Originally formed in 2009, JJAMZ was at a music career crossroads a few years ago. Shortly after releasing its debut album Suicide Pact, co-founder James Valentine (Maroon 5) left and the rest of the supergroup – Z Berg (The Like), Jason Boesel (Rilo Kiley/Bright Eyes), Alex Greenwald (Phantom Planet), and Michael Runion – felt lost.
Some dedicated and fresh songwriting by the remaining male trio convinced Berg to remain in Los Angeles – she intended to move to Nashville to pursue folk music and new experiences – and PHASES was born. The new indie pop quartet wrote new music, signed to Warner Bros. Records, and last year dropped its debut album For Life (2015) under the new moniker. Last year’s highlights included releasing a buzzworthy music video for “I’m in Love with My Life” worthy of the song’s infectious dance pop and performing at music festivals like Coachella.
The band has toured practically nonstop since. Boesel was kind enough to answer some questions ahead of its upcoming month-long tour with Fitz and the Tantrums via email about the band and its music.
I have read in earlier interviews that Z Berg described this new chapter in the band like writing, practicing and performing with your best friends. Can you describe more about what this is like? The emotions and the process? How has it differed with non-best friends?
Playing music with people you’re very close to is a special experience. It’s the musical representation of the friendship. Ups, downs, intimacy, judgments, love. All of it. Playing with strangers, or people you don’t particularly know that well, can also be a very intimate experience.
Music is a form of communication, as opposed to language, that is more like dipping your toe into the quantum field. This can make you friends with someone very quickly.
You have described your signing to Warner Bros. Records as being very positive. Typically, an artist’s relationship to a major label can be hit-or-miss. What is the biggest positive to being signed to a major label [and Warner Bros. in particular]? Do you think being music veterans helps because it isn’t your first rodeo?
We’re fortunate with our situation with Warner Bros. We have great people working with us and a lot of support. The big positive to a major is the money. Not necessarily the band getting paid, but the money it takes to support a record. Touring is not cheap. To do it properly, on this level, would be next to impossible without the support of a major label, or some other entity with some money to spend. Us being familiar with the process has certainly helped.
I noticed that you post and promote a lot of remixes of your songs, which I think is great. Remixes straddle a fine line in terms of copyright, especially when a remix becomes more popular than the original song. What is your take on remixes?
We are big fans of remixes. I definitely prefer some remixes to the originals. Hope they got paid appropriately!
I tried to see you in Austin, Texas at South by Southwest earlier this year, but your rooftop performance was rained out. Unfortunately, that was your last scheduled show in Austin. So I am excited to finally see you live. How was your SXSW? Did you have time to see any bands?
SXSW was great. A whirlwind of activity. I don’t remember much. I think the only band we really saw was Chairlift. Oh, and Sia. She was great.
Do you prefer to perform at individual concerts or big festivals like Coachella [and SXSW]?
We’ve had really good shows at festivals so far. I prefer those. This band is designed for large crowds and large spaces.
You are opening for Fitz and the Tantrums on several Pacific Northwest stops of their summer tour later this month. What is it like touring with a new band? Performing in new places?
Touring with new bands is great, as long as they’re cool. That goes for new places, too. I have a feeling the people and the places on this tour are going to be just great.
PHASES performs throughout the entire August month in support of Fitz and the Tantrums’ Get Right Back Summer Tour starting on Aug. 18 in Sacramento, California (Ace of Spades) and ending on Aug. 31 in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. In October, PHASES joins Maroon 5, Tove Lo, and R. City for an autumn tour, including a return to Sacramento on Oct. 15 at the Golden 1 Center (new home of the Sacramento Kings).