Pastlife, the first new full-length record from Day Wave in five years, is a raw, immersive meditation on this idea. It meanders through different dreamscapes of breezy, oceanside indie rock, plucky, minimalist bedroom pop, and tidal waves of cosmic emo and stratospheric shoegaze. It feels like walking through a room of artefacts from previous stages of your life, now sun-bleached and peeling at the edges, but still as intoxicating and powerful as ever.
But Pastlife isn’t saddened, though; it’s full of hope and energy. For Jackson, as for most others stuck at home, the pandemic has been a time of “ceaseless looking backward,” trying to find his footing as a musician, years removed from the moving and shaking of touring and life. “With this record, it just feels like I’m stepping into this thing from my past,” says Phillips. “I started Day Wave when I was 25, and now I’m 32. I guess I didn’t really realise how much was going to change in that time.”
Some of those changes are routine, like the splintering off of friends into their careers and personal relationships. For Phillips, still a working musician, that meant a degree of alienation. But the deeper thread is the existential alienation created by the simple passage of time. “I kind of thought that being 25 was just going to stay like that forever, and then it didn’t,” he says.
The record wades through these complexities. “I think back to the times where you didn’t realise you were living in this exciting time,” continues Phillips. “At this point, there’s enough of those different chapters that I think back on them, like ‘Oh, when I lived in that apartment, when I was hanging out with those people,’ whatever it is. That became the whole vibe of the album: everyone around me is growing up, and I’m trying to figure out my own way of doing that I guess.”
The title track is one of those songs that captures that particular feeling of being happy and sad at the same time, the sound is absolutely mesmerising thanks to the different layers and how Phillips generates and places the backing vocals. Loner keeps this melancholy at its core, and somehow reminds us of The Days We Had, his excellent debut. His lo fi charm lives on, and we can hear a softer, poppier sound on tracks like Blue and We Used To Be Young. There is a reason why Phillips has become in only a few years a reference of the new DIY indie; he has created a generational sound, and his magnificent mastery as a producer guarantees the quality of the music we find on Pastlife.
The central acknowledgment of Pastlife: however desiring we are for the past, that feeling is matched in intensity by the impossibility of returning to it. What do we do with that conflict? If you’re Jackson Phillips, you go back to your past life, Day Wave, and make something new with it. Jackson kindly found some time to talk to METAL about this new record, touring, other collaborations and the perfect way to listen to Pastlife.
Hi Jackson, how are you? You have just released a new album, how are you feeling, do you get nervous about releases?
Hey there, I’m doing well! I’m really excited to finally have another album out in the world. Not feeling too nervous, I’m just going to relax and let the music find its listeners. 
Pastlife is an album about growing up and looking back, with nostalgia. Being 30 and singing about it somehow feels generational. Being 30 now feels like a harder decade to deal with than for previous generations, it's a mid-life crisis that happens twice in our lives. What have you learnt from reflecting and creating these songs about it?This is a question
It’s been a very interesting couple of years. I turned 30 right before the pandemic started. I think both of those things have contributed to a change in perspective for me. Realising what’s important in my present, and what was important in my past. When writing Pastlife, a lot of these ideas were circling around in my head. 
The single Pastlife is definitely one of your best songs. It sounds like this summer's anthem, but when you pay attention to it, there's so much more to it than just a great melody. As it's about your past life, do you think of it as a time capsule?
Yes, I definitely think of a specific time in my life when I hear that song. That’s the cool thing about songs, they can represent a moment in time for someone, and stay that way forever. 
In Loner you deal with your experience struggling with anxiety. "I held on to nothing that made me feel good, and I always try again, and I don't know why, and I let it fade away." Mental health can be such a lonely feeling- is music a good therapy to overcome it for you? It's a very beautiful song, and you talk about this subject in a very gentle way, so it can help other people as well.
Music can be a really great therapy for me, as I struggle a lot with anxiety. A lot of times I don’t need to think about what I want to say in my songs, because it just pours out. It comes from a place of having these anxious thoughts all backed up in my brain. So, when I go to write a song, it feels cathartic. Like I’m letting go of my anxious thoughts.  
What were the main musical influences for this album? Considering that it was written during the pandemic, and that it talks about more intimate feelings, were there any special records that also kept you company during the creative process? 
