MAGNET Feedback With Britta Phillips

BrittaPhillips

You know Britta Phillips from the bands Luna and Dean & Britta, but now she has a debut solo album, Luck Or Magic. The record features five Phillips originals alongside covers of songs by the Cars, Evie Sands, Fleetwood Mac, Dennis Wilson and ABBA’s Agnetha Fältskog. Knowing what great taste in music Phillips has, we asked her for feedback on some tunes we love to play around the MAGNET office.

The Cure, “Friday I’m In Love” from: Wish
Love this song! It’s one of the great joyful love songs, like “Oh Yoko!” It’s really difficult to write a joyful and exuberant love song. Or a good protest song, for that matter. The Staple Singers’ version of Dylan’s ”Masters Of War” is one of my favorite recordings ever, but I digress. Dean & Britta recorded “Friday I’m In Love” for a Cure tribute album on American Laundromat. I feel like maybe more people have heard that track than any other Dean & Britta song. It was a lot harder to sing than we anticipated. Robert Smith has such a one-of-a-kind voice and delivery, and it just sounded weird when we sang it, so we went with deadpan. Even more deadpan than our usual deadpan. I mixed it, and I’m really happy with the way it turned out. I added these “ooohs” at the end that remind me of that ’70s song “When Will I See You Again” by the Three Degrees (the three ladies with the sound of Philadelphia).

Bob Dylan, “I’ll Keep It With Mine” from: The Bootleg Series Volumes 1–3
Dean & Britta were commissioned by the Warhol Museum to perform music beneath projections of Andy Warhol’s Screen Tests for a live show (that later turned into a DVD and then a CD) called 13 Most Beautiful: Songs For Andy Warhol’s Screen Tests. We wrote a lot of original stuff but couldn’t fi gure out anything good enough for Nico, so we decided to do this song. I’d also preferred Nico’s version to Dylan’s. Then Dean played me the Rainy Day recording with Susanna Hoffs’ singing, and that became my favorite. I was never a Bangles fan, but her voice is perfect on this song. We basically copied the Rainy Day version when we recorded it. Scott Hardkiss mixed two versions for us, one with just strings that he arranged and recorded. He also added a bit of Auto-Tune to my vocals for effect. At first, I didn’t like it, but now I think it makes me sound like a sad robot, and that’s an image I do like.

Pink Floyd, “Hey You” from: The Wall
I was a fan of Pink Floyd in junior high and early high school. I used to go see Pink Floyd: Live At Pompeii at the theater, and their albums were on heavy rotation at all the stoner parties. I’d just dropped out of high school and moved in with a drug dealer when The Wall came out. I didn’t really like the album except for “Hey You,” which sounded more like their earlier stu to me. I didn’t dig the attempt to incorporate the disco beat. It reminded me of the Dead’s Shakedown Street, which I hated. I loved Donna Summer and the Bee Gees and used to listen to disco alone in my car because none of my friends liked it, but I think the Stones were the only rock band that could pull o the disco. I still love “Miss You.” I don’t ever listen to Pink Floyd nowadays. I did love “Hey You” in The Squid And The Whale, though I still might prefer to listen to Dean’s demo that he made for Jesse Eisenberg so that he could learn the song for the movie.

Galaxie 500, “Fourth Of July” from: This Is Our Music
I remember seeing Galaxie 500 on the cover of the NME or Melody Maker around 1990 when I was living in London with my first band, the Belltower. I was discovering good bands from the states over there because they wrote about them every week in the music papers, played them on the only radio station and showed their videos on TV. But the fi rst time I heard a Galaxie 500 song was right after I joined Luna in 2000 and had to learn “Fourth Of July” so we could play it as an encore. I still love playing this song, and I’ve played it a lot. I love the bass part; it’s so melodic and melancholy and unique. The hair on the back of my neck always stands on end when we get to the part where I join in singing “dooooo doo doo wahhhh” with Dean at the end. I always feel the room lift o at that point. Heavenly.

