Unlike many other genres and music communities, the indie/alt culture appreciates new and rising artists that create diversity and new insights within the genre.
We constantly feature notable indie and alternative artists on the verge of success. Meet this week’s featured artist in an exclusive interview, the Nashville based rockers who make up the group PHIN:
"The group's bio captures it best: 'a layered rock sound, boasting original thought and a sparkling showcase of hope in such young and resilient musicians. With a tight instrumental chemistry and lyrics that serve up a healthy dose of uncomplicated metaphor, Phin has carved out a necessary space in today’s musical sphere.' It's raw emotion meets thoughtful craftsmanship, all the pieces are perfectly put together."
We recently talked in-depth with lead Toby Haydel to find out more about PHIN's influences and creative process, and of course their take on all things alternative culture. Read on to find out more about this amazing artist!
Anytime our music is well received is pretty incredible. We are so thankful for everyone who listens to what we have to say. There have been a couple times after shows where people have gone out of their way to tell us about how our music has influenced them and those moments are definitely ones that we are fondest of.
Lately what musical periods or styles do you find yourself most drawn to as a listener?
Honestly we are drawn to good songwriting. There are so many artists who are able to connect with us. Each of us like different styles of music as well as the same styles but we usually agree on the ones who are great songwriters.
How did you all meet and decide to collaborate into forming PHIN? What were your musical backgrounds before working together? How is this different from any previous projects?
All of us met through Nazarene establishments, which is actually where our band name comes from. PHIN is named after the founder of the Nazarene Church, Dr. Phineas F. Bresee as a tribute to the people that were brought together because of him.
The band was formed during and after the creation of our EP Those Killers. After writing the EP, I knew I wanted certain people to be apart of this project, so I found the best guys/musicians I knew and asked them if they would join me on this crazy adventure. This is our first project that we are the creators of, so being able to speak as writers of music in general is different from anything we were doing before PHIN was started.
What is your creative process like? How do you approach the writing process?
Our creative process is usually a controlled chaos. We have all of these ideas and we have a vision of what we all agree sounds cool, but most of the time, when we are writing, songs tend to write themselves. It’s almost like the songs are finding us haha.
Toby, you’re the main lyricist for the group. What’s your inspiration for the narratives you create? From what sources of experiences do you draw from?
So far, every song I have written has been a way for me to keep accountability with myself as well as my audience. Each song is the story of a lesson that I should have already learned by now, things that I think are important for me to keep consistent in my life and ideas that I believe can help people understand why we should strive for consistency in the pursuit of those things, mainly selfless love.
Nashville is an incredible place and we are extremely thankful to be able to have had our start here. Everyone we have met through this project has been extremely supportive of our art. It seems as though Nashville has entered a stage of solidifying positive community and it is definitely translating into the music scene.
As far as the influence Nashville has on our sound goes, I wouldn’t say it has inspired any particular example with what we are doing. We have so many inspirations coming from every different musical spectrum, it’s difficult to narrow down any sounds to being exclusively inspired by Nashville or any place in particular. However, the influence it has had on the meanings behind our art has been tremendous, because as a community of people, most of the songs I write are about the experiences that I have had while growing up here.
It’s interesting that you cite Sam Cooke and MGMT as influences, since I feel that currently the underground alternative scene is at a crossroads of soul infused music meets synth inspired atmospherics. I have a theory about the current musical sound of indie/alternative artists that I have been talking about extensively on the blog: In 2011-2013 we saw an emergence of indie electropop/80s revival that exploded within the scene, but lately I hear a push towards 90s alternative soul/R&B with ambient elements.
Do you find this to be true and are you inspired by this type of music lately? Is this something that you’re trying to infuse into your music, especially with those influences? Does your wide range in taste help you create a more experimental and unique sound that plays with these elements?
Because I’m not a musician, I grew up with a limited understanding of music theory, which imposed a certain kind of pickiness to my particular taste in music. I knew nothing about the musical mathematics that musicians were doing in their songs which didn’t allow impressive musicianship to have priority over the way I experienced a song.
