The Heartbreaking Folk Rock Of Phosphorescent

17_PhosphorescentPhoto: Courtesy of Phosphorescent. Illustrated by Ammiel Mendoza.
Matthew Houck, the singer-songwriter behind whiskey-soaked indie project Phosphorescent, still doesn't get why Muchacho is more successful than his six previous records. "I think I just got better at the technical aspects of recording," he suggests. The songs are still sad, the melodies are still yearning, and the lyrics are still fraught with wry fatalism. If anything, Muchacho — which was inspired by a trip to Mexico — is among the artist's darkest works. Yet, within the lilting melodies and desperate lyrics, Houck has a sentimentality and joie de vivre that's impossibly infectious. We caught up with Phosphorescent to talk his latest record, the comfort of a sad song, and getting inspired to write again.

Selling Out
"It's been great! This is the first situation where the shows in the States and Europe have all been sold out before we get there. So, that's a new experience. It's been a really delightful surprise seeing people singing along and knowing the songs already."

Sad Songs
"It's a funny thing about subject matter versus sonic texture. 'Song for Zula' for me is a really, really dark song. It's really upsetting, I think, in its subject matter. But, something about the sonic package that it comes in is, maybe, uplifting. I think that happens all the time in music. For whatever reason, most of my songs are pretty devastating emotional things. It's strange that a
sad song does somehow have the opposite effect — that it's somehow an uplifting thing."


Childhood Dreams
"I always responded really strongly to writing and playing music. It seemed clear early on that I was going to focus on it and make it work one way or another. The alchemy of what art and music does is still very mysterious to me. It's just one of those things that you intrinsically trust, but it's sort of self-evident. Before you even know what you're doing, you respond to music and beauty like that — it's like a baby. I think it's in the realm of mystical territory."

Getting Vulnerable
"I have always needed to be alone. [Writing] requires solitude and a certain kind of openness. Maybe 'vulnerability' is probably the word. My dream scenario would be a place with instruments that work and gear that works, so you're not faced with the task of fixing broken gear, which seems to be an eternal problem. I had stopped writing for the better part of a year before making this record, and I'm still not sure what the thing was that kicked in the writing again. It's generally just letting things pile up until the dam has to break, or something like that."

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