An interview with the band PHOX
by Ryan Schremp
July 2012

PHOX is a new band who’s taking Madison by storm. A sea of sound that’s easy to get lost in, each individual part bending and forming to create one amazing whole. I got the opportunity to sit down with Monica, Matt Roberts, Dave, Cheston, Sean, and Matt Holmen recently to talk about how they came to be, their influences, and more.

Maximum Ink: How long have you guys been a band?
Matt Holmen: Well, we technically had our one year anniversary on May 5th, Cinco De Mayo. But we moved to Madison last fall, so we’ve really only been playing shows for about seven months here. We’re all from Baraboo.

MI: How have you liked playing shows around Madison?
MH: Madison’s cool. It’s cool to have a home town.

MI: What inspired you to get together?
Sean: Supergroup. I had this idea when I was a junior in high school. I knew everyone individually, and Matt (Holmen) was in a high school band that I was in love with that was called Superheroes by Night.
MH: Also known as Superhomos by Day. (laughs)
Sean: I started off playing bass and the reason why I chose bass was because I heard this record called Clingerman Sucks by Superheroes by Night and I thought, “That’s the coolest bass player I’ve ever heard.” So I picked up the guitar and that’s what inspired me to start playing. He (Matt Holmen) actually lived up the road from me, and I would ride my bike up to his house and think, “That’s Matt Holmen’s house! Oh my god, that’s so cool! He’s going to be famous!” and when I was a junior in high school I was like, “You know what would be an awesome band? It would be me, Cheston, Matt, Dave, and Matt! That would be the best band ever!” I didn’t know Monica sang at the time.
MH: No one did!
Sean: I had this brilliant picture in my head of us getting famous together, and we got together during the winter, so it was negative 30 degrees out, and we were hanging out in Matt’s basement and we were trying to play music together and it was impossible. We just couldn’t do it. Then someone said, “We need a singer.” and Matt said, “Monica sings.” so we just said, “Cool, let’s do it.” and that’s pretty much it.
MH: Yeah, it was conceived in his brain. We booked a show before we were a band. Because people just ask me stuff and I just always say yes. No matter what. I just don’t care.
Monica: He’s not lying.

MI: What have been your big influences?
MH: That’s strange, I was thinking about it today. I realized that the one thing we were really listening to at the time we started playing together—the boys, especially—was Sufjan’s All Delighted People which is a 15 minute epic poem of a song that references that Paul Simon song.
Dave: Yeah, Simon and Garfunkel. The Sound of Silence.
MH: It’s a great song. Just brash horns and very long. Classic rock with dissonant…
Matt Roberts: Beatles with orchestration and electronica.
MH: Yeah, I think we just really attached to that sound and that kind of sprawling orchestration and arrangement. One of the first shows we played we did mostly covers of one of our friend’s bands called Zuntag that we all worked on together and that is like Lion King music played by Arcade Fire.
Monica: There’s like 50 flute tracks.
MH: and we played all those songs at our first show along with a song by Everything Everything called Schoolin’ and a short section of No Scrubs.
MR: We always come back to this conclusion that we peaked at our first show.

MI: So, you guys have released an EP, and you have some demos available online, when is a full-length coming?
MH: Well, this one (EP) took us six months to put together which is statistically too long for us. Releasing a 5-song EP every four months I think would be an interesting way of doing things. I don’t know. We don’t really plan on doing any recording outside of this house. We’re going to always do it on our own. So, I don’t know. It would be nice if we got another 5-song EP done by the fall, then we’d have 10 songs, but I don’t know if we want to go back and re-record anything, though. It kinda depends. Our summer is pretty booked right now, but we’ll definitely be amping it up in the fall. Christmas.
Sean: We gotta make a Christmas album.
MH: We actually made a promise to Dave and Matt’s mom. So, we moved in and she said, “Ok. Cool. You guys are moving in together. Sweet. It’s going to be fun. Write ten songs. That’s all that I ask. Do anything, just write me ten songs by the time the lease is up.”
Sean: We have to have songs written by August 15th.
Monica: I don’t want to have a mother’s guilt on me.
Sean: That’s the only pressure we have in this band.

MI: You guys have played a lot of shows around Madison, do you have any plans to leave the state?
MH: Yeah. Definitely. We just played at the Majestic with Company of Thieves, one of our now best friends. We’d love to get down to Chicago and play with them. Haven’t yet just because we’re pretty much not doing more shows for this summer. Monica’s finishing up cosmetology school.
Monica: Pretty hair pretty nail school.

MI: Do you have any interesting show stories?
Sean: I would say no. Not yet. Not with this group, and that’s actually awesome because we’re going to get them. There hasn’t really been a show where we were like, “this is weird.” but that’s actually more exciting because you know it’s going to happen. You’re looking forward to it. You’re like, “There’s going to be a weird show and I’m so excited for it to happen. That’s going to mean we’re finally a real band.”

You can catch PHOX at Atwood Summer Fest on July 28th, 2012

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