Interview: A Conversation with Day Wave

It’s around half 7, the night is young and Day Wave’s set at Dot to Dot Festival has just concluded. Manchester’s Soup Kitchen was the band’s host venue, packed out with a beyond content crowd – clapping, cheering and singing along profusely. A brilliant welcome from my wonderful city for the guys from across the pond. Day Wave is the project of Jackson Phillips, a young man from California creating uplifting guitar-led surf-pop.

I stand around waiting for Phillips and I suddenly hear “Hey, Eagulls!” I’m awoken out of my daze to see the main man before me looking at my tote bag, a recent purchase at an Eagulls show. Jackson’s music taste ranges far and wide including the Leeds post-punk band, “Yeah I like Eagulls, I really like that song ‘Coffin’, that’s my favourite. The new album’s pretty cool too.” A rare opinion it seems; I very much agree to its brilliance. “Yeah, people don’t like it. My manager used to work at Partisan, which they’re signed to, so he introduced me.” Obviously a man who enjoys plenty of English music, Day Wave performed his cover of New Order’s ‘Ceremony’ at the festival, later admitting it is a regular part of the set, rather than an ode to Manchester. “I didn’t even think about it! It’s probably good I didn’t say anything before it. The promoter of the show was like ‘oh that was ballsy of you to play that here!’”

Day Wave’s set was a highly anticipated one at the festival, hordes of people running down the basement steps to catch ‘Drag’, ‘Deadbeat Girl’, ‘Come Home Now’ and many more. “It’s hard to gage if that’s people who wanted to see us play or is it just built in” he ponders. “Everyone was singing along, that’s always crazy, I haven’t got used to that. To be across the world from where I live and hear a lot of people singing along to the lyrics is just, weird.” It’s not difficult to see why, with such relatable and honest lyrics, the desire to sing along with the fullest lung capacity is too strong to resist. “In the past I was too afraid to write lyrics that are really true to myself, but now that I do that, I think that hopefully people can relate to it a little easier.”

New single ‘Stuck’ from Day Wave’s recently released Hard To Read EP is one of those songs. Phillips wanders along his vocal line “you think you know me, but nobody knows me, I’m stuck in my head”, a feeling surely everyone can relate to at some point in their life. “It’s a good feeling if other people can actually connect with it, so I figured one of the only ways for that to happen was if the lyrics were really honest. It’s really hard to write something fictional and have people care about it.” Phillips sings his deeply personal lyrics with such an air of humble enjoyment and a faint smile, even when singing lyrics of his most self-critical nature, sometimes too self-critical I suggest. “I totally am. Those types of lyrics just come naturally to me. I don’t know what that says about me!” Day Wave’s songs may not be super positive, “but musically I think it makes you feel good.”

The video for ‘Stuck’ features the one and only Mark Hoppus, partially recreating this viral video of a priest reacting to the new Star Wars trailer. The brilliant video came about through simply conversing with Hoppus via Twitter. “He said he was a fan pretty much and then we were like ‘Hey do you wanna do this video, we have this idea’ and he was like ‘Sure’ just quick and easy! So we did it and it was super funny.” It is definitely that, Hoppus talks over the song in the video, reacting to the imaginary images in front of him while Phillips sits in the background. “I think some people were like kind of confused by it, since Pitchfork posted it, some of the readers on there were like ‘I just wanna listen to the song! Why is he talking over the song?’ but you know it was just a joke.”

Jackson and his band were mobbed by intense fans and young girls wanting pictures outside the venue before we jumped into their van to have a chat. While watching incredulously I chatted to the band’s tour manager, and think about just how far Jackson has come. Not a stranger to musical ambitions and multiple projects, Phillips put a stop to everything he was doing just over a year ago to begin Day Wave. He put out his first EP in July last year, since then he’s released a flurry of singles and another EP, and now he’s touring the world. “Yeah, well with the first project it was more like experimenting with making songs, because I’d never done it before. At the time I was a drummer and then I learned about music theory, then synthesizers, synth stuff was the first thing I learned other than the drums”. His last project as part of a duo creating a variety of fresh synth pop. “It was only thing I knew how to make because that was the only instrument I knew. It wasn’t really what I loved”.

In just a year, Phillips has released so much more music, it seems reasonably safe to say that is his preferred activity of choice, rather than touring. “I’m starting to really love performing even though at first it was a little hard” he says thoughtfully. “I like to hang out in my house and make recordings all day, I even prefer to do it alone. Then there’s no one watching or judging, I second guess myself if there’s someone else in the room.” Phillips is the classic introverted musician, whilst still managing to be exceptionally sociable and enthusiastic about the things that matter to him, which sometimes differ to his bandmates. “The rest of them like to party more than I do, I’m always the one who wants to go watch a movie in bed, because I don’t get the chance to do that enough when I’m on tour.”

The conversation then turns full circle, and back onto other people’s music and our favourite new music. “I like Car Seat Headrest. I’ve been listening to his last album and the one before that, the two on Matador.” He takes a moment to think, there’s something else right on the tip of his tongue. “I really like Alex G.” Stunned at the coincidence, I take off my jumper to reveal an Alex G shirt, admittedly I’m accidentally wearing too much merch today. “No way is that an Alex G shirt! I love that album Trick and the new one Beach Music. They’re the two artists I’ve been really into at the moment, especially on this tour. It’s been mainly Alex G though, a lot of Alex G.” We continue discussing our intense love of Alex G until Jackson leaves to get his dinner, and I can’t help but thinking there isn’t a kinder and more deserving soul to deserve this road to success. And more importantly Day Wave’s music to soundtrack the journey is equally as outstanding.

Check out Day Wave’s new Hard To Read EP here now.