How Day Wave Turned a Sinus Infection Into an EP (No, Really)

It’s hard not to feel like you’re floating on a cloud when listening to music by Day Wave.

The project of vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Jackson Phillips is bright, airy, addictive, and packed with nostalgia. His Headcase and Hard To Read EPS are instant classics. Originally a drummer, Phillips studied at Berklee College of Music and drummed for bands in LA before moving to Oakland.

Now the crazy part: Phillips wrote most of his music after contracting Cirpro Toxicity from taking an antibiotic for a sinus infection. In this reclusive time Jackson Phillips wrote, played every instrument, produced, mixed, and recorded all of the music for his EPs directly to tape. That time alone helped him create music that a ton of music fans connect with.

His singles are surpassing millions of listens on Soundcloud and his music is proving to be a perfect soundtrack for summer. We caught up with Jackson before he heads to Austin, Texas to play SXSW and asked him about the attention his music is getting, what he’s looking forward to in Austin, and breaking through what life throws at you with some creativity and drive to create something beautiful.

One of the things we love about your music is that it sounds so cinematic, almost like your own personal movie soundtrack, but in the same way takes form as a soundtrack for whoever is listening to it. Spending so much time alone to write, record and master your EPs, did you realize how many people you would connect to your music? What has it been like seeing such an overwhelming response?

I definitely had no idea how many people would listen to my music. When I’m in my studio writing and recording, I’m really just trying to make something that sounds cool to me. Something that I would want to listen to. It’s sort of surreal that so many people have taken a liking to the songs, but it only encourages me to make more.

 With your vast array of musical influences we were excited to hear your road trip playlist for our Road To SXSW feature. Having such broad tastes in music how did you finally find your sound? When you did, how did it feel and how did you know?

For this project I knew I wanted the sound to be guitar-driven, but I didn’t have any experience playing it. So I think that part of the sound stems from a simple approach to the guitar. I also knew that I didn’t want it to sound over-produced, so I try to keep things pretty raw, without too much processing. I also record everything to tape, and I think that helps give all of my recordings a cohesive color.

You’ve had some major changes in your life so far, from going to Berklee for Jazz drumming and realizing that might not be your dream, to experiencing Cipro Toxicity which abruptly changed your lifestyle. Yet through these obstacles you penned, played and recorded some glorious, uplifting yet honest songs. Do you think these challenges helped shape and continue to make you stronger as a musician and songwriter?

Yeah I think these things definitely play a role in the way the music turns out. Stepping away from the drums was the best decision I ever made! I almost spent my entire life playing one instrument, instead of focusing on recording, making songs, and playing lots of instruments. For about a year I was pretty sick from taking those antibiotics, but it definitely pushed me to focus on what I really wanted to do with my life, and it was in that year that I had the idea for Day Wave, learned how to play guitar, and made my first EP.

Your second EP Hard To Read is releasing March 4th, giving us time to memorize all the lyrics before SXSW. What are you most excited for with the upcoming release? 

I’m most excited for everyone to hear it. Up until now I’ve only released a handful of songs, so when I play shows the audience only recognizes half of what we’re playing. I can’t wait for people to recognize all of them!

Do you have a favorite song off the new EP (whether it’s because of the writing or recording process, the message it conveys or you just love performing it live)?

“Gone” is definitely my favorite song off of the EP to play live, I think it really translates well to a live setting. But I think “Stuck” is my favorite recording from the EP. Something about the chord progression in the verse really sticks with me.  Maybe because of how 90’s it sounds, and I love the 90’s.

What are you looking forward to most with your upcoming SXSW shows? 

I’m just really looking forward to being in Austin. I’m hoping I’ll have some spare time to just explore, barhop, and see some new bands. 

Have you ever been to the festival? Is there anyone else playing this year you are excited to see or think everyone should try to see? 

I have been before, but not for a couple years. I actually haven’t seen who is playing yet, but I’m looking forward to just stumbling into some bars and seeing bands I’ve never heard of. It’s always fun to have no expectations, and be completely surprised by some amazing band.   

What else can fans look forward to from you this year? Will you be releasing a full length or touring extensively? 

I’m hoping both of those things will happen this year.

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