Phil & The Osophers

<img src="http://www.qromag.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/10/philandtheosophersinterview.jpg" alt=" " />Right before & after playing with Les Savy Fav, Phil & The Osophers talked with QRO....

  Singer/guitarist Phil Radiotes and drummer Kevin Estrada discussed playing with Les Savy Fav (QRO photos), CMJ, moving from a solo act to being a duo, day jobs, the original Staples, local bodegas, and more…

QRO: Why these two one-off dates with Les Savy Fav?

Philip Radiotes: We take what we can get…

QRO: How did they come about?

PR: I was having lunch with a bunch of people, with one of them being Syd [Butler] from Les Savy Fav.  They were talking, and they had just booked the Boston show, and someone asked – they had gotten Passion Pit on it – and someone asked, “Who else is opening”, and Syd said, “Maybe Phil…”  And my heart totally skipped a beat – an honor.  And I sorta followed up with it.

And then he was like, ‘You want to do this one too?’  Whatever – I’m not going to complain…

QRO: How was last night in Boston?

PR: Last night was awesome.

Kevin Estrada: Yeah, last night was pretty cool.  Boston’s a different kind of city.

PR: It was the first time this one’s ever been to Boston.

KE: Yeah, first time I’ve ever been to Boston.  Very clean city – but there’s no trashcans.  The people are pretty friendly.  But the show went pretty well at The Middle East.

PR: We stayed out in the boondocks.  Stayed out in the middle of nowhere – had to cab it there and back.

We stayed right next to the original Staples.  It was an honor – the same honor as playing with Les Savy Fav, staying next to the original Staples.  Met the owner, John Staples…

Brighton, Massachusetts – the first Staples.  I’ll know that until the day I die.

QRO: What are you guys doing for CMJ?

PR: Um, we’re playing a show (QRO event listing) at Union Pool (QRO venue review).  And we live in Bushwick, so we’ll probably play some house shows – very last minute, put together.  I work like four jobs, so…

QRO: What do you think about ‘industry showcases’ like that, or South-by-Southwest (QRO Festival Guide)?

PR: I like South-by-Southwest as a vacation.  It’s music heaven – it’s like heaven for musicians.  You go down there, and there’s all this free food and stuff like that, just tons of bands everywhere.  You see your friends who are in other bands that you know, you play…

In terms of like ‘breaking bands’, no way.  CMJ is worse.

KE: Just more exposure, you know – which is good, ‘cause you really just want people to listen.

PR: You get your name in a lot of places.

QRO: What’s it like, being a New York band at the New York-based CMJ?  Do you think that makes it less special?

PR: Oh, yeah, if we were traveling in, New York looks so different for visitors.  For us, it’s more of just a show.  And I love Union Pool, so I’m psyched to play there.

KE: And it’s just nice to play – we’ll play anything.  If people say play, we say, ‘Okay’.  Opportunity…

QRO: Have you ever had to play venues at CMJ that you knew, as New Yorkers, you didn’t want to/wouldn’t play otherwise?

PR: Yes…

I used to play on my own, before this guy, taught him drums.  And we played this venue, and I’d never been there before, and it turned out to be – it was a bad show, because everything was off: the timing was off, the sound people were off, it was very rushed; it just didn’t feel like I could put my heart into a song…

QRO: Was it one of those ‘CMJ-only venues’?  Not a venue otherwise…

PR: Yeah.  And it was the first time I played, so I was totally psyched, “Oh man, this is going to be a huge show – CMJ!”  Dancing in the mirror…

KE: I’m like the opposite.  For me, anywhere we can play, I’m usually happy to play.  It’s like I’m just here for the ride, almost, just have a good time playing music.

Sometimes we’ll play a show…

PR: Like the very first time…

KE:

The very first time I played with him, there was no one there.  It was like my girlfriend, our roommate…

PR: There were more people on stage than in the crowd – which is hard, ‘cause we’re a two-piece…

KE: There are some venues…

PR: At that first show, it was like just our house, because her girlfriend lives with us, and our other buddy lives with us, and we were the four people there.  It’s like we’d transplanted to the place.

