As dramatic life choices go, Day Wave (AKA Jackson Phillips) has made some big ones; he swerved New York and LA to move to his “mellow” hometown of Oakland, CA, and canned his fast-rising synth-pop duo Carousel to buy a telecaster and start a surf rock and shoegaze indebted project. “The music that I love is guitar driven,” he explains, “and I felt all these bands trying to rehash synthpop were getting a little stale. I wanted to make more guitar led music and that was the idea for Day Wave. So I just was like ‘fuck it, I could figure out guitar, it can’t be that hard.’”
Evidently not; it’s about one year later and in the intervening time Phillips has seen his ‘Headcase’ EP swallow SoundCloud via millions of streams, toured Europe and signed to Fat Possum for his newest release, ‘Hard To Read’. That said, when quizzed as to what the coolest thing to happen in the past year is, he can’t help settling on a particularly explosive radio DJ. “The other day I had a phone interview with Zane Lowe. I used to watch him interview Rick Rubin and Kanye so I was just like, ‘This guy’s such a badass!’”
Phillips may not be Kanye, but he has both a healthier sense of importance to the human race (“I didn’t expect anyone to listen to it,” he says of his music) and a wider set influences than you might expect. Having studied at the prestigious Berklee College of Music as a jazz drummer (fellow alumni include everyone from Quincey Jones to Kiesza), Phillips says he’s a true music obsessive, and someone who’s equally as into J Dilla as he is Debussy (“although it might not come off that way”).
Those influences bleed into his sound and ensure he isn’t paralysed by his love of Brian Wilson, though the obvious foundations of Day Wave’s sound are breezy Beach Boys hooks spliced with the prickly guitar lines of Joy Division. It’s something that Phillips is well aware of. “‘Pet Sounds’ is definitely one of the main influences. At the beginning of Day Wave I was probably listening to it everyday! A lot of the influence is its lyrical honesty.”
The result is something more than the sum of its parts, with tracks like ‘Drag’ engulfing you with their blooming melodies. “It’s important that it has a modern sound, something that’s propelling it into the future,” Phillips says, and although he plays, produces and mixes everything himself, that something is a sly suggestion of contemporary pop. “I’ve spent a lot of time studying modern pop production, whether it’s Katy Perry or Rihanna or Kanye West I was just listening to these big pop songs and picking out things and being like, ‘Oh that’s how they did that!’”
It’s an approach that comes across via Day Wave’s directness, but it’s still far removed from the genre as a whole. Phillips explains that “the thing that was getting to me was that modern pop sounded so sterile, so slick and too perfect”. With his music, he decided to record everything onto tape, “just to give it more character and make it more grainy and unique”.
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It’s an approach that’s proving popular; before Day Wave had even played a show in Oakland, Phillips headlined a triumphant gig in London last year that he still raves about now. “It was really intimate, and people had flown from different parts of the world just for that one show, which was crazy.” Considering the ease with which British bands like New Order and My Bloody Valentine also roll from his tongue, we ask whether we’ve got a legitimate claim to adopt him from the US. “Yeah, totally,” comes the reply, “so much music that I grew up listening to is from the UK; King Crimson, Pink Floyd… everything except for The Beach Boys, I guess!”
DAY WAVE: THE DETAILS
FOR FANS OF
Real Estate, The Beach Boys
Blink 182’s Mark Hoppus tweeted his appreciation of Day Wave’s music exactly a day after Phillips had been revisiting the pop punk heroes’ back catalogue with his roommate.
Both the ‘Hard To Read’ and ’Headcase’ EPs are out now via Fat Possum
‘Stuck‘ – A bittersweet love letter led by pounding drums and revolving stacks of guitar that make up a Phil Spector-esque wall of sound.