Our Editor was recently approached by a Newcastle based rock band ‘Phase’ about the possibility of featuring them on our blog. He tells me that he hadn’t heard of the band so looked them up on Wikipedia. This is what he read “a UK-based rock band formed in Larissa, Greece in 2003…. According to Reverbnation’s charts, Phase is ranked 1st nationwide in Greece. Phase climbed on #12 of Billboard’s fastest rising acts powered by Next Big Sound in the week of June 14th 2012.”
I think he was a little intrigued about why the band had made Newcastle their home so I was asked to have a chat with vocalist Thanos Grigoriou ahead of the band’s upcoming gig in Stockton on Tees at Music Lounge.
I first asked whether all band members hailed originally from Greece.
“We are Damos, Adam, Vasilis and myself Thanos. Phase used to be an all Greek band until recently. Our drummer Marios Papakostas was encouraging us to find a replacement for him rather than occasionally using session drummers; his schedule became so demanding and was overwhelming him. We are still good friends as we were before he joined the band and we still consider him as a part of Phase. We all grew up in a few mile radius from each other apart from Adam who was raised in Throckley.”
The band have a traditional rock sound, perhaps verging on prog. I asked Thanos how he would describe their sound.
“Our music is dark for one… I don’t know… We are being constantly told that we sound unique which is the biggest compliment any band can get, especially today that music got really saturated with the multitude of bands that walked the earth since recording was invented, especially after the big bang of mainstream music media in the 80’s and 90’s. Lately we’ve concluded that we can tagged as Post Punk Revival, with elements of Art Rock, Progressive Rock and so on…”
The band formed over ten years ago and in 2014 released an impressive second album ‘The Wait’. I asked what the title referred to.
“Thank you so very much for the nice words… The Wait’s central idea stems from conversations we’ve been having at that time about how our lives are always on hold and you’re always your waiting for something and when there’s nothing you set something to look forward to. We conclude that wait is what shapes you to what you are, or shows you who you are. Judaeo-Christian religions believe life it self is a waiting room to something else… We couldn’t but name the album after it, and it acted as a self fulfilling prophecy as the recording sessions lasted for a bloody long time.”
Thanos continued – “We are currently recording new material and we’ll release a single off from it soon. We are very satisfied how certain parts work in the rehearsing environment and we are really eager to see how the result will sound… we’ll wait and see I suppose…”
Amethyst by Phase
Now for the question my Editor had pondered; Newcastle isn’t always the number one choice for bands to set up camp as a band. Although the local scene is in a flux at the moment with some really great bands popping up, what made Phase choose Newcastle as a base over traditional locations (London, Manchester etc)?
“Everybody I know in London was telling us that we must be crazy for seeking artistic asylum in Newcastle and how nothing happens there and so on. But we don’t regret it at all… we love the place to bits. You need to be able to live in the place you are based and London is horrible for that. Newcastle is nothing like they want to depict it. And there’s much more to it than the Geordie shore culture.”
Thanos expanded, “The scene has great potential, and it can become really vibrant soon… All it takes is more outlets like yours giving opportunities to bands, band’s befriending other bands and so on…”
I wondered if Thanos had any recommendations for Greek music that may not have made it to these shores?
“Greek bands are doing alright lately in contrast to what was predominantly happening back there in the 90’s. Rebetiko is the equivalent to the black blues created out from the struggle day to day life was to the artist’s environment… Our favourite rock acts are Trypes, Giannis Agelakas and Xaxakes but given the weight the lyrics have as opposed to the music, I wouldn’t recommend it to non-greek speakers!”
The band have a Stockton date looming. I wondered what was the favourite show Phase had played? And had there been any disastrous gigs?
“Oh boy… we had a few disastrous ones… the worse in general are those where you don’t get to touch anyone as they’re not open and receptive enough, being unique enough we were struggling since day one to find a niche, and we made some really un-matching team ups being desperate to take our material out. Once we opened for an epic power metal band having people in animal skins and chain-mail booing at us for being so mellow I guess.” Thanos recalled a happier occasion too’ “The best one to date is playing in a venue in the center of old Damascus in Syria and it has multiple significance to us.” Indeed that 2011 gig made the band became only the second rock act after Gorillaz to play Damascus.
Well it may not be Damascus but Stockton on Tees is the band’s next port of call on 16th May so if you like your rock just a touch the lighter side of heavy why not head down and check out Thanos and the band.
Interviewer: Graeme Baty