SIDEWAVE: Spacey Interludes


Los Angeles based space rockers Sidewave are ready to launch their new album “Glass Giant” on October 5th. About it, and other things, Prog Sphere’s special collaborator Conor Fynes talked with the band.

I find interviews are usually best to start off with some brief talk about names and titles. In the case of Sidewave especially, I’d be interested to see how you came up with such a name. Does the name of your upcoming debut Glass Giant ring any personal significance to you?

The band’s name comes from something I noticed on the beach while living in San Francisco. The water is a bit colder there, so you really don’t want to get caught off-guard by a wave. Even still, sometimes waves would come up behind you as they move sideways across the sloped beaches. I dubbed these ‘sidewaves’. In my eternal search for a cool band name, I decided that this would be good enough. Still, I often have to enunciate the hell out it when telling people my band’s name. Same thing with my name. No, it’s Phil not Bill. I don’t know why I have to make things difficult. Maybe I just mumble too much.

The band’s electronic press kit cites Failure and Hum as central comparisons. I’ve got a lot of respect going in for both those bands, so it got me excited to hear what you guys were all about. How would you describe Sidewave to someone who had never listened to your music before?

I would use a lot of adjectives to make it sound ridiculously stellar. But for most people when they ask, I just say ‘spacey rock, kinda like the Smashing Pumpkins’. It’s a point of reference most people can understand. But for those more educated in rock, I’d say that it’s alternative stoner-rock with some pop sensibilities.

If Sidewave are considered a space rock or shoegaze band, you’re far more focused and song-based than most of your ilk. On the other hand, you’ve got a lot more basis in texture-based performance than a mere rock band. I know a lot of artists reject the notion of labelling their own art, but where would you say you fall on that spectrum?

Well, we typically call ourselves ‘space rock’. But really that could be anything from Ozric Tentacles to HUM. A lot of people say shoegaze, but I don’t think that’s very fitting. We don’t really get all wishy-washy like that. Ok maybe a little bit, but we have too much meat to move that way.

Sidewave - Glass Giant

Arguably my favourite thing about the new album is the way it sounds. It has a near-perfect mix for the style, and the performances are all tightly matched to your general aim. What’s involved behind capturing such a tight performance on the record?

Well, we tracked everything ourselves and I think that really helped us to take our time and nail down the right performances. We all gathered together and tracked the drums over and over and over, until it was the take. This was a full-time job for almost a week. After that, we separated for a while to track the other parts. Bill and Matt tracked their parts at our practice space, usually with Brandon manning the console. Since I was two and half hours away in San Diego, I recorded my parts over and over until it was perfect and tight. I wasn’t happy with the tone I was getting, so I went to a studio called Back to Bassics to have all my guitars reamped. I was really stoked with the tone we were able to get with my gear there. I really attribute the tight sound to the excellent mixing from Aaron Harris as well as Matt and Brandon really being in sync with each other.

What’s the live experience with Sidewave like? Any plans for a tour somewhere down the road?

The live experience is always evolving. We used to just get up there and kinda rush through our songs. Now we’re working in some spacey interludes and adding some new and old songs to our arsenal. We’ve gotten some new gear and toys that will add even more volume and depth to our performances. Touring is something we’d all love to do, but it hasn’t been in the cards yet. But believe me, we’re dying to get out of LA.

Judging from your debut, the way you guys play gives me the impression you’re probably all really experienced musicians. What other projects have you all played in? How were previous engagements different from what you’re doing now in Sidewave?

We’ll take turns here:

Phil – I haven’t really played publicly in a band since like 2002. So I’m probably the least experienced of the group. I’ve been writing this music and gradually finding style since 2007. Some of this stuff is available on our bandcamp page as Mercurochrome, Weightless & The Big Time demos.

Bill – I’ve played in a bunch of bands over the years.  Some never moved beyond the rehearsal stage and fizzled out for one reason or another.  Before Sidewave, I spent time in LA bands Solare and Feersum Ennjin. I played in a band called All the Way Rider from Minneapolis that put out a few records.  The sound could best be described as ‘post-hardcore’, I guess.  I managed to add some of my spacey delay guitar sounds into that band that I still do today.

