Although Phonoscenes just released a new EP last Wednesday, they are no strangers to Columbia’s music scene. Phonoscenes—made up of Cameron Erdogan, SEAS ’14, and Isaac Bunch, Spencer Cunningham, Dan Girma, and Jacob Sunshine, all CC ’14—has members upperclassmen might recognize members from Sun Looks Down, another musical effort with a bit of a softer sound. Its EP, “The Relative,” is a solid indie rock effort that would even make Julian Casablancas proud. Spectator sat down with Erdogan, Cunningham, Girma, and Sunshine to discuss Phonoscenes’ musical influences, the inspiration behind “The Relative,” and long-term plans for the future.
Neha Sundaram: How did you guys meet each other, and how did you guys finally form Phonoscenes?
Dan Girma: We started jamming together spring semester, sophomore year. I don’t think it crystalized into a band until junior year.
Cameron Erdogan: We played a show at ADP. It was a set of mostly covers—Screaming Females, Nirvana, Weezer, Pixies, Strokes. We weren’t even called Phonoscenes then, though. We decided we were called Ronan on that day, but then we decided it was a stupid name. Some of those initial songs that are on the EP, like “The Room is Still Spinning” and “Premonitions,” were written in fall junior year and winter sophomore year. We’re just ancient.
NS: Can you tell me more about your musical influences?
Jacob Sunshine: I don’t think we came into it with a premeditated plan.
CE: We all loved Radiohead. We covered “Bodysnatchers” before we had a complete set, and we throw that in occasionally.
JS: A lot of the songs fit into an indie rock framework, but we borrow from a disparate number of genres—not in an overt way necessarily, but we try to do it in a way that’s organic. Spencer’s writing a song that has a real Afro beat right now.
Spencer Cunningham: One of the reasons we have really disparate influences is because we have a really collaborative writing process. A lot of us will bring song ideas we have to the band, and then we’ll either jam on them or discuss some ideas we have for them and try to really bring our individual personalities in.
CE: “The Room is Still Spinning” is harder. It’s way more distorted, like a hard rock, punk song. It became much more dissonant when we played it. Now it’s this more intricately layered thing—with clean guitars. Also, the decision early on to do only three guitars affected our influences.
SC: It requires some really careful orchestration. This might be a little technical, but because you have three guitars, making them work together is much more difficult.
DG: We had the sound techs say how much of a trip it was mixing our gigs because there are three guitars on it.
JS: It gives it an inherently lush, textured sound, especially when it’s done right.
NS: Can you tell me more about “The Relative”? Is there an overall theme to the EP?
DG: It’s really more a compilation of tracks. It’s a pretty good anthology of what we’ve done. Two of the songs are originals. Then we have “The Red Line,” which we released in November.
SC: One of the unifying aspects of the EP is the attempt to tame and understand the three guitars’ textures, exploring the different possibilities of producing interesting sounds with three guitars.
JS: I could say that every song is a single, but I think there’s also a nice ebb and flow to the EP, like there should be with any album. It’s not just a “greatest hits” collection.
Phonoscenes will play a showcase on April 4 at Muchmore in Williamsburg.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.