KE: I played my heart out, ‘cause it was my first show.

PR: We played for a long time, too, ‘cause he didn’t want to stop.

KE: We played for like an hour and a half.

PR: His girlfriend and our other buddy, we made them slow dance…

QRO: After CMJ, you’re going to be appearing at an art show, 'Cavalcadia', by Gus.  How did that come about?

KE: That’s our other roommate…

PR: He’s curating the show.  We know a bunch of the artists.  It’s at this gallery called ‘Papa B’.  It’s sort of Bushwick-y, ‘West Bushwick’, ‘Bushwick Heights’…

His art’s not going to be on display, but a couple of our friends, who we know.  And that place is a really nice hub, right next to the Market Hotel.  There’s gonna be free booze – so a lot of people are going to be there.

QRO: How was After the Jump Fest?

KE: The After the Jump Fest was really fun.

PR: We played at Galapagos, right before it wasn’t Galapagos any more.

KE: It was also ‘Make Music New York Day’, so we played right after, at the Buffalo Exchange.  So we had to move all our stuff – and there’s only two of us, so we had to go back and forth.

After the Jump was fun, too…

PR: We played early, like twelve, straight-up twelve noon.  ‘Good morning everybody…’

QRO: Did you do any other festivals this year?

KE: We played SXSW.

PR: We’re really just trying to find our stride, booking shows.  It’s really a very up hill process.

KE: Just work hard, but enjoy yourself at the same time.

QRO: How long have you two been playing together?

PR: Almost two years.

KE:

But we’ve known each other since high school, so the chemistry is great.  We know each other pretty well, so playing music together, honestly, it wasn’t really that difficult.

QRO: Have you guys done a full-fledged tour together?

PR: We’ve done like ‘mini-tours’ – with the emphasis on ‘mini’…

I mean, we want to, but it’s just about finding the right time.  It’s all about timing – when you’re ready to do it, when everybody else is ready to listen.

QRO: Did you guys make [latest record] Towards Conquering the Invisible North together?

PR: Yeah.  That was our first together.

QRO: Other than that, how did making Towards compare to making your previous records?

PR: Well, I like to record very quickly.  I like to also record in different places; I don’t like to record in the same place twice: one I recorded in San Diego, one I recorded in San Francisco, and just all in friend’s practice spaces.  We recorded this one in where we practice, which is in our living room, where we live…

QRO: That’s the photos on the MySpace…

PR: Yes – totally in our living room.  All our photos are inside or outside our house.

QRO: Including the bodegas…

KE: Cheveres…

PR: And the Super Meat Market.  Props to Super Mini Market & Cheveres…

QRO: How is it being a duo, as opposed to being a solo act?

PR: It’s much more easy for me.  It’s easier to have a backbeat.  I played the drums first – it was my first instrument – so I always hear very rhythmic things.  And I can tell him these things, and he’s very quick to pick them up.

QRO: And what was it like for you, [Estrada,] your first recording process?

KE: It was at lot of fun.  I tried not to stress too much over it, have a good time, but do right, what I can do, as best as I can.

PR: It was really quick.

KE: Yeah, we did it pretty quick.  I think before, what [Radiotes] used to do was record each instrument separately, and then mix it together.

PR: And a lot of them, I was just trying to get it over with, too.

QRO: How does your other roommate, Gus, take when you record in the house?

PR: You know, he used to be, ‘Why do you guys have to play when I’m here?  Why can’t you play whenever I’m not here?’  But now, he’s totally about-faced – he’s learning the bass…

QRO: Oh, so are you going to try to get him into the band?  Maybe pull him out of the crowd at the art show?

PR: Maybe

[Note: Gus Iversen has since joined Phil & The Osophers on bass] 

KE: We’ve known him since high school, also.  We’ve all been friends for so long…

PR: We met in the theater program.  Drama, freshman year…

QRO: When it was just you, were you still ‘Phil & The Osophers’, even though there were no ‘Osophers’?

