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PHASES IS THE POP SUPERGROUP YOU WANT TO BE A PART OF
You may remember a few years ago when a little track called “Heartbeat” by JJAMZ probably got caught in your head. In commercials, TV shows and on the radio, the feel-good pop song was just so damn catchy that you could just imagine yourself dancing through the streets to it. Well, the LA music outfit responsible for said track is back, but this time, they’ve got a new name: PHASES. After the departure of Maroon 5’s James Valentine, the band decided to re-brand. The (now) four-piece consisting of members from The Like, Phantom Planet, Rilo Kiley and Bright Eyes is back with their sophomore album For Life, released last Friday nationwide.
We caught up with the PHASES’ frontwoman Z Berg about her style and the band’s evolution and the possibility of The Like reuniting.
The name change: Really the music is so completely different and it felt like a beginning of a new chapter. JJAMZ was really a side project. We started playing music together a long time ago when we were in our own bands. We made that JJAMZ record over the course of years—whenever we could pop into the studio. there was no idea or vision about it. When we decided to embark upon this new phase, it felt like the band needed a new name and a new beginning. JJAMZ was an acronym for our names and we lost one of the ‘Js’ that was in our band. Either we would be called ‘JAMZ’ or act like adults and find a real, reasonable name that’s actually a word.
Shifting the band’s sound: It’s very different in that we wanted to do something that sounded really different and weird. I think this record is way more pop than the JJAMZ record is but in a different kind of way. We spent awhile trying to decide if we wanted to make music together again. Alex Greenwald sequestered himself in his house for years. He made a solo record and learned how to make music and barely left the house. He made music in his living room and tapped into a weird sonic landscape that sounded interesting and different. We started working on stuff until it started to become exciting to us. None of us have ever made music that is particularly fun or lighthearted in any way, really. We would work on things for so long, and if it could stand the test of still being excited after working on it for hours, then we would decide that it’s the kind of shit we want to be playing for the next 2 years of our lives.
Mixing business with friendship: I think the best and the most challenging part are the same thing—you can’t get away with anything when you know people that well. That’s the beauty of it. We’ve been through everything together as friends, as bandmates and a million other things. It means a lot. For some reason, making and writing this record was the easiest thing in the world. There were no fights about things. I think it’s the first time in history that 4 people had the exact same vision for what they wanted to do. Because we’ve been on the same path for so long, I think we’ve ended up with the same conclusions of who we want to be and what we want to say.
Current music obsessions: I cannot fucking stop listening to the new Tame Impala. Also I’ve been listening to my friend’s band Family of The Year—their new album that just came out. I’ve been listening to a lot of Richard Hawley from Pulp, Tom Waits, Nick Lowe and The Specials. There’s always a broad range of artists.
Writing a song about a broken A/C: That’s the funny thing about songs, they can come to be in the strangest of ways. Our drummer Jason Boesel was in his car in the blazing heat in LA with no air conditioning, and he literally started singing “damn, I fucking wish it was cooler.” Then he thought, that’s kind of good, I should turn this into something. For me, [“Cooler”] became the most universal sentiment on our record. It’s this crushing disappointment when people are not as cool as you thought they were, which is, most relationships.
A lesson learned: To do this, you have to be crazy. It’s a hard job, and we live in a time where it’s the hardest time to make a living as a musician. For me, it’s the only thing I love and know how to do. It’s the only option for me.
More PHASES records: We have an entire 2 other records written, so we’ll have more music coming out soon. I think we’ll all be very excited to make a lot of records and putting more music out.
Resurrecting The Like: It’s funny because I love playing [The Like’s] songs. I miss it sometimes. Never say never, but there aren’t any plans in the works as of yet.