While working on their sophomore album, Fear Of Life, Creative Adult went through some rough times within the band. They had some creative differences and they had to work along with that, but the outcome is just outstanding. In a frankly honest chat, we talked with vocalist/songwriter Scott Phillips about fear, life and everything that comes in between.
Recording your new album Fear Of Life had its challenges and each one of you had different perspectives of what you wanted the album to be like. How did you deal with that and what impact did that have on the final result?
Being in a band is kind of being in a strange family where people may have different life experiences or come from different places, but you try to work together in order to make something that we all like. I think we just sometimes put too much pressure on ourselves and maybe overthink things a little bit too much. I think a lot of bands have that problem where sometimes they get caught up in the outside peripheral stuff rather than just having fun with it and making something that you like. The less pressure you put on yourself, the better the outcome is and, yeah, the process was different for this album. We recorded in a couple different studios and it spread out over a few months and turned to this thing that was a bit more than I think that we were ready for to handle, but I think in the end it makes a better album.
What was the most challenging part to overcome the recording process tensions?
I think communication is the main thing. I don’t think we were necessarily communicating very well while we were working on the album and I think we could have avoided a lot of the internal conflict and we could have been a bit more open and honest with each other rather than thinking of things just personally. We all come from different places and have different experiences and different backgrounds, but in the end like I said the music is what the music is and we are proud of the record. That internal tension or conflict was beneficial. I think a little of tension could be a good thing. I think that music resonate with people and I think they will be able to feel that when they listen to the album.
When you put yourself outside of your comfort zone, it can definitely be something good for people to try different things. Did you guys put yourselves in that position to excel your differences about the new album?
I completely agree with you. With this band, we’ve never had like a set format. We just kind of make things up and do it as we go along. We just try the best we can to work together and not want to rip each other heads off and we usually get along well. We’re all friends and so we figure out the best we can.
What did you learn about yourselves as musicians and bandmates while working on this album?
Every album is different and when you’re working on a record everyone is in a different place personally. I can only speak for myself and so for me this album is different because a lot of the music was like “Oh fuck, I’m going to have to actually sing over on a lot of these songs.” I don’t consider myself a singer by any means, I consider myself a writer first and foremost and so I heard a lot of the music and before I worked on it, I was like “Shit, I’m gonna have to try to sing over a lot of these songs” which is something that I’m not really used to. That was maybe one of the challenges for me, which was just trying to write vocal melodies that I could actually perform without making a fool of myself. You know what I mean, I’m not really an entertainer, I’m not Mick Jagger. I’m not going to do this song and dance kind of like an entertainment thing. I try to go internal rather than external when I work on the songs. This record was an exercise on going inward and just reflecting on some of the things that happened over the last couple of years personally. It was a therapy for sure.
I read a statement in which you said that each song’s lyrics were treated as “an attempt to delineate how it feels to be alive at the moment with respect to all emotions.” Can you explain to us what you meant by that and what did inspire you for your lyrics?
It’s kind of what I had in mind for the title of the album… We live in such a perpetual fear cycle where we’re supposed to be afraid all the time and I think a lot of the stuff on this album is just about trying to find the light within and trying to make something positive happen. There’s so much negativity, nonsense and a lot of stuff that distracts us from our true potential and what we really are as people. That was kind of my focus with the writing. A lot of the lyrics are very simple and I wanted to keep things simple for this record, you know, estranged from a lot of metaphor and a lot of things that maybe I relied on in the past, there’s still that for sure, but maybe not as much. Music is such a great way to be able to freely express oneself without fear and that was what I was thinking with Fear Of Life. I think a lot of us are afraid to really be in the moment, really be the people that we can be and being able to help other people too along the way, because you know, we’re all here together.
Is there anything that you fear the most at the moment?
Well… [laughs] America is such a fucked-up place. I mean, Donald Trump can be our president and a lot of people here are afraid of that – me included – but rather than focus on the things that I’m afraid of, I like to focus on the things that I like. There’s a song on the album called “I Can Love” and the lyrics are just really simple, which is me listing the things that I like. I’ve kind of wanted to show a different side of myself because the music is emotionally heavy as it is, so I wanted to do something a bit lighter and kind of fun. I can’t think of anything in particular that I’m afraid at the moment, I have the same worries and fears as a lot of people, whether is money or this or that. My fears aren’t different from anyone else, I think.
The possibility of Donald Trump becoming the president of USA is really frightening, and Brexit is also a really scary thing to see happening.
Yeah, it’s an absolute nightmare. [laughs] I feel like it’s all rigged to more war and more of the same. It’s like a cycle that never ends. Every day we interact with people that we like and we see good things too, so I think it’s also wise to focus on the good stuff as well as the bad stuff, because if you consume yourself with all the nonsense, then I feel like you kind of save yourself up to be like a hated person and a person that’s hard to be around.
“This record was an exercise on going inward and just reflecting on some of the things that happened over the last couple of years personally.”
Back to Fear Of Life, the outcome is just amazing and all songs flow really well together. In fact, there are two songs with an eight-minute length that are just surreally good, which are “Connected” and “Hand in Shove”. How was the creative and recording process for these two songs?
