Hazel English and Day Wave on The Perks of Collaborating With Your Friends

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The post Hazel English and Day Wave on The Perks of Collaborating With Your Friends appeared first on Consequence.

Both Hazel English and Day Wave have had a busy couple of weeks. Last Friday (June 17th), Hazel English released a new EP, the dreamy and nostalgic Summer Nights, and this Friday (June 24th), Day Wave will release his first album in five years, Pastlife. However, the pair of releases come at a very different point in each artist’s career — whereas Day Wave (the project of Oakland musician Jackson Phillips) has been a major proponent of the dreamy bedroom pop that is unavoidable on TikTok these days, Phillips has been very deliberate about taking these five years to hone his sound and arrive with a fully-formed sophomore LP.

Meanwhile, Hazel English — the project of Australia-to-California musician Eleisha Caripis — has been hard at work over the last couple years, releasing her brilliant 2020 debut album Wake UP! in the heart of the pandemic and following it up with the similarly infectious Summer Nights EP. Regardless of their respective timelines, there is one thing that has bonded the two musicians together since 2015: friendship.

After Day Wave met Hazel English in an Oakland bookshop, the two hit it off discussing music and the desire to collaborate, and it eventually ended with English giving him her business card: “I had a business card?!” she remembers, surprised at her own professional candor, “that’s hilarious!” Nevertheless, the two began collaborating as Day Wave’s initial run of singles — which includes the iconic debut single “Drag” — began to boost his profile in a major way.

Eventually, both artists relocated to Los Angeles and separately crafted their debut albums, each honing their unique style within the dream pop and indie spaces. Now, for her Summer Nights EP, Hazel English enlisted Day Wave as producer, marking the first time since her debut release Never Going Home EP that the pair worked on an extended project together. The resulting songs are warm and intimate, giving true representation of the “summer nights” theme — though they collaborated quite a bit over Zoom on this release, there is a sense of closeness and calmness that sheds light on both artists’ respective styles.

Day Wave, on the other hand, has kept busy during the pandemic in a slightly different way: He wrote and recorded several cuts from Pastlife while live streaming on Twitch. According to Phillips, the idea was less about writing songs for the album and more about connecting with his audience — that is, until he started realizing how interesting the songs he was crafting were. “I think it just gave me this extra motivation,” says Phillips, “waking up and just being kind of like, ‘Huh, should I make a song today? Eh, probably not, but you know, fuck it.'”

Given the period they were written in, both artists feel that their new releases contain less preciousness and perfection than their respective debuts. For Day Wave, Phillips realized that “everything is so precious, and maybe my music career isn’t the most important thing in the world.” Hazel English agreed, remarking that it was “a relief to not get so caught up in the minutiae,” and that working on it with Day Wave made it easier than ever. But overall, these releases are the sound of both artists relishing in that freedom, and creating with more conviction and style than ever before.

Ahead of the release of Hazel English’s Summer Nights EP and Day Wave’s PastlifeConsequence caught up with both musicians via Zoom to chat about the nature of their collaborative streak, working on albums in the pandemic, and more. Read below for the full Q&A.

You’re both on the heels of exciting new releases — how is it all feeling?

Hazel English: It’s exciting, definitely, because I feel like these songs have been done for a little bit, so it’s nice to finally put them out. I don’t know, Jackson, do you feel the same way?

Day Wave: Yeah… it feels different than when I used to release music. I feel like I’m not as… tied into it in the same way, like with expectations and things like that. I’m a little more chill about it now as opposed to the past. But it is exciting to get new songs out and obviously, these songs, like what Eleisha was saying, have been sitting around. That’s usually what happens with music. By the time things finally get released, they’re one or two years old.

So it feels really exciting to get the music out. And it almost makes me feel…I guess because it’s been so long since I’ve released an album, it just makes me excited to release another album. I start getting ahead of myself and I’m like, “Oh, I want to do the next one now and,” but it’s good, it’s like getting me back into the swing of releasing music and that sort of thing.

Speaking of that — it’s been five years since the last Day Wave album, and meanwhile, the debut Hazel English album came out in the peak of the pandemic in 2020. What was it like working on these new releases in such an uncertain period of time?

Day Wave: I feel like I had to not be too precious about what I was doing, because so much time had passed since the last album that part of me wanted me to be like, “Well because it has been so long, this next one has to be perfect.” I had to let go of that feeling and just be like, “Okay, well, whatever is going to be the most authentic to my life right now is just what I’m going to make without overthinking it.” It was definitely a strange time — I think going through the pandemic made me sort of appreciate the like outlet of making music, and how that can be an escape for me. But also that everything is so precious, and maybe my music career isn’t the most important thing in the world. So it was kind of this uh this double-edged sword, it means everything and it means nothing at the same time.

