Lake Merrit in Oakland is surrounded by a necklace of lights, very pretty. Even better, it has it’s own monster nicknamed the ‘Oak-ness Monster’ which, being Scottish, makes me kind of strangely proud and kind of pleased that we’re not the only country that thinks there are massive strangers lurking in our watery depths. Monsters aside, our favourite discovery from this Californian city are Phosphene, charming indie types who came to our attention in 2014 after releasing their enchanting self-titled debut album. We even had the pleasure of premiering their exquisite single “Silver”, the release of which capped off a pretty successful year for the band. They create a dreamy indie-pop somewhat reminiscent of what the wonderful Veronica Falls would sound like if they were Californian or what Mazzy Star would sound like if her songs were jogging instead of strolling. Overblown caught up with Matt, founder member of the band, to find out where they’ve been, where they are and where they’re going. Have a read and be sure to treat your ears.
Overblown: 2014 was a productive year for Phosphene with the release of your debut album and the single ‘Silver’. How exciting has it been for the band?
Matt: It’s been a whirlwind! None of us had any idea that a band could be this big of a commitment, but it’s one we immensely enjoy. 2014 was a year of firsts for the band: first LP, first show, first music video.
O: How do you feel the album has been received?
Matt: I haven’t checked Metacritic yet, though we hope people are connecting with it. As I’ve mentioned before, our aim is to create honest, emotive songs that we can share with others. We’re hoping to evoke something with our music.
O: Your social media states Phosphene was born in 2011 so there’s a bit of a gap before any music was released. What’s been the story of the band’s evolution since forming?
Matt: Rachel and I met in ’08 and began dating in ’10. Neither of us had been in bands before so we decided to try it out together (thank Yeezus it didn’t end in flames). We started writing music with Rachel’s friend Thom around 2011 and recorded a little EP a year later.
Rachel and I wanted Phosphene to evolve, which meant writing a full-length album and gigging, so we had to shrink to a two-piece in order to move forward. Around fall 2013, we met Kevin Kaw (bassist/guitarist) and after some amazing rehearsals together, invited him to join the band. It’s rare to find a peer that is as talented and intuitive as Kevin, so we knew from the first practice that we had someone special.
O: Have the songs that made it onto the album been around for a long time or were they specifically written to be on that record?
Matt: While there were some “sketches” of songs that dated back to 2012, most of the songs on our self-titled record were born from rehearsals between summer and fall 2013.
O: What was the thinking behind releasing the single ‘Silver’ so soon after the release of the album?
Matt: Momentum! The great problem in our band is that we constantly write new music. We were already in the process of ironing out the songs for our follow up, and ‘Silver’ just happened to be finished.
Another huge incentive to release the song was the fact that we were also given free studio time by Converse under their Rubber Tracks program, which lets local artists track/mix music at no cost.
O: You mention the Converse Rubber Tracks scheme. How did that come about for you?
Matt: I kept seeing ads all over San Francisco about it and decided to investigate further. To be frank, I was surprised by the integrity of the program; there wasn’t any weird clause to write tunes about shoes. I applied online and a month later heard back from a rep that we had a free day in their San Francisco studio (aka Different Fur)!
O: what are the next steps for the band? Is 2015 mapped out for you as yet?
Matt: 2015 is looking to be fantastic! We’re heading to the studio soon to record another single and writing new material for an EP that will build to an LP. I’d personally love to do a mini-tour up to the Pacific Northwest in the summer or fall.
O: In the digital age it can be so difficult for bands to get noticed. How do Phosphene go about trying to get their share of listeners attention?
Matt: We try our best to promote our music in genuine ways. If you want people to listen, even in the digital age, you have to play shows. I also submit our music to blogs we really enjoy. Our attack plan is the opposite of Songs of Innocence.
Final fun fact about Oakland. Apparently it has more artists per capita than any other city in the States. That may or may not actually be true but it certainly sounds impressive. Take our advice on which of these artists to discover. Discover Phosphene.
Phosphene’s debut album and single ‘Silver’ are available on their bandcamp for very small sums of money.