Jean Knight, “Mr. Big Stuff” from: Mr. Big Stuff
I recorded this song as Billie, the druggie guitarist in the 1988 cheesy/guilty-pleasure movie Satisfaction, about a (mostly) all-girl rock band, with co-stars Julia Roberts, Liam Neeson and Justine Bateman. It was for a very silly montage. Of course, I didn’t do the original song justice, but I did get to record it with Steve Cropper, which was pretty cool. I had a blast making that movie. More fun making it than watching it, I always say. The only music lessons I’ve ever had were from my guitar coach on the set. Scott Coffey, who played the lone guy in the band, was the first person I ever met with super-cool taste in music, and that kinda changed the course of my life.

MGMT, “Kids” from: Oracular Spectacular
I love this song, and I love this band. They were one of the first bands I heard (or maybe the first band?) that sounds like so many of the best indie bands nowadays (Tame Impala, for example). They manage to make super-poppy songs that have a soul. They’re like the Daft Punk of bands (and I’ve heard that Daft Punk are fans). I met them when my friend, Pete Kember (a.k.a. Sonic Boom), was producing “Congratulations.” They were so young and sweet. I ended up singing a bunch of stacked backing vocals on the end of the song, “It’s Working.” Super-talented guys. I look forward to hearing what they cook up next.

Spacemen 3, “How Does It Feel?” from: Playing With Fire
Back in 1990, when I was living in London with the Belltower, my manager played Spacemen 3 for me and told me they were the shit. For some reason, I didn’t get it. I liked MBV, Lush, Swervedriver and Ultra Vivid Scene, and I guess I didn’t have the patience for the slow pace and space at the time. I realized a few years later that they are, indeed, the shit. So many bands have been influenced by them and continue to mine their sound. I love Pete’s voice. He has two voices, actually: one warm and ecstatic and the other cold, dark and teutonic. I met Pete (Sonic Boom) when he opened for Luna in 2002. But we really became good friends when he remixed some songs from the first Dean & Britta album. He’s one of a kind. I wish I’d seen Spacemen 3 live back when I had the chance, but at least I’ve seen a lot of great Spectrum and solo shows over the last 10 years. I always feel inspired to go record a song after seeing him solo, and I’m always blown away by the raw rock ‘n’ roll power of Spectrum, live. This primitive space music never gets old or feels dated.

Buffalo Springfield, “I Am A Child” from: Last Time Around
I recorded this song for American Laundromat’s all-female Neil Young tribute Cinnamon Girl. I had not heard this gorgeous and dark song before, which made me mad at myself. The bright side is that it’s like Christmas when I do stumble upon these gems that everyone seems to know but me. I love that the music and melody are so bright and optimistic like an innocent child who doesn’t understand the horror of the lyrics. The song sewing that knowing and not-knowing together is just devastatingly beautiful. I programmed the drums and played banjo samples on keys. Dean plays a guitar solo. I was going for a countrypolitan sound with strings. Listening to it now, I’d like to re-record my vocals with a bit more energy, a bit louder. (Note to self.) I especially love the ending where it gets a little trippy and almost jazzy with harp glissandos. I used this same backing track (changed the key and the chords around) and recorded the Wailers’ “She’s Coming Home” over it for a Christmas seven-inch single.

David Bowie, “Modern Love” from: Let’s Dance
It’s hard to talk about Bowie. I can’t think of anything big enough to say about him. “Modern Love” is now married in my mind to the scene in Frances Ha where Greta Gerwig is running/dancing down the street, which I love. There was one guy in high school who used to only play Bowie at his parties. The cool guy. And Bowie’s cool let  him slide effortlessly into the ’80s, where most other ’70s artists seemed ridiculous. I had the pleasure of meeting him once when he came into the studio while Dean & Britta were recording our first album with Tony Visconti. He was such a regular guy except that, of course, he wasn’t because he was David Bowie, and I kept thinking, “Stop staring at David Bowie while he’s telling a story.” But, of course, it would be weird and rude not to look at someone while they were telling a story. So, you see how it was meeting David Bowie. But he was just lovely and normal and excited about life. Sigh.