WPA - an interview with Glen Phillips
Glen Phillips will be back in town, this time as part of WPA, on Saturday November 7th (Check out the WYEP Concert Calendar for more info) and WPA will be doing a Studio Session at WYEP on November 7th.
Barb WYEP’s Sunday Mix Host (WYEP): Glen, thanks for taking the time to talk to us again for the WYEP Music Blog.
Glen Phillips (GP): You're very welcome.
WYEP: You were in Pittsburgh co-headlining a show with Jonatha Brooke in December 2008, then in May 2009 with Toad the Wet Sprocket, now you’re returning with WPA. I asked you in the spring (Toad the Wet Spocket - an interview with Glen Phillips) about transitioning from solo artist to being a part of a group and you said it kept you on your toes and that you enjoyed each style. You also noted that playing with WPA was the most fun you’ve had “...in ages, if not ever.” So now that you are currently focusing mostly on WPA, are your feet firmly on the ground and are you still having a lot of fun?
GP: It's still pretty wonderful. The biggest problem for me has been having "wedding mouth" after shows from smiling too much. Painful cheeks are a small price to pay, though.
WYEP: “Works Progress Administration”, the first CD from WPA, was released as an independent effort on September 15th. Having creative control has to be great, is it one of those labors of love, where you get what you put into it?
GP: I've been spared corporate meddling for most of the last 10 years, and actually for pretty much all of Toad's career as well. It was shocking to see how much that had changed in the music business by the time I was talking to record companies again. So - I'm used to getting to make the music I want to with the resources at hand. This was a new level of resource, though - really inspiring at a number of levels. It's definitely a labour of love. Indie is great, but it's shocking to see how much money and/or luck it takes to break above the noise floor and have an album get some traction. It's not for the faint of heart. Creatively this has been a great experience. Ask me about the business in a year or two…
WYEP: I have to ask you about the artwork in the booklet that accompanies the “Works Progress Administration” CD. I believe each song title is integrated into a poster from FDR’s 1939 New Deal Initiative era. Where did this idea come from? I particularly like the one from Harrisburg, Penna. They look so authentic. Like mini pieces of art.
GP: As soon as we decided on the band name I knew I wanted to integrate original WPA art. It's beautiful, and in the public domain, so the idea of remixing some posters came pretty naturally. I did mockups on my laptop and then sent them to some real graphics people to make the fonts match up properly and such. I think about half the posters I used were from syphilis awareness campaigns. Not sure why, but those just seemed to have the right vibe for the songs. I hope it's not a bad omen...
WYEP: Since February, I’ve had the chance to sample the future first release “Always Have My Love”. In the final product there’s more strings, giving it a fuller more polished sound. The song has really evolved. Will WPA continue to evolve and change?
GP: I think the only difference since February would have been the mastering. We cut the album in five days, and took about five more to mix it. It just took us a couple years to get it out…As far as evolving - yes! We're excited to be writing for another album, now that we have some better idea of our identity as a band.
WYEP: Along those same lines, WPA has a core group of founding members made up of yourself, Luke Bulla and Sean Watkins, along with “executive board” members. Which members of WPA will be in Pittsburgh for the show? Does the line-up change which songs you play and/or how you play them?
GP: We'll be a 5 piece in Pittsburgh - Sean, Luke and myself with Sebastian Steinberg on bass and Jerry Roe on drums. We play everything on the record except the songs Sara sings, and play a few from our various previous projects and solo records as well as a handful of covers. I've been loving the 5 piece. It's leaner and meaner, and actually rocks a little more than the 8 piece in a certain way.
WYEP: There’s a broad range of musical styles, genres and backgrounds within the members of WPA and your debut CD. Do you plan to experiment with different sounds in the future and to continue to record and perform together?
GP: We're looking forward to making the next album and moving forward. I think we'll concentrate more on the songs than anything - the thing that makes this band work is that no matter how many people we have on board the song is the first priority - there's a lot of playing ability but nobody's showboating. That's the attitude we'll keep in the future - just playing the best material we can as well as we can, and enjoying the company while we're at it.
WYEP: Best of luck in the future and much success to you and the members of WPA!
Barb S. - Sunday Mix Host