Phobophilic and the path to true freedom
After their third release "Undimensioned Identities" (read the review here) it was time to ask Phobophilic some questions. Follow Manos as he dives into the band together with Josh Poer (guitars) and Vincent Tweten (drums).
Are we encapsulated in a being
Much larger than us?"
- 'Synaptic Vessel'
(from "Undimensioned Identities" cassette EP)
Morbid hails! It seems like a new American death metal scene has been shaped over the last few years. How do you see it from the inside?
JP: It's definitely reached a new level of popularity, at least in the underground. From my perspective the USDM scene is in a great place at the moment. There's just a lot of interest right now especially from younger people which is sick and tons of new bands putting out great material.
Many bands of the new American death metal scene seem to choose the old school style for their music. Why?
JP: I think a lot of people just got tired of wanky, overproduced, tech death. Not to say there aren't good tech death records and bands, but I'm sure you know what I mean.
Phobophilic was formed in 2017. In less than 3 years you already have 3 releases out: "Demo 1" (2017), "Reh.2019" and the brand new EP "Undimensioned Identities" (2019). Do you feel the band is in a productive period?
JP: Yes and no. We're always working on something and always planning for the future but I don't always feel very efficient in a writing sense. I'm always trying to write new material but whether or not that material becomes a full song or not, or how long it takes to finish a song, is not consistent at all. Just as an example Demo 1 was written in about two months, whereas "Undimensioned Identities" was written over a time span of 10 months. Although, in that 10 month span writing wasn't the only thing we were focused on, we had been playing shows and done a short tour, but on a song-by-song basis it was hit or miss. We spent a lot of time working and reworking the second half of 'Synaptic Vessel' whereas 'That Which Swallowed The Sun' came together quickly. I'm sure that's probably fairly normal for most people who write music, it just makes me feel unproductive when things take more time to come together.
Do you receive a fair amount of support from people (fans and media) in your first steps with Phobophilic?
JP: It was slow at first outside of our hometown. Locally people have always been very supportive of us. In the last year though we've received a lot of support from all over, we premiered songs on Metal Injection and No Clean Singing, had our tape reviewed in Decibel Magazine and a lot of other blogs and publications. The support we've gotten since the release of "Undimensioned Identities" has been crazy!
Have you guys been in other bands before the formation of Phobophilic?
JP: Yes. Christian, Vinnie and I were in a hardcore band together for five years prior to Phobophilic. All the members of Phobophilic are also in a hardcore punk band called Arachnid currently.
"Undimensioned Identities" was released from Blood Harvest Records. What do you think attracted their attention?
JP: Honestly I'm not sure, Rodrigo had sent us a message after hearing our rehearsal demo asking if we would be interested in working with Blood Harvest on our next release coincidently the same day we officially confirmed we were going work with Rotted Life in the US. We weren't really sure what to do at that point so I called Jason from Rotted Life and explained the situation, and it ended up working out perfectly since both labels frequently collaborate.
Did you sign with Blood Harvest Records or just made a deal for the release of the "Undimensioned Identities" EP? Should we wait for a vinyl/CD version of it and/or new releases from this label?
JP: We aren't under contract with any particular label. Vinyl and CD copies of "Undimensioned Identities" are set to release February 28, 2020. Rodrigo (BH) and Jason (RL) treat us really well, expect future releases from us through them in 2020.
Who writes the lyrics in Phobophilic? What themes do you prefer to write about?
VT: The lyrics are written by me (drums) and Aaron (guitar/vocals). Both of us are inspired largely by Lovecraftian horror and the limits of human consciousness. I in particular am really into existential philosophy like Sartre, Camus, and de Beauvoir and incorporate their takes on the absurd into the songs I write lyrics for.
Are sci-fi and dark poetry tools for Phobophilic to build their cosmos and in which ways do you use them?
VT: Yes! I've been an avid reader of sci-fi and fantasy ever since I got into reading as a child. Poetry and philosophy are the other lenses that I use to write. We try and use our lyrics to take the listener, or reader more likely, to a dark place worth exploring. I've always found it fascinating and terrifying wondering about what lies beyond the world our senses construct, and how much could exist outside of that spectrum.
In your lyrics I read an attempt to transfer the reader to both macrocosmic truth and the inner cosmos of the human being. I imagine dark universal flights, space mirrors and monsters of inhuman form from other solar systems. Was that your intention? Do you think there is something celestial inside the human mind?
VT: Yeah, you nailed all of that! I've always really enjoyed when a band whose lyrics are hard to catch just from listening add another layer of depth to the songwriting. I think that macrocosmic truths and the individual human being are intrinsically linked and writing about the two of them goes hand in hand. We are the byproduct of cosmic events, and are only here because of the ideal circumstances we evolved from and continue to be born into. I want whoever dives into these songs to feel that there is no innate meaning to human life, that we are here by no grand design, and that that is the path to true freedom and acceptance of the human experience. Maybe that sounds a bit dismal, but I think that reality proves the point that there is no omnipotent being that has our best interest in mind and that our only choice is to live and make the best of our given lifetime or die.
What is your opinion on bands like Nocturnus who actually issued space thematology and newer bands like Vektor who pave(d) on the same way?
