The Great Takeover: Interview: Day Wave
Interview: Wave of the day
March 29, 2022
Photo by Jason Lester
Since its creation in 2015, day wave have released three EPs and a studio album, steadily earning a reputation as one of the most talented artists in the dream pop genre. Essentially a solo effort by Jackson Phillips in the studio, with various musicians assisting during live performances, Day Wave is widely praised for its songs that are steeped in breezy atmosphere and nostalgic lyrics. On March 29, the group released a new single, “Pastlife”, and announced that an album of the same name would be released in June. Calling from his home in Los Angeles, Phillips discusses his creative process, how he became a musician in the first place, and why his work connects so strongly with listeners.
What was your writing process for this next album?
JACKSON PHILLIPS: I made demos of many songs in a year and a half to two years. I was doing a lot of different song ideas and I didn’t really know where they were going to go. Then finally, when I decided I was going to put the album together, I went through everything I had done during the pandemic and picked the ones that still resonated with me. I decided, ‘Okay, I’m going to finish this.’ So I went to them, tweaked them a bit, then sent them to the mix. Honestly, the bottom line is that when you’re producing and writing at the same time, one of the things that can get in the way is the mixdown at the end. That’s something I’ve always had to be aware of, is not to mix my songs too much and leave them a bit raw because I don’t want to lose any magic.
Did you have any particular themes in mind when you wrote this time around?
JACKSON PHILLIPS: Yeah, I think the overall theme of this album is obviously the title, Previous life. It’s pretty much, I’m at a different place in my life now than when I started Day Wave. I’m over 30, and I reflect on different chapters of my life. In the moment, you don’t always remember those specific moments you had or how they affected you or your relationships with friends and family. And now I reflect on some of those times that have passed. You say to yourself, ‘Who was I when I was 23? It’s like another person. I feel like my music still reflects what I think about and what happened ten years ago. It’s never very current.
There always seems to be a nostalgia factor in your songs.
JACKSON PHILLIPS: Yeah, I think I feed off of that feeling when I make songs. When I make songs, I just try to do the least forced. I try to get away from instinct and feeling. I don’t really sit on an acoustic guitar and write a song. I start recording and just do a feeling and then it leads me to something. So I never really write the words or anything like that first. So because I start from the feeling, it’s the one that is strongest for me, it’s nostalgia. I’m still clinging to that, still trying to find some kind of feeling of when I was a kid or something.
What made you want to become a musician in the first place?
JACKSON PHILLIPS: I have always loved listening to music. When I was a kid, my parents played music at home. I have an older sister and she was always listening to music in the car, soundtracks and all that. I just really connected with her. I’ve always dreamed of being on stage playing the guitar. Then my parents bought me a drum set. I was like ten. I took lessons, but it wasn’t until I was fourteen or fifteen that I played in a band. I ended up getting into it more and more, and I went to music school at Berklee [College of Music in Boston]. Then I stopped playing drums and started producing, and producing and writing songs. Then that eventually led me to do Day Wave. It was a long journey to get there.
Why did you make it a one man band?
JACKSON PHILLIPS: I think I just liked the control. I tried to have bands before, and I felt that with this particular project, the ideas that I wanted to come out were quite specific and singular and I didn’t really feel like I needed a collaborater. And I also wanted to take on the challenge of learning to play guitar, because I didn’t play guitar until Day Wave. It gave me a little challenge. And now it’s sort of my main instrument, which is so funny.
Why do you think what you do is so closely related to listeners?
JACKSON PHILLIPS: I try to make it really authentic for me. Nothing I do is forced or anything like that. So hopefully if something is authentic, other people will like it or connect with it.