Hazel English: Yeah, I totally get that too. I feel similar — with Wake UP!, I was really obsessive about getting every little part perfect and it took me kind of a long time to get that right, and every step was kind of exhausting, but like it was gratifying in the end. But with this EP, it was kind of a relief to just like, not get so caught up in the minutiae, and with Jackson, I feel like our flow is very fast and we recorded these songs in just a few months, it was pretty quick. And I like that we move fast when we work together because I don’t have to go back and…

Day Wave: …Overthink it?

Hazel English: Yeah!

What was the collaborative process like for Summer Nights?

Day Wave: We wrote [the EP] together over Zoom.

Hazel English:  Yeah, you had started the track on Twitch, and then I like listened to the track and kind of came up with some melody ideas and lyric ideas, and then I brought them to you on the Zoom and then we hashed it out.

Day Wave: I was making some songs on Twitch so I guess that was a very pandemic experience for me. Some of the songs on my album, I made on Twitch.

What was the impetus behind that?

Day Wave: Well, I think with the pandemic, I was just looking for an outlet to connect in a way that felt natural and easy for me. I guess most people went to TikTok, but for me, TikTok is a little less intuitive. So I wondered, “What could I do that would work for me?” So I looked into Twitch a little bit and realized I could share this whole process of how I create a song or recording or whatever, and I didn’t think about it too much. I just thought that it would be a cool way to connect with my audience. And it was just really fun, to go on and make a song and just kind of pretend it was like my friend on Zoom with me or something, you know, and they would be chatting some stuff and I would just be like “cool yeah, I’ll try that.”

And then after a while, I had all these demos, I just needed to go finish them and that wasn’t really something I was going to do on Twitch. But I ended up getting some pretty good song ideas out of it. I think it just gave me this extra motivation, waking up and just being like “huh, should I make a song today? Eh, probably not, but you know, fuck it.” But then, when I would go on Twitch, I would be like “oh shit, now I gotta make something,” because these people are going to be like “what are you doing, just sitting there, not making a song?”

As independent artists in a streaming-minded industry, how do you both view the idea of an album in 2022?

Day Wave: I’m not actually sure how I feel about it. Like, I obviously grew up with the album, and it was a huge part of my childhood and I love buying albums. I used to go to the Borders Books and Music when I was a kid, or Warehouse Music or whatever, and just like sift through the CDs, similar to going to the movies and going to the video store. So I still have this nostalgia for it, but I don’t know how the album really ties into the modern landscape. I always ask my manager— and I’ve been asking this stuff for years — do people listen to albums? I don’t really know. I mean, I do, I find albums that I like on Spotify and stream them.

But it’s hard for me to tell if people, if the younger audiences at least (because I’m sure the older audience values albums), but the younger audiences, I don’t know if they do or not. Because it just seems like they just get their music in pieces, you know. They just find little things that they like and they’re like “ooh, I love this song” and they piece together their own little playlists, or whatever, or they listen to somebody else’s playlist. So, I’m sure albums still have a place, but I’m not really sure what it is. I don’t know, I guess I just don’t really know the answer. But I still personally value them and putting them together as an artist is really fun and rewarding.

Hazel English: Yeah, I feel the same way, I definitely engage with music in an album way. I’ll just get obsessed with an album and listen to it over and over and over until I know it by heart. And I don’t really listen to playlists very much, but I am aware that a lot of people, because of the streaming services, engage with it in that way and in a singles basis. So to me, it’s just about making sure all the songs can exist also on their own and together. That they’re strong enough that if someone only heard one of them that they would still be really engaged by that. So, I don’t know, but I’m always trying to make sure that happens — I don’t really believe in making a filler song just to have.

Day Wave: It’s almost more tangible as an artist; thinking of things in chunks puts it into more perspective or gives it more context as as a whole, as an idea of a project. And it allows me to see like the light at the end of the tunnel with what I’m doing. If I’m just making a single or something, you’re just shooting in the dark, like, “what am I working on?” But as a group, it gives it more context, and it allows you to see what you’re doing, it gives you structure. So it definitely is really valuable from a creative standpoint. But I don’t know if the general music audience values it in the same way as they used to. Maybe they do, maybe they don’t.

Hazel English: Yeah, what I think about it is that if my fans are into the album concept, that’s great. And whoever else finds the singles and that’s what gets them in, like that’s the gateway in, that’s great too. So, it’s really each and every person’s preference.

I’m curious about how you both treat the storytelling aspect of songwriting. Do you feel like you know the story you want to tell before you take pen to paper? Or does it unfold in a more free-form way?