JP: I don't really have a strong opinion on Nocturnus, they aren't really an influence on us at all but I think "The Key" is interesting just because it's kinda out there. Vektor I'm not familiar with musically, and in light of the allegations against David DiSanto I'm not particularly interested in becoming familiar with them.
Technically speaking, which are your favorite amps, pedals and music instruments?
JP: Right now we all play Peavey amps and BC Rich guitars. I like to keep my pedal setup simple. I run the basics (noise gate, tuner, clean boost) and then a Boss RV-3 for leads. I'm playing a Peavey 5150 Signature right now and have been for a long time. They're just so easy to get a good tone out of which I love.
Are there decent studios and live venues in your area or are they something you have to travel for?
JP: We have two main venues in Fargo, an all-ages DIY spot called the Red Raven and a mostly 21+ venue called the Aquarium. There are a couple other places to play shows in Fargo but those two are where the majority of shows happen here. There are people who record music in Fargo but there aren't really any studios that suit what we're trying to do.
As young people, how do you see the internet/social media thing and its effect on the music industry and music itself?
JP: There are good and bad things about it. It makes it really easy to meet and connect with other people and have your music available for people to hear. The flip side to that is since there's so much stuff out there it can all become kind of disposable. But the flip side to that is then there's a ton of new and old music to discover on the internet that would never be found in a record store in my hometown. See what I mean? I think it's complicated and I don't really feel wholly negative or positive about it. Is art and music undervalued? In my opinion, yes, but is that the fault of the internet or music simply being more available than it was before? I don't think so. The ease of access to creating and releasing music we've seen in the last decade I think is amazing.
Why do you choose to release your works on cassette tape? Is it out of nostalgia, out of fond for the fit-to-hand format of the cassette tape or are there audio reasons behind your choice?
JP: All those reasons, really. It's a way to support analog media that's still affordable to release and to buy. Christian and I run the tape label Desperate Hell Records (although we have not been very active in a while) and dubbed and assembled the tapes for "Demo 1" and the "2019 Rehearsal" ourselves.
Please name 10 records that have shaped your band's sound.
JP: In no particular order:
1. Morbid Angel - Altars Of Madness
2. Demilich - Nespithe
3. Carcass - Necroticism - Descanting The Insalubrious
4. Crematory - Discography
5. Sentenced - Demos
6. Necrophagist - Onset Of Putrefaction
7. Cryptopsy - None So Vile
8. Gorguts - Considered Dead
9. Death - Human
10. Cynic - Traced In Air
When do you plan to enter the studio again and what do you have in mind for your next release? Do you have any new songs/titles you can share with us?
JP: Hopefully we'll be in the studio again in the next two to three months. We're working on finishing up two new songs for a 7" and then will begin working on a full length.
Do you have any theoretical music knowledge? According to your opinion, what makes a musician better; studying hard or leaving his emotions free to flow?
JP: I don't have any music theory knowledge at all really. I'm definitely more of an "emotions free to flow" musician. I think having knowledge of music theory and being a proficient player can help you write more efficiently but ultimately I think having a vision or something you need to express will take you further than technical proficiency ever will.
All your releases so far feature black and white artwork on the covers. Is it intentional and do you plan to keep it as an aesthetic for future Phobophilic releases too?
JP: It was sort of intentional, the style of art we've used previously we feel just fits those sort of short-form releases better. We definitely want to do something in full color, but most likely on the LP.
Black and white covers were mostly used by black metal bands (some still do). Do you like black metal music and which other metal and non-metal styles are you into?
JP: I'm mostly a casual fan of black metal, I dig the classic first and second wave stuff, and follow a few newer BM bands but in general I'm not really in the loop. Everyone in the band is into a lot stuff, metal and otherwise. Lately I've been into a lot anarcho punk/Crass Records bands.
Which is the songwriting formula for Phobophilic?
JP: Usually I'll start by just writing a few riffs for a song, bring them to the other guys and start jamming them as a band, then go home and add a bit more onto it and repeat. For the most part everything is written in sequence. Sometimes riffs from song ideas that didn't make the cut will end up in other completed songs, but for the most part everything is written intentionally and in order. We donít usually write riffs and piece them together afterwards. Even the order of the songs on a project is most times the same order in which they were written. For me this approach has just always worked the best, every part in a song has a purpose, and the order of each song guides the overall piece of art.
What type of mix and production do you seek for the Phobophilic recordings?
JP: In general we go for a more natural sounding recording, especially with the drums. "Undimensioned Identities" was tracked without the use of a metronome and with minimal punch-ins/editing to takes. We want our recordings to capture the sound and energy the songs have when we play them together as a band.
Will you support "Undimensioned Identities" cassette EP with live shows in your area? Any plans/offers to play outside the States?
JP: Yep! In September we did a six day Midwest tour and have played a few times locally since then. We plan to tour the US a lot more next year. We actually have two tours we're working out the details with right now lined up. We would love to play outside the US, hopefully in the next year or two we can get something worked out!
Thank you for the interview guys. Good luck with Phobophilic. As Vital Remains urged us with their 1997 seminar album, remain "Forever Underground"!
JP: Cheers man!