Everything I loved listening to inspired me because of the way it made me feel. This being said, when I write a song, I am hunting for that same experience. The sounds of the chord progressions and melodies in our songs were chosen because I felt that they inspired the exact emotion that I wanted the audience to feel when hearing the message of the song. I would say that citing Sam Cooke and MGMT as influences aren’t a way to identify with attempting to mimic their sound. It’s more of an acknowledgement that what they have created is identifiable in us already.
As an indie artist in the digital age, social media and streaming are essential tools for marketing and promotion. What do you think about online music sharing, both as a music fan and as a musician? How do you think social media/music streaming services impacts the rising musician?
We believe that it is amazing that musicians have the opportunity to reach so many people with their art and that is all thanks to the digital age. There are definitely negative things about streaming and social media, but as listeners and as artists, we can say that the digital age has impacted us in a mostly positive way. Rising musicians have so much access to inspiration as well as the people they are attempting to communicate with and we think that is a wonderful thing.
Thank you! Our friends Jonny Wright and J.J. Justice have helped us with creating our visuals. Jonny did the artwork for The Pieces as well as the music video and J.J. and Jonny tag-teamed the artwork for Those Killers EP.
So Far, the creative process for the ideas behind the artwork have started with a song. For the artwork for Those Killers, we wanted to bring the story of the song to life, so we got together with Jonny and J.J. and tried to recreate the story and feeling in one piece of art. This was a similar experience for The Pieces artwork. I had had a dream about the balloon ghouls that were featured in the artwork and thought that they perfectly represented what the song is about.
We try to make our visuals enforce what we are trying to say in our music, so anything that we apply to our project, whether it’s a live show, or artwork, is helping the message of our art be accessible to our audience.
Having been featured in a Daytrotter session, premiering your video on VEVO, and opening up for the great Paper Route, PHIN is truly and deservingly a rapidly rising indie act. Tell us about these incredible opportunities. How do you feel about the growth in awareness recently? Have they allowed you to be more creative in the way you express yourselves? Having these experiences under your belt, what do you look forward to next?
Each opportunity that we get is more and more unbelievable. We are definitely working hard to reach as many people as possible, but we fully understand that these opportunities are coming along because people are choosing us, and we are extremely thankful for that. We often worry that our music may not translate into certain demographics and that we fall into a particular sub-genre that only caters to certain types of people, but we have been proven wrong over and over again, and that is incredible.
In that way, these opportunities have definitely allowed us to be more creative. We aren’t as worried about risky decisions like we were when we first started. As we continue to grow as a band, having these experiences under our belt, we look forward to getting to play with more bands that we love, and meeting more people who inspire us.
What are you currently working on? Any new projects?
We are currently working on our debut that will be coming very shortly and we have a couple videos that will be released in the near future as well.
What can fans expect from your upcoming debut album?
Fans can expect the unexpected! We are still writing and arranging for the LP and we are still finding new ways to surprise ourselves, so we hope that each of you will be as surprised as we are.
What is your dream collaboration and why?
Dream Collaboration = Phin + Michael Jackson because we miss him.
Finally, a question we ask all of artists: which songs are you currently obsessed with? What new acts do you recommend to our listeners? What bands do you believe are your best kept secret in the indie community?
Our best buds in COIN [released] their debut LP and it is going to be insane! Their EP has already been released and we have been listening to it on three-peat.
Our best kept secret is about to reveal his project to the world with the release of his debut album, similar to what we did with Those Killers EP. Be on the lookout for HAMIL.
And here is a short list of artists you should check out immediately:
- Mikky Ekko
- Moon Taxi
- Vinyl Thief
- The Whistles and the Bells
- 12th St. Social Club
Thanks once again to PHIN for talking with us. You can stay up to date with them via the social links. Be sure to stream The Pieces available on Spotify and Apple Music, and look out for their debut album soon. We'll keep you updated with any PHIN related news, right here on IndieBeat.