A word with the Phoenix Foundation
Charlotte Ryan has a quick word with Samuel Flynn Scott (top right) of the Phoenix Foundation about the album getting so much love, Fandango. And read up on Gary Steel’s review of the album here.
Tell us the story of the moment you realised your love for music.
There are a few pivotal steps that led me to the absurd choice that I should pursue music for the rest of my life but I know which one I like to talk about the most. When I was but 14 years old, I skipped school to visit my brother Jacob in his seedy flat on Hankey St. In my pocket was a cassette copy of Blood Sugar Sex Magik with which I was hoping to impress him. Alas, he was not impressed. Instead he gave me a copy of The Velvet Underground album VU and sent me off to study it in detail. To this day, I doubt there is a record I have listened to more often or as intensely. “Stephanie Says” set up a blueprint in my brain for the ideal song; it’s beautiful, confusing, a bit druggy and slightly broken.
What is it about the guitar that you love most?
I love the way they look. If I had lots of money I would own so many shitty guitars that look cool. I am really fond of Teiscos at the moment. Not the supercool Del-Ray models, but the super-shitty ones that you pick up for a couple of hundred bucks. Guitars sound good, obviously, but if they didn’t look so cool I’d probably be a saxophonist.
What other instruments can you play?
I own a clarinet but my wife doesn’t like me playing it in the house, and the band don’t like me playing it in the studio so it only comes out on special occasions (ie, when there is no one anywhere near me).
Can you explain Fandango?
We were going to call it Brain Storm, which just seems incredibly silly to me now. We weren’t really feeling it but were almost resigned to it when Mike August — aka Lord Fader, aka one half of Fabulous Arabia — popped into the studio and pulled out his master list of potential album names. “Fandango” jumped out at us like a ray of light from the almighty, praise hosanna.
What is your favourite song on the new album and why?
It’s probably “Sideways Glance” as it’s the right balance between a great piece of music that stretches out and goes to some spazzy places and just a really good lyric/melody/chorus. I think Luke was channelling the Carpenters when he started writing it, and they’re some heavy ghosts, man.
Got a golden rule of touring?
It’s a double rule: take the sensible food option (ie, vegetables good, burgers bad) and don’t be the wasted guy. Both those rules will get broken on a regular basis, and you can’t dwell on that. But a good salad can really improve your life on the road.
Have you ever written a song about Auckland?
I have not. I leave songs about Auckland to experts like Lawrence Arabia. Though certain things that I have experienced while in the Auckland city limits have inspired moments in our songs, yes. The old Shanghai Lil’s (when it was on Beach Rd) was an excellent place to fill one’s head with human distortion. Maybe I should get more explicit and write a song that actually names names and places. “3am at the Burgery, 7am Puking at the Quest”.
What is your favourite venue to play in Auckland?
Well, I do love the St James and I live in hope it won’t be bowled over for some more fucking glorious apartments. We’ll see. But for a performer, the Powerstation is pretty wonderful. Great sound, great crew and it’s big without being all that big. Seeing Pixies there a few years ago is possibly the greatest gig-going experience of my life.
First published Metro, July 2013.