Next month, Jackson Phillips will be heading to Australia for the first time performing under his Day Wave moniker. It’s an exciting prospect not only for the Californian musician, but for us too – having been introduced to his music via I OH YOU near the end of last year, what we heard in “Come Home Now” indicated that, in making Day Wave the label’s first international signing, there was something special about this artist.
And they’re right. So far, Day Wave has stood out at SXSW not only as a ‘buzz’ artist, but one who has delivered on the hype. His stage presence is fresh and engaging and the delivery of his music is impressive. Off stage, Phillips is friendly and talkative. He remains humble and impossibly endearing when punters come up and praise his performance and as we pull up a bench inside the German-themed eatery to chat, I instantly feel at ease as he opens up about the making of his Hard to Read EP.
“The only thing is that, sometimes I worry that I’ve created something that is too hard for me to play,” he admits, talking about his current creative mode. “My band members are all really good at their instruments, but I’m new to guitar. I’m pretty okay at it, but sometimes I’ll record something that is hard to play and sing at the same time. Sometimes that happens, so I really have to practice and that’s what I get nervous about. It’s like, “Oh shit, is that too hard?”. At first, when I made my first few songs, I thought, “There’s no way I’ll be able to play guitar”. I was like, “Am I just going to be a singer without a guitar?” and then I figured it out. I was like, “No – I’ll be able to do it”.”
Though Day Wave remains his solo project, Phillips performs with a great band of musicians and as he says, bringing them into the process and sharing his music and ideas with them after he’s made the songs, the dynamic between the bandmates is one that is continuing to evolve.
“It’s weird,” he muses. “I bring all the music to them [the band] afterwards, so it’s an odd thing to be like, “Okay – this is the first band I’ve ever done, where I just bring the guys the music and show them what to play”. It’s cool though, because it’s all pre-arranged and I know it will work together.”
“It works really well and it’s a quick process,” he says. “We play what’s there and then after we play some shows, it evolves into its own thing a little bit. I think playing for the last few months, I think we’ve definitely created something that’s very true to the recordings but is also its own thing, bringing the guys into the mix.”
The progression of the music itself is something people have started picking up on about Phillips as his profile as Day Wave has continued to gain traction. A graduate of the Berklee College of Music, Phillips’ musical background includes jazz training and for a while, he delved into some electro-pop territory fronting San Franciscan band Carousel. Day Wave sees Phillips play around with some gorgeous lo-fi flavours, blending synths and guitars in producing some sun kissed slices of music goodness that quickly struck a chord with fans in the States (and now, beyond).
“Musically, I really like a lot of progressive rock bands.” he says of his influences. “I used to listen to them a lot and that really helped me understand that arrangements can go beyond certain structures. Also, a lot of pop music really helped me nail down what it means to make a good pop song. I think that’s really important; I think it’s good to have an understanding of the different aspects of it. Whether or not it’s [like] Phil Spector, where a lot of those songs are so straightforward and affected, as pop songs.”
When it comes to how this music is realised in a live capacity, Phillips is excited to show off the new Day Wave material to more crowds especially now it’s more or less a confirmed thing that this project is indeed, real.
“It’s becoming more of a real thing and more of an actual job now,” Phillips laughs. “I want my band and I to really be on it. We have it really tight now. It needs to be perfect now and it needs to be like, “We can’t let down these people who paid to come see us live”. We haven’t actually recently had a lot of time to work on it but I think after SXSW, we have a lot of time to figure out how to be a headliner!”
“I’m really excited to be playing with those bands,” he says about his upcoming Australian shows with Gang of Youths and Spookyland. The shows will not only be Day Wave’s first ever Down Under, but he’s taking to some large venues off the bat too, with the likes of the Enmore in Sydney and the Tivoli in Brisbane waiting for him in April.
“I’ve heard that some of those venues are big!” he laughs. “It’ll be sad when we come back on our tour and downsize!”
Now he’s on the road more and is eyeing up quite a busy year of touring, Phillips agrees that his mode of working on new material may have to change.
“I’ll definitely be working on new music, but mostly touring.” he says of the year ahead. “I think I’ll have to learn how to just make music on the road or at least write, you know? I think my writing style will have to change. Normally, I’ll write and produce at the same time, but I don’t really think I’ll be able to do that so much at this point, on the road. I think I’ll just have to adapt my writing style to writing in a more singer-songwriter style and then try and make the production interesting afterwards.”
“It’s pretty surprising to me,” Phillips says of his recent success. “It’s really cool. I never expected it, I didn’t expect much, it’s crazy that we’re actually going to Europe and Australia. It’s crazy that we’re able to actually sell some tickets in different places in the States, I’m still not used to the idea of it.”
Discussing contemporary influences and the way his musical career has wound its way to this point, Phillips notes that regardless of the different directions his tastes and creative moods have taken him in, when it’s come to songwriting and generating those initial ideas, his ethic has remained the same.
“If I asked myself when I was 15 [if the Day Wave sound would be one he’d create], I would’ve been like, “That’s the type of music I’m going to be making!” But, I went on this weird other direction, playing jazz and drums, getting really interested in playing complex music. I think it was just a phase of seeing how far I could go with music. It was always about songs for me, when I was younger. It just came back around to that, “I want to make cool songs”.”
Day Wave will be in Australia touring with Gang of Youths through April.
April 8th | The Tivoli, Brisbane | SOLD OUT
April 9th | Enmore Theatre, Sydney | SOLD OUT
April 15th | The Gov, Adelaide | SOLD OUT
April 16th | Astor Theatre, Perth
April 20th | 170 Russell, Melbourne
April 21st | 170 Russell, Melbourne | SOLD OUT
April 22nd | 170 Russell, Melbourne | SOLD OUT