PR: I came up with that name in college, and it stuck with me – I can’t lose it.  And I wouldn’t want to record under different things. 

If I’m writing the songs, it’s all one person writing; these are my songs, and it’s going to be called whatever it’s been called since the day I was born.

QRO: Do you have any post-Towards material?

KE: Yeah.

PR: We play mostly new stuff.  We have low attention span, so we need to keep making songs, in order to keep everything fresh.

QRO: Do you more recording after you play the songs live?

PR: You know, I never did that before, but since Kevin, I want to play them out, first.  Recording is a chore for me; it’s always a necessity.  Whereas writing & creating, we can do it so naturally, do it so easily…

QRO: When you’re not rocking, what are your day jobs?  [Radiotes,] said you have four jobs…

PR: I do.  I work in music, mostly.  I do door, I do web stuff for companies, I do green room things, I work at the Blue Man Group – I’m on stage crew.  That place is a great place to work.

KE: You should check out his show.

PR: Kevin works [in publishing].

KE: It’s kind of fun, too.  Get free books…

QRO: Are there any new songs that you particularly like playing live?

PR: New songs, I like playing all of them.

KE: Some of the favorites, there’s “High Art”; “Pineapple” seems to be one everybody really enjoys.

PR: I like playing this song “Propeller Jet Girl”, because there’s a lot of movement in the song, it doesn’t stay in one place very long, and that’s something I’m very interested in looking into, as a songwriter.  Just sort of writing for the ‘low attention span person’…

QRO: Are there any new songs that you don’t play live?

KE: [Radiotes] has a lot of songs – a lot of songs, and I don’t know every single song.

PR: A lot of them, I feel like people need to know get to know us, before I can play.

KE: I think the lyrical stuff…

PR:

I have some stuff that’s extremely lyrical.  But the ones that we’re playing now, they’re just more, hopefully, to draw people in.  And then, once they grasp, I can sort of lay a deeper idea on them.

QRO: Are there any older songs that you really like playing?

PR: I like playing a song called “Adam & Eve’s Next Blues”, and that was one of the first songs I wrote, one of the first songs I really feel like I nailed it on, so I like playing that.

QRO: What cities or venues have you really liked playing at?

PR: Oh, we liked playing The Middle East.

KE: Yeah, Boston was pretty cool.  Last December, we played San Francisco, and that was really fun, too, because that’s our home, too.  We’re from San Francisco.  It was Amnesia, in the Mission District.  I’d play anywhere in San Francisco.

PR: It was strange, because all our families were there.

KE: Like our parents…

PR: Kevin’s, mine – my sister’s about to get married, so her fiancé’s parents were there.  And, on top of that, all of our high school buddies.  So random a collection…

KE: Philadelphia was fun, too.  We played at M Room.  Austin…

QRO: Are there any places that you haven’t played that you want to go to?

PR: Europe…

KE: Anywhere overseas, I guess, but staying here, I’d like to play Chicago; I think it would be kind of cool.  I have family there.  I’d kind of want to play in L.A., for some reason.  For some reason, I really want to play there…

PR: We’re also from San Francisco, so Los Angeles is something we fixate on.  Like we open for The Dodgers…

KE: San Diego is really nice.  A lot of spots in Texas, I wouldn’t mind playing.  We played Austin, but it would be kind of cool to play Houston, even.  Seattle, Denver, anywhere…

QRO: Do you have a favorite tour story?

PR: A lot of our tour stories involve taking Chinatown Bus.  They’re really horrible war stories – just lugging all the gear, carrying it, not even knowing where the venue is, writing out directions from Google…

KE: Bringing our own stuff, just carrying it, and it’s just us two, my girlfriend will help out sometimes, Gus will help out.  It’s always really tiring to bring all our stuff.

QRO: Is it nice to play a place like [Music Hall in Williamsburg – QRO venue review], ‘cause you’re at least in the same borough?

KE: Yeah.  But we still have to carry our stuff – we don’t have a car.

PR: It’s hard to have a car here.  I’d like to, but it’s not right, right now, for me to have a car.

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