We just can't resist a bit of whistling, so PHOX had us hooked from the get-go.
Hailing from Baraboo, Wisconsin, the six-piece have just released their debut single - the magnetic 'Slow Motion', which you can listen to below - and have announced that their self-titled debut album will be out on September 1st (pre-order on iTunes here). The release coincides with a gig at London's St. Pancras Old Church, part of their first full UK & European tour.
We caught up with lead singer Monica Martin to find out more.
Introduce yourselves to the TMF readership.
'Ello folks! PHOX is a six-piece lethargic-pop band from Baraboo, Wisconsin — now residing in Madison. There’s Monica Martin who’s writing and singing, Matt Holmen on guitar/trumpet/graphic design, Matteo Roberts on keys/vocals, his brother Davey on drums, Jashawn on bass/vocals, and finally Zach Johnston on banjo, and he is also our resident film-maker.
Do you have an earliest musical memory? Was there a record or act that made you think 'I want to do this!’?
I can only speak for myself here. Growing up there was usually music playing in the house. Lots of The Temptations, Al Green, Smokey Robinson, The Persuasions were an awesome acapella group that my Dad really liked. I would catch my Dad singing from afar to himself, and he was in an acapella group when he was young, they would sing on the streets in the south side of Chicago, but he wouldn’t in front of us ever, suggesting that cigarettes ruined his voice…
Growing up I would sing with myself, too shy as well - I still am getting better at that - but a few years of encouragement from trusted friends has me here. On my low days I remember the opportunities I’m getting, and how my Dad had such limited opportunities as a black musician in his time where he was coming from. I need to press forward and do my best.
If we were to look at your MP3 player, is there anything on there you'd rather we didn't see? Do you have your own stuff on there?
This is too funny. I have such varied tastes. I am pretty open about my less technical, lower hanging fruit-tastes, dare I say... cheap musical tastes. With every facet in my life I seem to have one foot in something respectable and the other in something filthy; I love Billie Holiday and Dave Brubeck, but I also love Paramore and Rihanna.
I like good melodies and special voices, and that’s something that can exist in most every genre or soundscape. I prefer sincerity, of course, and when it strays from that but the melody is just on fire, I won't stop listening. It does happen a lot with mainstream radio, that’s when it feels a little cheap, when you feel like the artist shifted into being solely a performer. I just downloaded our Daytrotter sessions onto my laptop, which I haven’t listened to. I have a hard time listening to my voice.
Is there any style of music you just don't get?
I have a hard time saying that a certain type of music is objectively bad. Take like, noise music, or the most fucked up atonal free jazz you could imagine, that’s something I have a hard time being around - in fact, worked at a coffeehouse called Mother Fool’s where there was a free jazz show and I couldn’t leave and I had a panic attack behind the counter. Just couldn’t stop the tears [laughs]. I love that place!
I digress; I later found joy in knowing that music at the very least served the artist in some way. Inversely, I see a lot of music where I don’t feel the artist is writing to serve themselves but serve the audience, because they want to be "successful", but the real success, and I know this sounds cliche but I truly mean this, is in reaching yourself, and saying what you mean to say. Why write music for people other than yourself, when people will critique it either way? Short story long, I don’t get insincerity.
Your debut single 'Slow Motion' is out now. How would you sell it to us?
I am the worst person to sell anything. I would dip the single disk (as if they make those anymore) in dark chocolate or cocaine and hope for the best… and hope to draw in anyone! [laughs] I would say, "I’ve had the pleasure of making my diary public through music, help me exploit my every relationship through this track and the rest of this album". I guess I would say, this is a part of me, I hope it makes you feel anything.
What's your early impressions of UK crowds compared to those back home?
Aw man, apples and oranges, both are delicious, but they’re different. I honestly wouldn’t be able to define why, I just feel it. I love it in the UK. I feel very free to be myself. Well yeah, maybe I do sense that people more readily say what they want to say to me after a show, like if they think the guitar was stupidly loud, or my stage banter was sh*t, which it often is, I tell them, HA! But that sort of honestly warms me through and through… and if I could just live in an episode of Absolutely Fabulous or Peep Show, I would, so I feel very aligned with the humour here.
What's next on the PHOX agenda?
We’re almost back at home and we get to move back to Baraboo, our small ass home town, and then we’re making a music video for the second single, and touring the US for six weeks, then a small break, and we’re headed back to the UK. I’m considering getting a UK blowdryer so I stop almost starting on fire.
What's the question we should have asked you today?
Oh man, I think you did perfectly fine. I probably rambled on too much anyway. Thank you for your interest in our tomfoolery.
'Slow Motion' is out now. For more information on PHOX, visit their official website - phoxband.com