Let Phases Keep You ‘Cooler’ with Their New Single
So you’re excited to be meeting that guy you’ve been stalking on Bumble for a week now and suddenly, he orders a lychee kiwi snow cone margarita with a mini umbrella and spends the rest of your date talking about his cat and dissecting the flavor differences between all the cheeses on your cheese plate appetizer.
Well, lucky for you, there’s now a song to remedy your disappointment. Instead of painfully sitting through the rest of the date and then lying to your friends that you had a super fun time with Bumble guy, you can now hop in the car, roll the windows down, and blast Phases’ new hit, “Cooler”, in which lead singer (and mini Debbie Harry) Z Berg, sings “Damn, I really thought you were cooler.”
Phases reminds us that first impressions aren’t always what they seem — and even if you are left utterly disappointed by someone’s uncoolness, you can still make light of the sitch and jam out to the song or the rest of the pretty radical album on repeat.
Phases’ bass player and former front man of Phantom Planet, Alex Greenwald, says, “First impressions are ultimately misleading. If I based my understanding of my bandmates on my first impression of them, I would think they are all crazy people.”
Alex also claims that the song’s origins came from the simple fact that drummer, Jason Boesel, had no air conditioning in his car and that “one day when it was really hot, he said to himself, ‘Damn, I really wish it was cooler’ and the song kind of wrote itself.”
Alex then adds, “Actually, maybe my first impressions [of my band mates] were correct…” [laughs] But even if the band actually is crazy, we can still be excited that their craziness lends benefit to awesome music, like their previous hit, “I’m In Love With My Life,” which is just one of many sing-along-worthy jams.
Take a listen to their new hit, “Cooler,” and let it be that double entendre summer tune that makes you wish the heat would calm the fuck down and that you could find a mad cool boyfriend at the same time.
Let’s talk about the name PHASES. Where did it come from?
Jason: [Naming a band] can be horrible and difficult or it can be instantaneous–I’ve had both experiences.
Z: Basically, we had all these conversations where everything brought up was either a joke or taken as a joke by everyone else and then we sat down for our first meeting with Kimberly, our manager. And the first thing she said to us was “I’m so crazy about this record, and all I can think about when I listen to it is being a teenager in the mid 80’s and going to this underage dance club called Phases and I just hear you guys playing over the speakers!” The beauty of it is, it’s an evocative name that you can sort of attribute your own meaning to, and you know, takes on a different meaning in every stage or phase of our life and career and our friendship together. Naming a band now, everything is taken, to find a name like Phases and have it not be taken and spell it correctly and have it hit you in the gut and also have it mean something appropriate is like winning the lottery.
How would you describe your sound? Do you think you fit into a specific genre?
Z: Our music is funky dance pop. It sounds like Blondie made Thriller.
Is it true you guys formed Phases by first singing karaoke together?
Z: Alex and I kinda formed our friendship on karaoke. I loved Phantom Planet, [and] my dad (former Geffen Records A&R exec/record producer, Tony Berg) took me to see them when I was a kid and we met and sort of became friends over the years. Everyday Alex would be at the studio, and then at the end of the day the two of us would just go to this karaoke bar and sing all night long. “California Dreaming” is the go to, also the Everly Brothers’ “Dream” is another good one. [Michael, Jason, Alex and I] were out one night at a kind of unlikely party to begin with and it was karaoke night. But we were [all] there, and there was just a moment where we all realized what the fuck are we doing here? We could just go home and do this and start a band. And so we did.
Michael: We like to sing We are the World, we just rotate every 4th singer…. So [Jason] starts off and he does Lionel and Stevie Wonder and Kenny Rogers and Paul Simon…
Jason: I do the heavy lifting.
Where is the weirdest place you’ve heard “I’m in Love with My Life”?
Z: You know what’s the most annoying? I haven’t heard it anywhere! Every single day I get texts and tweets from people. It’s so frustrating too, because that IS like my favorite thing! Like in a mall, or THE CHEESECAKE FACTORY is what I want. That’s my dream!
Explain where the idea for your new single “Cooler” came from and what the song is about. Is it about somebody specific?
Jason: The song truly started with me singing to myself in my car on a hot day. And I was singing, “Damn, I really wish it was cooler.” I wrote the song around that and wrote a couple verses and a chorus… and then [Z and I] worked on the bridge, she wrote the words and the melody for the bridge misunderstanding what I was writing about!
Z: The funny part about that is, when I got involved in the song, I just assumed that it was about someone that we had sort of both been involved with at various periods of time, and I figured it was about her, so I wrote the bridge about her from Jason’s perspective, but it turns out it wasn’t about her at all! I mean, that is the MOST universal feeling that I’ve ever experienced. And every break up is not just like the sadness of it, just that depression feeling of disappointment.
Jason: I don’t really remember how I wrote it or why… it’s not about any specific person, but it is about the specific situation which so many people qualify for. I think everyone has been on both ends of it, which is kind of how I wrote it. I could see both sides of it… but it’s that feeling that everyone gets from both angles. Just like DAMN–I thought this was gonna be rad and it’s… NOT.
Z: [It’s] also my favorite kind of song. The whole outline for what we did is kind of that bittersweet thing… songs that are fun, and danceable, and a blast, but then you kind of listen to it and they’re tragic.
