If you didn’t catch Phases at Coachella, it’s probably because you weren’t quite ready to take on the day during their 12:45 p.m. slot on Saturday. But don’t let the early set time fool you: The members of the indie-pop band are actually Coachella veterans—just not with each other.
A few years ago, longtime friends Z Berg (The Like), Alex Greenwald (Phantom Planet), Jason Boesel (Rilo Kiley), and Michael Runion transitioned from the indie-rock vibes of their previous bands to the ’80s-heavy indie synth-pop of Phases. In this new outfit, Coachella was the first festival they’ve played. And as a new band, they were farther down the bill than any of them are accustomed to, but as it turns out, that has its perks.
Sitting down with us after their set, the band shared talked sneaking into dressing rooms, how to survive summer festivals, and more.
You’ve all been in different bands that have played here. What was it like to play your first Coachella together?
Z Berg: It was so fun. I’m in a really good mood. Yesterday was so hectic and today’s just like, “This is the best.” The moments before you play—particularly at a festival when it’s a whole day before you play—it’s really stressful. In the back of my mind, I’m not psyched. An hour before our show, I’m like “Bleghhhh.” Then to have played a show and have fun, it’s like, “I can do anything now!”
Alex Greenwald: I feel pretty good before a show. I used to be a nervous wreck.
ZB: The funny thing is I don’t even get nervous; I just don’t know what to do with myself. It’s a weird, purgatorial feeling that I’m not good at handling. Then I get on stage and I’m all, “I’m alive again!”
Describe Coachella in two words.
ZB: Buck gnar.
Jason Boesel: Is that with a “g”?
We’ll allow one adjective.
ZB: Buck is the adjective. Well, no, I guess gnar is the adjective, buck is the modifier?
JB: Yeah, maybe. Extremely gnarly.
ZB: Yeah, gnarly good, gnarly hectic, gnarly cool. Strong vibe is also good.
How did this show compare to your previous Coachella gigs?
ZB: Oh man.
JB: Maybe a touch more meaningful because we’ve all been here before and this is a new thing, so it’s a little heavier to get the chance to play. Speaking for myself, it was like, “Oh, cool, we’re playing Coachella. Of course we are.” Now it’s like, “Sick, we’re playing Coachella!”
ZB: This definitely is our baby in a very meaningful way. Also, truthfully, a year ago when we signed to our label and met our manager and started working with her, the first order of business was, “OK, what are goals for the year?” And we said, “Our number one goal is to play Coachella next year.”
AG: We accomplished it, and now we don’t know what to do.
ZB: Yes, we’re breaking up now.
AG: This was our farewell show.
JB: Going out on top.
ZB: Also, the last time I played, I was 18 or 19 and I didn’t move at all. I was just looking down, wearing a nightgown and a flower crown, so stressed. This, after doing this for a long time, is just like, “I can do this shit.” And also to feel that with this music—with playing dance music—it feels so festival appropriate and so Coachella appropriate. It felt good to be there with that audience in that setting and be like, “This is what we should be fucking doing.”
How does Coachella compare to other festivals?
JB: This is a pretty premiere festival. It sets a high bar in the U.S. It’s kind of the U.S. festival.
ZB: In all the festivals I’ve played—I don’t know about playing the other stages here—but that tent is so pleasant and awesome. It’s temperate in there, the stage is huge, there’s shit for me to climb. It’s so nice. The second I got on stage, I was like, “Fuck yeah.” It wasn’t hectic at all because we were playing first on that stage. We had all this time to do whatever. It’s like a dream scenario.
JB: It’s a nice introduction to the festival circuit for us.
ZB: I’ve done some rainy, hectic, Reading-and-Leeds, no-soundcheck shows, like, “Fuuuuck.”
What is the weirdest thing you’ve seen at Coachellas past or present?
JB: This was some years ago: All the artists had cleared out, and we all went through all the dressing rooms to see if we could find any cool stuff. One dressing room—I won’t say the artist’s name—there were so many empty Whip-Its. Like, 100 scattered on the floor. They were getting buck gnar!
ZB: Buck gnar! You see! You get it now! That’s so weird.
Michael Runion: The CO2 things? Yeah, they were doing nitrous oxide.
ZB: That gives me the willies to think about. I don’t want to be in that dressing room.
AG: I haven’t done nitrous oxide in like 15 years.
MR: They were gurglin’ gas.
Does a Ready Whip can count?
AG: That does count, and I haven’t done that in like 20.
MR: Wasn’t there a naked guy who got Tased here a few years ago, too?
AG: Yeah, that’s true. I saw video of it.
ZB: Don’t be that guy.
We have admittedly gone through some dressing rooms after the artists clear out.
ZB: Fuck yeah! Dude, as you should. Waste not. I always ask waiters, “Do you eat food when people don’t eat their whole plate of French fries?” And they’re like, “Yes. Yes we do.” I’m like, “Good!”
Who were you mose excited to see at Coachella this year?
MR: Ice Cube.
MR: CHVRCHES on a big stage.
ZB: Wolf Alice, Beach House, Disclosure.
AG: I was really excited about Disclosure. I saw a live thing they did with Pitchfork or something. I think those dudes are good musicians, and they show that in their live show even though they’re very electronically-based.
JB: I was very excited for Guns N’ Roses. That’s a big deal for me.
Burning Man, HARD Summer, FYF Fest, and more are all on the horizon. Words of advice for summer festivalgoers? Aside from water and shade.
MR: Don’t try to move in large groups. It’s too difficult. Know where you want to go and stick to your own schedule. Don’t try to move a mountain. Take it easy.
AG: I got one. It’s kind of controversial—stop thinking about what you look like. Enjoy where you’re at, who you’re with and who you’re hearing and seeing.
JB: And don’t try to see too much. Enjoy the sight you’re watching. Just see it and move on.
ZB: Which is advice for everything, too. Don’t be thinking about where you’re going next. Just be excited about where you are. If you’re too ambitious with what you want to do and see, you’re just going to be stressed the whole time.
MR: Yeah, you’ll be disappointed.
ZB: Pick a few things you care about, and if you miss shit, you miss shit. Just be in it, and don’t be a douche.
AG: You can’t see M83 and The Last Shadow Puppets at the same time. I tried.