Day Wave: "I watched so much TV..."
Day Wave is ready to ride.
Published: 3:21 pm, May 08, 2017
Jackson Phillips likes to work himself hard. As his voice crackles through a phone line that sees him in an LA departure lounge, awaiting a flight to China, he’s mere weeks away from releasing his debut album. And yet here he is, with a roster of songs in his back pocket, ready to get going on album two. “A lot of times I’ll be busy or travelling or doing stuff with my family or friends, but when I do get some weeks off or time by myself, I write as much as I can. The last couple of weeks I’ve just been piling up more songs, it’s pretty fun. I have about ten already.”
It’s a good thing that Phillips knows how to move fast. Since starting Day Wave in 2014, it’s been a non-stop ride that has seen him release two EPs, tour the UK and US and garner plaudits from Apple Music. A sound that taps into references as diverse as Joy Division, Blink 182 and The Drums, the music he makes is a beautiful contradiction – sunny Californian melodies that recall the hazy contentment of youth, coupled with lyrics that express self-doubt and regret.
This level of introspection is present in everything he does, from the blurry Polaroid’s and scribbled song titles that covered his EP’s to his nostalgic lyrics and his preferred mode of recording, the tape machine. Early songs ‘Drag’ (‘I know that I still hang around/And I bring you down/And I’m just like that’) and ‘Gone’ (‘I feel this way/I feel this way alone’) have been taken to hearts worldwide, perfectly encapsulating that sense of isolation and melancholy that so often plagues the teenage experience.
Raised on a diet of pop-culture at the hands of movie-fan parents, Jackson admits that he is deeply in love with the past. “Your life has all these chapters or scenes or eras and you miss them once a certain amount of time has passed,” he muses. “There are songs on the album that refer to that… a lot of what I feel is nostalgia for something that didn’t actually happen to me, because I watched so much TV. You get these memories that are something you’ve internalised but weren’t real. Even though it didn’t happen to you, you just wish you could go back and experience that.”
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Whether Jackson misses his previous incarnations as Berklee College-trained jazz drummer or half of synth-pop duo Carousel remains to be seen, but ‘The Days We Had’ is a record with its sights firmly set on moving forward. A selection of tracks that didn’t fit the EP’s and new songs written mere days before entering the studio, it’s a record that celebrates his affection for working alone. “I didn’t really want to have to rely on anybody else. [Performing as Day Wave] is all new - I had some synthesisers and guitars and drum machines at my house so I figured I should just do everything. I find that when you do things all by yourself with nobody else, your standards are much higher – when you work with somebody else you settle, you just feed off whatever good they say and don’t really trust your gut. So really, on your own, you either think yes this is good or no it isn’t.”
Luckily for Jackson, his gut proves pretty strong. From the slow build of ‘Bloom’ to the skittering pop of ‘Promises’, all hallmarks of a great Day Wave song remain in place, but with production value significantly raised (“basically I went through a less shitty tape machine”). On a record that regularly references anxiety and depression, the album’s closer, ‘I’m Still Here’ feels particularly poignant; ‘Looking down/I close my eyes and try to disappear/but I’m here/ I’m still here...’ Alongside ‘Bring You Down’, it’s Jackson’s favourite song on the album. “I have been feeling good recently, but [depression] just comes and goes… I think putting it out there is cathartic, it’s this bittersweet thing but it helps you get through it. Even listening back to it sometimes, you think you might cringe and be all ‘oh god, why am I talking about this, I don’t want people to know about this’ but hearing people relate to it is really cool.”
‘I’m Still Here’ feels very different to what I’ve done before. I wanted the ending to sound so fucked up and like it was just falling apart, which it why it turns into a mush of reverb and synthesisers. I wanted it to end in a place that wasn’t necessarily settled, but have an element of hope in there. It feels like an interesting way to end a record, leaving it open-ended, like there’s more to come.”
And more to come there is. Unsure of exactly where he’ll take things next, Jackson is at least convinced that Day Wave is a project he can stick by. “I spent so much time just with this album and these songs, so now this is finally done, I have the time to make some new stuff. That’s kind of just what I’ve been doing from the beginning; seeing if I can create something that I would want to listen to and feels real.
With a lot of rock albums and albums in general there is a lack of that – you don’t have that analog warmth or quality to it, you get so many albums that are very sterile sounding. I just want to capture songs with some sort of character.”
Day Wave’s album ‘The Days We Had’ is out now.