The first song “Connected” was a song that was written probably about a year before we even recorded it, so that was a song that I felt comfortable with vocally because I was familiar with it and I was really impressed with it because it goes on and on and I thought that was really cool. Lyrically, “Connected” is just like the title says, it’s just about all of us being in this together and trying to take some of that internal light from within and spread it and try to help. The last song on the album, “Hand in Shove”, is about coming to terms with some of the things that we bury in our own minds and some of the things that aren’t maybe ready to deal with yet, maybe it’s a regret or something from the past like an open wound in a way. Musically, I thought they’re just emotionally heavy songs and they were really fun to write on because they allowed me to get creative with it and do things that I’ve never done before, so it was exciting to do that.
Which song off the new album was the most fulfilling for you guys to work on?
It’s hard to say… I worked on all of them kind of simultaneously, the way I work is like maybe I work in one song for a few hours and then jump around to another song, so really the entire record for me feels like one giant song [laughs] even though obviously is not. But, I think if I had to pick a favorite track, I would probably pick track one. I think “Connected” is the best song that Creative Adult have done so far. I think that song kind of takes what we’ve done in the past and expands on it in a way that I think it’s cool. To me, it’s like the quintessential Creative Adult song. It goes in and out of things that we’ve done before and things that we’re going to do in the future.
The album was recorded fully analog with instrumentation produced, engineered, and mixed by Jack Shirley (Deafheaven, Comadre, Punch) at The Atomic Garden in Palo Alto, California. What did he bring to the band’s dynamic?
We’ve all known Jack for a while. His records sound way more polished than anything we’ve ever done before. We’ve generally recorded in 30 studios and did everything super live and raw. Jack’s studios sound cleaner, if that makes any sense. [laughs] Jack is really focused and he’s dedicated, and I think he has an idea in his mind of what he wants things to sound like even before we laid the first track. I think that was good for the band. I didn’t record my vocals at Jack’s studio, so it was a different experience for me, but Jack did a great job. He’s a pro.
You recorded your vocal parts with RJ Phillips at Grizzley Studios in Petaluma, California. What led you to record them in a different studio and with a different engineer?
I went in one morning and tried to record at Jack’s and something about the room wasn’t right. I’ll record anywhere, but something about the vibe was just off and, instead of going into that studio and trying all these things that may not work, I thought it was more practical to go into a place where I’ve recorded before and a place where I feel comfortable in, so I went to a studio a bit closer to home, a place where I’ve recorded with a lot of different bands before. It just made sense and I think in the end it worked out fine. No hard feelings to Jack or his studio. [laughs] It just wasn’t working.
You released an awesome video for the track “Charged”, which was directed by Timmy Lodhi and features vocals from Kristina Esfandiari (King Woman, Miserable). What can you tell me more about that?
The song was actually written in the studio and so it wasn’t a prepared song when we started recording it. I think that’s one of those things that happen spontaneously, which to me it’s the best way to write music, not overthink it too much and it just kind of happens, and that’s how that song happened. When I was working on the vocals, to me the music sort of had this Mogwai vibe to it and so vocally that’s what I was going for. Fortunately, Kristina came and helped out, she did such a great job. She did some other background vocals on the album as well. She has such a powerful voice and such a powerful presence, I was grateful that she wanted to be on the album. That song in particular is about longing I suppose, it’s about figures from your past that you may or may not ever see again and just thinking about stuff like that.
What records or bands are you into lately?
I really liked the last The Brian Jonestown Massacre album called Mini Album Thingy Wingy and it came out last year. I just saw them playing in San Francisco a couple of months ago and I thought it was great, they played like a three-hour set and it was just fucking awesome. I tried to listen to the new Radiohead’s album and I couldn’t, I don’t know why. [laughs] I couldn’t do it, maybe I just wasn’t in the right mindset for it and I should give another shot. There’s some good local bands in our area right now, bands like The Down House, Tony Molina… Our guitar player Mike is in a cool hardcore band called Profile and they are awesome. Our drummer James does a wonderful project called Teal and he just self-released an album earlier this year and it’s really good. There’s a lot of good stuff going on right now. We’re going to Europe with Self Defense Family, a band who we’ve toured a lot with in the past that we’re finally bringing it overseas and we love them and we always have a great time with them.
What about you? Do you have other projects that you’re involved in besides Creative Adult?
Nothing serious. I’m playing bass in this sort of joke band right now, but that’s just for fun. I do like writing projects, write poetry and just try to keep my mind focus on something creative, whether it’s for an audience or not. It just feels good to make stuff and I encourage everyone to make stuff, whether they show it to anyone or not, just because I think it’s good for the mind.
Couldn’t agree more with you. It just feels great to make stuff creatively to boost your mind.
Definitely! Don’t you find it just good for anxiety or just release any kind of tension of your life, like pick up a guitar, pick up a pen, pick up a paintbrush or whatever it is and just take your mind somewhere else and put yourself in a different place. I think it’s healthy and important. A lot of people use music as a distraction from what’s maybe bothering them in their lives, but sometimes I find that it’s the opposite to where it gives me a chance to travel within and really reflect on how I’m feeling and try to get to the root of some of that anxiety.