Interview: Phase and Twist Helix
Ahead of the OniX gig in early September (check out our review here) I sat down with both Phase and Twist Helix for a quick chat.
Spotlight: Despite having been around since 2008, you may be a new discovery to some music lovers. How would you describe your sound to anyone who is new to Phase?
Adam: Well there is a lot of Greek influence in the form of the scales we use.
Fardin: It’s definitely sound. Slightly visual as well. So let’s call it Sonic Visual Sound.
Thanos: But tonight is going to be a more acoustic experience, or rather electro-acoustic, as it’s a combination of the two. But most people class us as post punk revival and compare the vocals to The Smashing Pumpkins. We also try to copy Mick Jagger.
Spotlight: How do you feel looking back over the last 7 years since the release of 'In Consequence', do any particular highlights spring to mind?
Thanos: For us everything is a highlight, like being here together tonight, especially since we don’t play that many gigs. We would like to play more often but in the meantime we try to make everything matter, and make everything count. Every release, every gig, every session in a pub.
Spotlight: We are loving the anniversary ‘In Consequence’ T-shirts. Where did the idea come from for the designs?
Thanos: The artwork is based on the first album cover and came from a rough idea I had, it was then designed by a talented mate of mine. His name is Aris and I am actually best man at his wedding in October - you’re invited to come if you want.
Spotlight: There is a huge influx of new bands emerging at the moment. How do you feel you fit in with the current music scene developing in the North East?
Thanos: There are several new bands but we don't get the sense that there is a real scene yet, like there is in London for example. It’s definitely getting there but it can get so much more vibrant.
To have a scene it doesn’t just take bands. It takes venues, press and people that really love what they do. But it’s gonna get there.
Spotlight: Are there any other local bands that you are fans of?
Thanos: Ilser are very good! A lot of bands we like are underground, for example Cave Suns who played with us once were really good, but no one else knew them despite them having been around forever. There are so many good bands but nobody knows about them and they don't know about each other.
Fardin: I think a lot of them fall at the hurdle of playing in pubs to older men, the punters who aren't there for the band and just want to see some entertainment.
Adam: It always comes down to where you play, who you play for and who you know.
Spotlight: How is work come along on the third album? What can we expected from it?
Thanos: We have been recording some things. Phase is a bit like a collective, there are several people scattered around the world who contribute.
Adam: Phase is regularly referred to as the Phase “Ship”; which is a term for the collective because we have so many band members from all over the world.
Fardin: We are the ship mates and Thanos is the captain.
Thanos: I am originally Greek and I go home once a year. But Adam is from here and Fardin is an adoptive Geordie. But coming back to the album, it’s gonna get there and we are having fun making it.
Spotlight: I believe Phase are only the second international rock act, after the Gorillaz, to have ever performed in Syria - how did this come about and what made you decide to want to play there?
Thanos: The Middle east is generally big for progressive rock and we played with a few other progressive rock bands from the region who invited us along. It was a good experience and with the area not getting many bands playing they treated us like we were Led Zepplin. And it’s even more significant now as the country is no longer the same after being at war for so many years and many places no longer being there.
Spotlight: You literally just got back from playing Dcode Festival in Madrid.
I believe you secured this spot thanks to fan votes and a final panel decision.
How did you feel when you found out you got the spot and how was playing the festival ?
Bea: I was in total shock, they announced it via Twitter without contacting the bands beforehand so I found out when a friend called to say congratulations!
It was just incredible, first to have received such amazing support from all our fans and friends who voted for us but then to find out that out of some 200+ bands we'd been personally selected by an industry panel made up of the likes of Mondo Sonoro, Jenesaispop, El Pais and Play Station Spain (who apparently we were personal favorites of) was incredible.
Next thing we knew we were standing in front of a capacity crowd being introduced by Radio 3 legend Julio Ruiz.
Spotlight: You have played in Spain in the past, how is the music scene in Spain and how do crowds differ from those UK?
Bea: Spain is something else; we've done a couple of mini tours taking in Madrid twice, as well as Valencia and my hometown Alicante, which of course is really close to my heart.
The indie scene over there is small but thriving and the crowds really latch onto new music. As for the support we get over there it's totally overwhelming. I'm part of a generation that left Spain at the height of the financial crisis, so when I go back and take the band with me, the press seem to latch onto that as a "local girl doing good" kind of thing. Honestly we're really lucky to have a following over there and it's a great lesson in the value of being open to reaching outwards and having a vision which sees opportunity beyond our immediate surroundings.
Spotlight: You released your single ‘Little Buildings’ on Soundcloud ahead of its official release, how important is Soundcloud and other social media platforms for emerging artists such as yourselves?
James: We think it’s really important as it allows literally anyone to upload onto Soundcloud without any restriction. It’s also a lot more interactive than Spotify as users can share what they are listening to directly onto their own Soundcloud feed and can tag each other to say “Hey listen to this!”
Bea: In terms of pre-release - it allows us to share our music without it having to be purchased. For that reason many blogs still use it for premiers for example.
James: Also radio stations like Radio 6 use it to find new music.
Spotlight: How has the response to your newly released singles been?
Bea: Pretty good. To build a new fanbase has been really good. Pulse was released a year after our previous release so we started to get feedback from the same people we already had as well as some new people that started to like that sound as well.
James: And we have changed a bit since then. We have gone from this chipper, sparkly pop band to a type of goth pop about how gentrification is destroying music industry. But people seem to like it. We have never been a band that's hung itself up about lyrical content but we have always sung what we knew about.
Spotlight: Obviously we at Spotlight are huge fans of yours but how would you describe your sound to someone who has never heard you before?
James: We literally have no idea. We have so many influences. We have even tapped into the folk stuff.
Bea: But some people have called it electro pop, industrial pop, even goth pop!
James: When we started we just wanted to explore the electronic route more without any particular reference point. We just wanted to see how much sound we could get out of the technology. And Bea is a wizard when it comes to programming the keyboard. Our sound engineer who we are working with on the album, John Martindale from Shields, knows that when we come in there will be several layers of keyboard tracks to record.
Bea: Usually when I build the keys, I don't want it to be flat, I want this to be like a soundtrack. I have to really think if putting the sounds together will affect the rest of the keyboards on the song.
James: We are always looking for something dramatic. If it moves us, it ticks the box.
Spotlight: So how is the album coming along. Is it near completion?
Bea: We are so excited. We have got 2 more songs to record but it's got loads of work left to do to the point where we are not even sure if it will be ready for next year.
James: We are in no rush to throw stuff out there. We’ve got our little following in the North East and it’s starting to spread out. So we are going to continue to focus on singles with the next one for next year and then see what builds from that to see when the time is right for the album release.
Spotlight: And until then, what's coming up next for you gig-wise?
Bea: We are playing as part of Oxjam on the 21st of October and then another gig headline gig on the 26th of October at Little Buildings to close the tour. Oh and the Worcester Music festival in 2 weeks time.
All photography by Mandy Neumann