If “Cooler” were to appear on a soundtrack or in a famous movie scene, what would it be? Any other songs that would be great in other movies?
Jason: Is there any spot in Clueless for it?
Z: When Ty says, “She’s just a virgin, who CAN’T DRIVE.”
Michael: Carlito’s Way! When they go after Sean Penn…[or in] Heat.
Jason: Is there like some epic mafia movie where somebody double crosses somebody? Some betrayal? Slo mo gun battle????
Alex: “Vertigo” might go well with the film Vertigo.
Michael: [“Paradise” could be in] Breakfast Club maybe… The reunion at Gross Pointe Blank?
What about the song, “New Illusion”?
Michael: A Less Than Zero remake.
Jason: Maybe like, some sort of chase scene, something sort of above the law?
Michael: How bout Beverly Hills Cop 2? Because 1 is so good that there might not be room for it.
Jason: 2 has some room.
Michael: What about 3?
Jason: I don’t even acknowledge 3. It’s too shitty.
What songs would you cover if you were to do a show like MTV Unplugged?
Michael: Z covers Justin Bieber’s [Love Yourself]
Alex: Off the top of my head I’d cover “Road Runner” by the Modern Lovers
Z: I feel like watching that Nirvana Unplugged was one of the most important experiences for me. I used to play in the beginning of my old band, I played acoustic guitar like through chorus distortion and delay because of that. That was fucking cool as shit.
Jason: Should we just play a bunch of Meat Puppets covers?
Z: That Nirvana Unplugged was like, a pretty big influence on like my shit. Just that whole fucking show is like, why I set my guitar up the way that I did. But that Bowie Cover…. [“The Man Who Sold the World”] is one of the greatest covers to me. It so sounds like it would be [Kurt Cobain’s] song…. It’s so good.
We’ve also heard that you watch movies with the sound off for inspiration while writing and recording?
Jason: We watched [Tron] in Alex Greenwald’s living room, yes. He has a projector, so we project movies, Tron was one.
Z: Yea, everything was with the sound off. So we watch movies and make our own music.
Jason: Total Recall was a big one.
Z: Clockwork Orange. 2001.
Jason: The Daft Punk movie.
Z: Having something else going on visually is pretty key I think to help you not lose your mind.
Z, you have such a great sense of style. Can you talk about fashion as it pertains to the band or how it affects your performance?
Z: It’s a production. There’s no like, just putting some shit in a bag. I kind of sit on my bed for about 45 minutes and just look, I don’t move. If I’m not comfortable in an outfit, I’ll have to leave. I was once on tour and I was sitting at dinner with the whole band and crew and everybody and I was wearing this shirt that I immediately regretted wearing when I left the house. So I just said nothing and I walked across the street and bought another shirt and I walked back in and sat down. Also, I bought like, a virtually identical shirt. Clothes are my memory triggers. I have a terrible memory for anything that has happened in my life … but I can remember what I was wearing at every important event in my life.
What about your fashion choices when you are on tour? Are they pre-planned?
Z: When I’m on tour I have to walk in and see the stage we are performing on to know what I’m wearing. So I have to bring a lot of things and I also have to bring a lot of things that I can dance in that I won’t flash the entire audience in and makes aesthetic sense with the songs and stylings of our music.
Michael: Is it too late to get “Paradise” into Patch Adams?
Z: It’s never too late.
Jason: Um, Chris Pine/Patch Adams reboot?!
So then do you have to pack multiple bags when you go on tour?
Z: Well the beauty of my packing is that I am so small, and my clothes are so small that I can bring my entire wardrobe in a normal size suitcase. My clothes are like doilies, and I just curl them all up into tiny little balls. The only difficulty is shoes. It’s taken me ten years to pair down like ten pairs of shoes to four pairs. I get most of my shoes resold, but they have to be leather so I can dance on them. Also, because I’m such a tiny small child person that I can’t wear just total flats. I’ve worn heels for so long in my life that you wouldn’t see me without heels.
Jason, Michael and Alex, do you guys care about fashion?
Alex: Fashion can be wearable art. This is when fashion is it’s most effective. Most of the time I don’t think it is utilized for this purpose. I see a lot of fashion serving to encourage a conformist mentality.
Michael: We do.
Jason: Yea, I bring like, four options.
Z: Mike generally wears a suit on stage. Alex will wear some nice shoes and a leather jacket. Or like, slowly sink into workout gear if we don’t control him. [laughs] He’s started wearing compression pants and athletic shorts. Like, any time he’s not on stage. It’s because Alex cleans up so nicely, you just can’t believe it. But left to his own devices…
If you could moonlight as another type of artist, what would it be?
Jason: A stand up comedian.
Michael: Stand up is good. (To Jason) Would you wanna be stand up?
Jason: I mean, nah. I mean, it sounds kinda fun.
Michael: I’d want to be a filmmaker.
Alex: Film composer
Jason: I’d be a novelist.
Z: I really wanna be a makeup artist in a mortuary.
What’s next for Phases?
Z: We are going on tour with Fitz and the Tantrums in August and September, and then with Maroon 5 in October.
Michael: We’re super excited [to tour with Maroon 5]. [They’re] old, old friends of ours.
Z: We’ve kinda known them for like, a thousand years.
And for more information on tour dates, click here.
Their latest album For Life is available on Spotify and iTunes.