Oakland's Day Wave on the Rise

Less than a year ago, Jackson Phillips’s Day Wave project didn’t even exist. The Marin native was living in New York after a stint in L.A., as he tried to get another band off the ground. It wasn’t until he decided to move back to the Bay — to a house in Oakland where he turned a room into a studio and started what would become Day Wave — that things would start to take off.

Fast forward to September 2015, Phillips is playing his first Day Wave headlining tour, opening shows in San Francisco for marquee indie rock names like Blonde Redhead (this week), Albert Hammond Jr of The Strokes, and even played a gig with rapper E-40. Day Wave’s jangly and breezy single, “Drag,” is getting consistent play on notable airwaves from BBC Radio 1 to KEXP, to satellite radio stations like Alt Nation and SiriusXMU.

“The thing I learned from living in New York and living L.A., is that I didn’t need to be in any specific place to start the band or make the music that I wanted to be making. That’s what I first thought coming out of college, but then I realized that I just need to be in a place where I can make good music. The internet is still gonna be there.”

Day Wave's Headcase EP, which Phillips self-produced from his Oakland home studio, certainly has an indie homemade charm. And while the indie scene seems saturated with bedroom-rock style bands, few manage to stand out, making the landscape ripe one for a formally trained musician like Phillips.

A drum major at Boston's Berklee School of Music, Phillips now focuses on making “guitar music.” And with Day Wave, similar to Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker, he’s a producer first. “Producing a track is producing a track and if you understand theory, you can apply any instrument to it,” he says. The production on Headcase is layered and rich, with various distinguishable guitar tracks and reverby backing vocals on top of Phillips’ lead, rendering Day Wave’s sound a more interesting one than other bedroom-born projects.

Lyrically, Phillips’s music can come across as a millennial manifesto at times. On “Nothing At All,” he laments: “What am I good for? Somebody tell me? I don’t know anymore.” On “Total Zombie” he’s a self-deprecating version of himself who doesn’t notice love when it’s in front of him.

“I wanted to make something that felt more honest, something like the Beach Boys or Morrissey, where the lyrics are so great and you connect to it. When I talked about my own stuff, it worked so much better,” he says.

This isn’t Phillips’s first rodeo with band life either. He co-fronted the group Carousel for two years until he decided that he didn't want to make electronic pop music. But he credits his newfound approach with Day Wave to the lessons he learned with Carousel. 

“I’ve made mistakes in the past with my last band… and now I have the perspective of how to keep it together over time,” he says. 

The type of success that Day Wave is beginning to experience is a rarity of sorts for a Bay Area indie outfit and it raises the question of how the sound will develop. Phillips says that the last thing he wants is for Day Wave’s sound to come off as too alternative.

“I know things will grow sonically and the idea is to start lo-fi and leave room to grow. If you swing for the fence on your first try, you end up sounding like one of these ready-for-radio bands or something. I don’t wanna be boxed in.”

Day Wave opens for Blonde Redhead at The Independent on Mon 9/21 (sold out) and Tue 9/22. Tickets for 9/22 available here.

Day Wave also opens for Albert Hammond Jr. at the Independent on Friday 10/16 (Treasure Island Night Show) Tickets available here. 

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