Interview: Phases

Photo by Vincent Perini

Photo by Vincent Perini

Meet Phases, a band who, if you haven't heard of them or their popular song "I'm In Love With My Life" yet, you'll be hearing about them very soon. Formerly making music under the name JJAMZ, this group features some big indie rock names including Z Berg of The Like, Alex Greenwald of Phantom Planet, Jason Boesel of Bright Eyes and Rilo Kiley and Michael Runion and, prior to Phases, also included Maroon 5 guitarist James Valentine.

Under The Rockies' Mary McComish talked to Jason Boesel about the shift from making rock music to pop music, James Valentine's involvement in the band and what Phases song he wants to make a music video for next. 

The band is playing Coachella this April and touring the west coast in October so be sure to check them out and pick up Phases' debut album, For Life, out now through Warner Bros Records.

I love JJAMZ's Suicide Pact and for a long time, myself and I'm sure a lot of people thought the band was finished when suddenly Phases was announced. Did Phases come out of nowhere or were there always plans to do more with the band after Suicide Pact?
In a certain sense, I would say unplanned. We all thought we wanted to continue to make music together but we weren’t sure how that was going to come about or in what form. Or, necessarily, how many of us were going to be a part of it. Z was actually intending to move to Nashville and play folk music in a different state. So we almost lost her but myself, Alex Greenwald and Michael Runion were all pretty committed to continue making music, we didn’t know what kind of music it would be and what name it would come out under. At that point, Z came back and wanted to be a part of it. When we made the record, we were still calling ourselves JJAMZ but we knew we wanted to change the name and then, once it was done, we found the name Phases. 

JJAMZ sounds falls more on the rock music spectrum and you all have rock music backgrounds while Phases is more pop and electronic sounding. Was it always the plan to veer away from the rock sound?
I think what started that shift is the music we were having the most fun making, was that sort of electric dance sound. JJAMZ had a group of  five or six songs that were more in the vein of Suicide Pact style but they weren’t as much fun to make or play. We followed the sound that was exciting us and making us want to make more music. So we stopped rocking and started dancing. 

I’ve noticed a lot of rock bands will come out of their current project and do something more pop based.
For me, it was a product of just having made that kind of music for so long, you’ve got to keep your life exciting and try new things. So that’s where I was at. I didn’t want to just play rock music anymore.

Do you have plans to perform JJAMZ material live or was the plan to keep them two separate bands?
The plan is to eventually play some JJAMZ songs but probably in a different way. We would re-imagine the songs a little bit just so they feel like us as we are now. They’re not separate bands. I don’t think we’d ever play a JJAMZ show. 

I meant more of a different mindset. You’re not the same band JJAMZ was maybe mentally or musically.
That is definitely true. We’re the continuation of JJAMZ. 

We had been friends for years, all of us, and we actually were at a karaoke place and realized we had the makings of a great band because we had drums, bass, singer, guitar, another guitar. We were like, “we should leave and play our own music”. So we did and that’s really is how JJAMZ formed. And then Phases went from there after we came back together and it was obvious James [Valentine] wasn’t going to be able to be a part of the new incarnation because of Maroon 5. He did play on this new record a little bit though. We became a four-piece instead of the five-piece. 

So do you see James still being part of the band in some way, whether it be a studio musician or songwriting? 
I feel like he will be. I think he’s been a long-time collaborator with us and certainly we’d love to go on with that. He co-wrote a couple of the songs on this record and played guitar on it. I feel like, if we made more music, we’d definitely invite him to be a part of it. 

You released Suicide Pact through Dangerbird Records. What made you make that leap to sign to Warner Bros Records, a major label versus an independent?
We had a one record licensing deal with Dangerbird so we weren’t really on that label anymore. We were free. The only person I knew, at any label really, I thought would really like this music and was in a position to do something with it, was my friend Mike Elizondo. He happens to work at Warner Bros. So I had the idea to play some stuff for him and see what he thought. From there, we ended up on Warner Bros through him. We never really considered any other label at all for this record.

I know you’ve spent most of your year touring. Besides that, what else does Phases have planned?
Next year we’ll be doing more touring. Playing some festivals. Hopefully just playing a lot, getting out there. Hopefully making another video.
What song do you hope to make the next video for?
I hope to make the video for “Cooler”.

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