The album was influenced by a ton of different artists, some older and some new. I was listening to Teenage Fanclub, Iron and Wine, Jean Dawson, Guided By Voices, Brian Eno, Frank Ocean, and lots more! 
One of the things about your unique musical style is that the production is very specific, there's a bit of grain on top of the layers that definitely makes the songs sound authentic and real. It was one of the things that sonically defined indie music during the 90s and it seems like guitar is becoming trendy again. Blue, Before We Knew or Heart To Rest are very good examples of how you've managed to revisit your past while your genre is back in fashion. Does it make the whole narrative make more sense?
I tend to try and get that grain into my songs in any way I can. I like searching for character in recordings, I feel like it can add a lot more depth to the songwriting. I’m not sure I thought much about the genre coming back into fashion, I more so just stick to what I like.  
Your fantastic EP Crush was released almost at the beginning of the pandemic. The live aspect makes a lot of sense at the end of a musical era, and as it wasn't possible because of Covid, did you feel that the EP didn't enjoy its own natural path? Are you excited about the upcoming shows? 
Yes I was bummed to not be able to play shows in 2020, as it had been a few years since I toured. At this point it’s been a really long time, and I’m so excited to get back out there. I want to travel all around the world! And I’ll definitely be playing some songs from Crush.  
What is touring like for you? There are different problems that many artists who tour regularly talk about: travelling and changing venues constantly or, more recently, due to Covid's restrictions, not being able to play to a full house. And also, the music industry has changed completely in the last two decades and, even though we are aware of these difficulties, it seems that this is the only way to make a music career sustainable as a job. Is it sustainable for you, especially in terms of mental health? 
It’s been almost five years since I’ve done a proper Day Wave tour, and I’ve sort of shifted my work life into doing production for other artists. I miss touring, and I’m excited to get back out there, but I do see how producing is a more sustainable career for me. Ideally, I’ll tour a bit every year, but I like being home to spend lots of time with friends and family. I think a healthy balance will ultimately be best for me. Sometimes my mental health benefits from being out on the road, and sometimes it benefits from being home.  
You learnt to play drums and specialised in instrumental jazz. Was there a break with classical training that led you to become a producer, or was it more of a natural process?  
Producing was more natural for me, I was never classically trained on guitar, or piano. I did a bit of ear training and music theory in music school, and in combination with listening to great records, that helped me developed my own sense of musicality. But starting out on drums was really helpful for me to have a good solid base of rhythm and time.  
The album begins with duets with Hazel English and KennyHoopla, both artists you have worked with as a producer. How did these songs come about and why did you decide to use them as the first and last songs on the album? 
I have worked with Hazel for years, and we have a great process working together. I started working with Kenny a few years ago and I’m really impressed by his musicality and honesty. I had the two songs already finished with just my vocals, and decided I wanted to add some vocal variety to the record, so I reached out to two people I loved working with! 
As a producer, apart from your recent work with English and Hoopla, you have worked with other artists and also scored films. Can you tell us a bit about your most recent projects? 
I’ve produced a couple albums for Pete Yorn, I love working with Pete. We have very similar musical sensibilities, so our process is really easy going. I also contributed to the recent album from Saba, which was an honor. 
You've talked about the Beach Boys being a big influence on your work. Where Do You Go captures that perfectly, but what I find really interesting is the sound of the guitars; bigger, louder and rawer. This is one of your best traits as a musician, in my opinion, bringing something so big and anthem-like into the present, creating a new sound. How do you normally work to polish the sound of these guitars? 
On this record I used a bit less reverb than what is most commonly coupled with a Day Wave song. I was looking for something a bit rawer, so I think the drier tones helped lead me to a new sound. It’s really fun to find a different sound for each project, while maintaining the key elements of what makes Day Wave distinct. 
Do you feel you have inspired a whole generation of bands and musicians by making bedroom pop more of a DIY style than a genre? 
I can’t say for sure, but it does seem like some younger artists have taken a bit of inspiration from my earlier recordings. Just how I took inspiration from some the artists that came before me. I think it’s a never ending cycle, and it keeps the music moving forward! 
In the video for Pastlife you're riding a bike while listening to music with your headphones, how would you recommend we make our first listen to the album, ideally? 
I’d recommended you hop on a train, put on your headphones and watch the cities pass by. That’s my absolute favourite way to listen to music. 
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