Differing yourselves from your contemporaries can be a difficult task for many emerging artists. In order to truly stand out you need to offer an experience utterly unique, incomparable and beyond standard norms. Some artists trying to offer such fall flat. For others, crafting an unparalleled experience comes naturally. The Bristol based quartet Phoxjaw fit effortlessly into the later category.
From the very early days, it was clear that Phoxjaw where something new, with their initial EPs Goodbye Dinosaur and A Playground For Sad Adults showcasing an utterly belligerent sound that was familiar but freshly reinvigorating. However, their recently released debut Royal Swan bypassed all lofty exceptions surrounding it. Sometimes dreamy, sometimes operatic and sometimes sonically scalping, the record is a alchemic concoction of prog sensibilities, UK DIY lilt, alt-rock dynamism, pagan magick and surreal political commentary. Imagine something like a wild mashup of Gender Roles, Black Peaks, The Pixies, Brexit and Guillermo Del Toro's 'Pans Labyrinth'.
To help us understand this maze of a record, Danny Garland (Vocals, Bass), Josh Gallop (Guitar, Keys), Alexandar Share (Guitar, Vocals) and Kieran Gallop (Drums) got in touch to inform us of the records that influenced them the most personally and the cultural things that inspired them in the creation of the Royal Swan.
Related: Phoxjaw - Royal swan | Album Review
Phoxjaw As A Whole
Musical: ABBA - Gold
"ABBA is always a group that gets played in our little Phoxjaw world. Be it in the van to a rock and roll concert, at one of our wild crazy rock and roll parties or maybe when we're cooking dinner after a long day of rock and roll - they will be played. ABBA are the perfect combination of prog and almost classical sounding compositions, mixed with innocently catchy pop. Funnily enough, after 3 weeks of complete isolation recording 'Royal Swan', we drove home and immediately dressed up as ABBA and did two of their songs live in a packed pub. It was probably the strangest, most surreal experience of our musical lives to this day. ABBA seems to be there no matter what."
Non-musical & cultural: Isolation
"Isolation in deep Wales is something that truly had an effect on the record. Just us four, together, surrounded by abandoned mining towns and soggy sheep on luscious hills. It was exactly what we needed and it paid off. What we didn't expect was that Earth would be in lockdown within a few months. Everyone in isolation. As terrible as this situation has been for many obvious reasons, we do feel like the isolation, madness and change of emotion on 'Royal Swan' certainly resonated with what we were and are all going through. This lockdown has cancelled tours, changed what singles we wanted to release first, what videos we could film, however it is all part of the royal tapestry now."
Musical: Pink Floyd - Dark Side Of The Moon
"A record I would say I feel inspired by is Pink Floyd's Dark Side Of The Moon. Loved the imagination in that record and I feel though Royal Swan is different, it has this way of flowing effortlessly and keeping the listener engaged in escapism."
Non-musical & Cultural: Neolithic Stones
"The great stones from ancient times are always influential. They're buried up to their tummies in soil, so we decided to dig holes outside the cottage and stick cabs in the ground for that Neolithic sound."
Musical: Led Zeppelin - IV
"I love the way the drums sound on that record for one, it sounds like someone actually playing a drum kit compared to samples etc, that is something we wanted to push on this record. It also sounds like a band playing together, real amps, real emotion in the playing. It’s heavily dramatic in terms of the dynamic, they can take you from full on balls out rock and roll to soft folky parts in a matter of seconds. The whole album has this grandiose feel to it which is something I think we achieved on our record."
Non-musical & Cultural: Halle Berry In An Ice Fortress
"I’m gonna say in ‘James Bond - Die Another Day’ when he drives across that lake in his car, whilst the guy with diamonds in his face is shooting at him, he then proceeds to make love to Halle Berry in an ice fortress. Pretty fucking sick, like the album Royal Swan by Phoxjaw."
Musical: Pixies - Doolittle
"Pop sensibility, odd humour, a twist of punk, and a whole load of hooks. 'Dead' in particular gets my juices seeping. Discordant yet hooky, strange yet familiar. I wrote most of my parts on my acoustic whilst living between friends' sofas. The lack of effects pedals I had on me during this time meant that I was writing and relying on pure melody. I would generally describe my chorus parts in Phoxjaw as a bed of atmosphere to have night terrors in. However, this time around I wanted to create grittier hooks, relying on pure melody and roll with the punches life had thrown at me. Danny and I had been listening to a lot of Television, XTC and Pixies during this time so we were well on the same tea-soaked page with the ideas and avenues we wanted to try with this record."
Non-musical & Cultural: King Harold
"A culturally important moment that really influenced the album was the death of King Harold at the Battle of Hastings, fighting the Norman invaders led by William the Conqueror during the Norman conquest of England. His death marked the end of Anglo-Saxon rule over England. We feel that the birth of ‘Royal Swan’ feels like this battle. New pastures to explore. Also, like King Harold's fate, we want this album to be the arrow that goes deep into people's minds."
Musical: The Eastenders Theme
T"here are components of my drumming that is influenced from other music but that never crosses my mind whilst writing. I will say the Eastenders theme slaps, have you heard those toms in the intro? That’s my influence."
Non-musical & Cultural: King Henry VIII
"Phoxjaw have many different styles of songs. King Henry VIII had many different wives, you see what I’m getting at here? ‘Royal Swan’ likes to jump from one genre to the next much like with ol’ Henry and his queens. However, we didn’t divorce or behead any of the tracks."
Royal Swan is out now via Hassle Records. Purchase the album here.
Phoxjaw will be touring later next Spring alongside Poisonous Birds and Yard Arms.
Tickets are flying out, with their first Bristol show already sold out. Dates below.