terms of musicians making a living?
I personally don’t think it’s likely for an individual to make a living as a musician. Most professional musicians that I know have to supplement their income with another, more stable job. Some of them make big investments into recording, mixing and mastering setups so that they can continue to survive in the industry. The market is just over-saturated. Anyone can record an album in home studios or even on their iPads. But the problem is quality. Just browse SoundCloud for a bit and you’ll see what’s out there. This overwhelming amount of content makes it nearly impossible for hardworking, talented musicians to get noticed. There’s also a major shift in musical tastes that is making it even harder for musicians in my genre. The audience just isn’t there anymore. With electronic dance music pulsing through the blood of our youth, rock music like ours seems almost antiquated. And it’s really a shame. Guitar rock needs to find a way to evolve into relevancy again. I don’t think a constant kick drum pulse will do the trick either, but it certainly needs to appeal to the attention deficit most of us face in this information age. It makes me sad to say that because I prefer music with creative depth, not just repetition.
If there were one thing you would suggest or impart to a new band out there, what would it be?
I hardly feel qualified to give advice, but from my experience, you can’t expect respect. You may have written good songs, even a few great ones. You can’t assume that everything will fall into place after that. You have to go out there and play your ass off. You also have to meet as many people in your scene as possible. Sacrifice your personal time to support them, and in return you’ll see the same thing happen for you. This is the start of your PR campaign. People have to hear your music before they can like it, and you’ll need as much help as you can get when it comes to spreading the word. That’s why PR firms are so unbelievably expensive. It’s hard work! And it’s the only way to get new listeners outside of the limited reach of social networks. One more thing; don’t pay for Facebook Ads. You will end up getting fake likes, which will decrease your reach to your real fans. Not to mention that it will end up costing your hundreds or thousands of dollars for what amounts to less than nothing.
What is next for you personally, and for the band in general?
Personally, I’m excited to be living closer to the rest of the band. This will cause a shift in our songwriting process and will hopefully foster more collaborative efforts in the future. As for our direction… we’re tuning our guitars lower. The pretty elements of our music will stay intact while our hard-hitting sections will be even heavier. The next album will be more like getting lost in a cave. There will surely be crystals in some chambers, but others will seem to drop into nothingness. I really can’t wait to start recording this stuff.
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