Day Wave: I feel like Eleisha is a little more of a writer than me? Maybe more of a poet. I think that prior to doing music career stuff, you did a lot of writing in your free time, and I never really did that. So I feel like my writing definitely comes from like an instinctual feeling and I usually use the music. I’ll start with the production or something and then I’ll need to really fish for feelings, I’ll try and create something that pulls words out of me, essentially. It’ll be like, “oh wow, this loop or this track that I have is really making me remember this old feeling that I had.” It just pulls the kind of song out of me without really having to think about it.

I definitely never even know what I’m going to say until the music kind of makes me feel a certain way. So I don’t write down lyrics before or anything like that. It’s always stream of consciousness, and then I go back over it and sift through it and try and make sense of it and I realize like, “oh, I see what I’m saying here.” But I think that it’s different for everyone. And I think for Eleisha, it’s probably a little bit different because I know you tend to write lyrics down in your free time and poems and whatnot.

Hazel English: Yeah, I mean, I do also like to do the stream of consciousness thing to get an idea started, and then sometimes I’ll go back and write lyrics, but not always. But lately, I’ve been kind of writing a lot more from like this fictional perspective, I don’t know why, but every time that I’m starting a new project, I come up with a whole backstory in my head about it, and I’ll write the whole story behind the song.

I think it’s just that other part of my creativity coming out because I actually studied creative writing at university, so I’ve always been writing at a young age, stories and poetry. And I feel like with lyrics, there’s this format you kind of have to fit, but it is a little limiting sometimes with how much information you can get across in a way, so that’s why I end up writing these other backstories to get more of the stories out there.

How did you guys meet and start your working relationship?

Day Wave: It was the very beginning of 2015 in Oakland. I had just moved there with some friends. I was definitely in a transitional period of my life, trying to figure out what I was doing, and I had this inception in my head for starting what would become Day Wave. I wanted to make guitar music and I had never really played guitar, so I was really excited because I got a guitar and a tape machine and a drum machine and I was just recording these songs that were kind of Beach Boys, New Order-things and it was just so fun and fresh for me. I was getting my JUNO Synthesizer fixed at this synth shop in Temescal Alley and then after I dropped it off, I went into the bookstore and Eleisha was working there, and I don’t even remember how we started talking. I guess you were just working there so you were like, “Can I help you?”

Hazel English: Yeah, I chat with everyone — I was very chatty with everyone that came into the store, so I just ask people how they’re going. Because that was half the fun of working in a bookstore, just getting to know the people coming in.

Day Wave: And it’s probably the fact that you’re so chatty that we even started talking about music. At a certain point we started talking like, “oh yeah I make music, oh yeah I make music too,” because I’m probably not that chatty.

Hazel English: You can be!

Day Wave: But if you weren’t as chatty, we may not have actually been like, “let’s make music sometime.” Because I think honestly, other than the friends that I lived with in Oakland, who were like my old friends, I think I was trying to meet new friends and just expand my universe a little bit because I was a little bit, I don’t know, in my own little bubble. So I was like, “Oh this is a nice person working in a bookstore, we should make music sometime,” you know, just to sort of meet new people and make new friends, and then you sent me a link. Actually, no, you gave me a business card.

Hazel English: I had a business card?! That’s really funny.

Day Wave: Yeah, it had a link to your songs on it, and I remember going home and being like, “Oh, I should check this out.” And I remember being like, “Oh wow, there’s definitely something here,” I really liked your songs, and they were acoustic and you were telling me, I remember in the bookstore, you were telling me, “Yeah, I kind of make acoustic music but like I don’t really want to anymore, but I don’t really know how to branch out of it.”

So yeah, I remember we just linked up to make music one day and did a session. I think I was just already in the zone because at this point, I had already made some of my early Day Wave stuff like “Drag” and “Total Zombie” and I was kind of finding a stride, and so you came over and I think that first day we made “Never Going Home” and we were like “oh, I guess that was pretty good.”

Hazel English: Yeah, we were like, “Oh that was cool, let’s just make some more.”

Day Wave: Yeah, I don’t know from your perspective what you remember.

Hazel English: I was like kind of surprised, I was like, “Oh, he actually wants to do this.” I feel like with people in California, everyone kind of says things and they don’t always follow through, so I was happy that you wanted to do it. So then I came over and we worked on “Never Going Home,” and I just remember when we had finished that song, I just kept listening to it over and over and I remember being like “you know, I think this actually might be a really good song,” and that was the first time I felt like that, that I made a song I was pretty happy with.

Hazel English and Day Wave on The Perks of Collaborating With Your Friends
Paolo Ragusa

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