Matt – I’m currently in other projects and have been for years. I play bass and sing in a pop punk band and also play guitar and sing for a semi-traditional Irish folk band. Quite the contrast to Sidewave, haha.

Brandon – I’m always trying to stay busy… Currently, I’m playing with ska band Save Ferris as we prepare new material for an upcoming EP, as well as the modern jazz ensemble Kid Midnight with whom I perform every Monday night at a hip little bar in DTLA.  While the projects I’m in tend to be stylistically all over the map, I like to think there’s a conceptual continuity to it all. Sidewave is the passion project that allows the four of us to play the kind of music we want to play, with very little restriction. Phil, Bill, Matt, and I have similarly eclectic tastes (which is how we met), and just try to make the kind of music we enjoy listening to, while having fun doing it!


You have an upcoming CD release show coming up this October. What are your thoughts on it? What are you expecting from that show?

Well, it’s LA so we’re having a hell of time finding a good venue to host the show. There are plenty of places that we could play at, but we’re looking for a place that gives a shit. Really, the release show is just a celebration of our hard work, time and money poured into this album. We’ll undoubtedly have some of our buddy’s bands to share the stage with us. We’ll have some drinks, hopefully sell a few CD’s.

Los Angeles is a hub for a great many things, music not least of all. What’s it like to be part of such a huge scene? Do you think there are any benefits or penalties in comparison to living and playing in a smaller city?

As you could tell from my last response, our expectations of a release show or any show aren’t that far-reaching. This is because of the way LA is. There’s a lot to do on any given night and plenty of local bands and touring acts filling every venue. Even so, you end up seeing the same people more often than new people. It’s not as vibrant of a rock scene as an outsider might think. It’s big, and because of that it’s impersonal and jaded. Plus, it’s hard to get people to come out! I blame Netflix for that one. Compared to other scenes, there isn’t the passion of a well-established scene like Champaign-Urbana, IL.

What have you guys been listening to lately? Anything you might recommend to others with similar tastes?

Taking turns again:

Phil – I’ve been entranced by Nujabes – Soul Searching lately. It’s really nostalgic feeling mellow jazz with hip hop beats. I also really loved the short life that School of Seven Bells had. For people looking for a band similar, check out Big Jesus and Machines Learning.

Brandon – The new Torche record Restarter is pretty awesome (if a little short), and Faith no More’s new record has grown on me after a couple listens.

Matt – All sorts. I’ve been revisiting older albums I used to listen to when I was a kid (Soundgarden’s “Superunknown,” Gob’s “How Far Shallow Takes You,” NOFX’s “So Long and Thanks For All The Shoes,” etc.). I also can get enough of CHVRCHES’ new singles and Death From Above 1979′s album “Physical World.” Just…so…good.

Bill – Lately, I’ve been listening to mostly electronic music. I’m a huge fan of glitchy acts like Aphex Twin, Boards of Canada and Autechre. I’ve also been digging a group called Snarky Puppy. They’re essentially a fusion of jazz, funk, rock with a horn section. My tastes are all over the map.

Sidewave live

Lastly, what kind of advice would you impart to other musicians? Do you have any words of wisdom or inspiration for other artists trying to make their mark?

First of all, don’t pay for Facebook ads. Having fake fans is worse than having a small handful of fans. Otherwise your posts won’t ever reach your real fans. It’s an expensive way to ruin your social media reach.

Also, I guess everyone’s common goal is to have as many people enjoy their music as possible. There could be various motivations, but the goal remains the same. The advice here is to not be selfish about it. You can’t expect it to be all about you all the time. If you don’t go to shows, support other bands and meet people, you won’t have anyone at your shows. It’s a give and take. Become involved in your scene. But when it’s your turn to perform, play the shit out of your instrument and make sure you have nothing left but satisfaction when you’re set is over. If you weren’t satisfied, work harder, take lessons, make band practice less enjoyable by picking things apart.

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