Leaping to Higher Ground
(interview with Glen Phillips)
FACES magazine, January 1995
DID YOU EXPECT THIS
KIND OF SUCCESS WHEN THE BAND FIRST GOT TOGETHER?
No. We just started up in high school, and it was just kind of a fun thing
to do. It was a surprise.
SO THE INITIAL INTENT
OF THE BAND WASN'T TO GET SIGNED AND BEOCME
No, not really. It was to play at Pat's Crash Shack twice a week and have
fun. (laughs) The first tape we put out in Santa Barbara was mostly so
friends could hear us, 'cause they were all too young to get into clubs.
thought we were going to break up. We were going to do PALE, and Randy
had an application in at Berkeley, and I was going to go to San Francisco
State. We were going to go away to college. I don't think we thought we
were gonna get signed until we started getting calls from record
companies. It was kinda strange.
WHAT WERE YOU GOING
TO GO TO COLLEGE FOR?
I was gonna do education, and depending on when you asked me, (laughs)
one point I was into Anthrosociology.
SO UNEXPECTEDLY MUSIC
BECAME YOUR OBVIOUS CAREER CHOICE.
yeah. I didn't think we were good enough. (laughs) Todd's probably the
only one in the band who thought he would be doing this, like being in
band playing guitar. He wasn't really interested in doing much else. But
I think the rest of us were all kind of cautious and reasonable. We all
counted on doing another year and then going away. When it happened, I
remember you get your application in the beginning of that year, then
ended up working on PALE, having a meeting with Sony. We came back, and
did finals and went on tour. So it was a strange way to do it.
YOU MENTIONED BREAKING
UP THE BAND AT THE TIME. WAS THAT BECAUSE ALL OF YOU WERE PLANNING ON
GOING OFF TO COLLEGE?
Yeah. It's been nine years now. I started writing with Todd when I was
fourteen. For me at that point, it had been two years of college in Santa
Barbara, and the idea of moving away and going to college like everybody
else. (laughs) We were never the kind of band that was gonna put out indie
albums, and take off in a truck, and go around the country forever. It
more, we really liked the music we were making. It wasn't like there was
this eminent breakup and all of a sudden we got saved. There was a period
of ten months when it started to shift. And we were like, "Well,
have this chance. Let's see." It wasn't what we had set out to do.
really kind of just happened.
EVERY BAND HAS A
DIFFERENT DEFINITION OF SUCCESS. WHAT'S YOURS?
success is going to be to own a small piece of land. (laughs) And have
family and make albums at home. Kind of not be able to afford to tour
a reasonable way with time off, and to be able to bring people I care
about with me if they want to come. More just to not have to this one
the other thing. I think that will be success.
NOW, BUT IT'S NOT REALLY AT THE LEVEL THAT YOU'D LIKE
IT TO BE?
We had one album (Fear) that did well. And we're still a young enough
band that we have to work. There's a lot of bands that have one album
that does well and then disappear forever. Success is in different
ways. I consider David Linley right now as a success. And he can walk
in those places and not get recognized, and makes exactly the music he
wants to. You look at him, or Ry Cooder, or Richard Thompson, they're
all people who make the kind of music they want to. That's the kind of
thing I'd like to do. We're already at a stage where it's a little
weirder that it used to be as far as walking around. "You're in Toad."
IS IT MINDBOGGLING
WHEN PEOPLE RECOGNIZE YOU?
It's a little weird. It didn't used to happen at all, especially with
much time off. When we were on tour, we were always around a show, but
I'm noticing it's happening more. It's a little freaky.
WHEN FEAR REACHED
THE PLATINUM STATUS, WAS THAT SOMEWHAT UNEXPECTED?
Yeah, but we did it really quietly. We did it with no national press,
MTV ended up being on it. But we're a fairly invisible band in a lot of
ways. We didn't have everybody knowing who we were or what we did.
WAS THERE ANY PRESSURE
HAVING TO FOLLOW UP THAT RECORD WITH DULCINEA?
No, we just wanted to make something better. We look at FEAR as the people
who made it, we see the mistakes usually rather than the things we did
well. We just had a laundry list of mistakes we didn't want to make again.
The only pressure was we wanted to make a good album...and different
FROM YOUR POINT OF
VIEW, HOW DOES THIS RECORD DIFFER FORM THE PREVIOUS ONES?
they're all really different. FEAR was kind of the departure point. The
first two were two guitars, bass, drums, and lead vocals live. And so
they're very vibe oriented. They're kind of out of tune and whatever
else. They have a real feel to them. And FEAR was our first time of "here
we were in the studio with all the toys for a long period of time."
we're kind of intimidated, and our reaction to that intimidation was to
make what we considered was kind of a safe, clean record. So we got really
into the overdub, and arranging things as fully as they could be arranged.
And adding till all the tape was full. And throwing on more tape and
filling that. This time around we didn't make demos, we just practiced
a band and went in and knocked out two guitars, bass and drums and fixed
what we thought needed to be fixed and added what we thought needed to
added. It started with the basis of the live band again. The vibe was
one thing on FEAR I think was really lacking. This time we managed to
what we had learned about arrangement and used it when we needed to or
rather when we wanted to, instead of all the time. Combine that with
more vibe. I'd like to get to do more live album vibes, there's something
about first or second takes. It's usually the best you'll get it.
WHAT'S THE MEANING
BEHIND THE TITLE OF THES RECORD, DULCINEA?
We finished everything up and wanted some unifying title. A lot of the
songs are just dealing with being stuck and not being able to get past
something, and truing to figure out how to create some kind of inspiration
to break out of that. The idea of DULCINEA is this creation of some ideal
that you don't know whether it exists or not. Just having kink of faith
some ideal you create, whether it exists or not, it can get you to do
WAS THAT BASED ON
Yeah, but actually I haven't read it. (laughs) I just knew about it. And
Randy's the one band member who's actually read the book. Or as he says,
"suffered through it." But it was a good enough image, it's
less the book
itself and more the image it presents--the meaning of that, that was
WHAT INSPIRES YOU
I write lyrics after music. I've never written them before. I like to
the music dictate a mood. I'm not a poet, I'm a lyricist. I never really
worked on poetry. The thing about lyrics is they're really based on
music. You take them out of the context of the music, you don't [get]
rising and the falling. You don't get the real emotion in it. I couldn't
see just writing these words and having them mean the same to me when
come out already married to music.
--by JENNIFER ROSE