The members of the Los Angeles alt-pop outfit Phases may be familiar to you, not only because the individual members have played in buzzy bands like Phantom Planet, the Like, and Rilo Kiley, but also because they put out an album in 2012 under the name JJAMZ. They were a quintet then (each letter of the band name represented the first initial of a member’s name), but reinvented themselves when they realized that what had been a side project had developed into a primary passion and one of their members, guitarist James Valentine, had a more demanding primary gig.
“The time before we started making this music was kind of uncertain, and we had been playing music together as JJAMZ for years and years,” frontwoman Z Berg tells EW. “As much as I love that record and that music, there was no real concept or direction for it. When it came time to think about how we move forward, we didn’t have the foundational structure to know where to go next. James didn’t really exit from the band. He just has a pesky day job as a member of Maroon 5. Once we started working in earnest, it wasn’t really possible to make this a real thing if we had a half member.”
The remaining quartet—Berg, Alex Greenwald, Jason Boesel, and Michael Runion—re-christened themselves Phases and worked on what would become their new album For Life, a catchy, zippy blast of electro-kissed pep rock. “A huge contributing factor to the new sound is Alex Greenwald has sequestered himself in his house for years learning how to record music in a slightly unconventional way,” Berg says. “He kind of stumbled on something that sounded new to me, and if something sounds like something I haven’t heard before, it’s something I want to do.”
The whole experience is personified by the single “I’m In Love With My Life,” an unabashed ode to joy that came together by accident. “We were at Alex’s house, and Jason yelled something from the kitchen, and Alex stood up and said, ‘Did you just say I’m in love with my life?'” Berg explains. “And Jason said, ‘No, I was saying something about olives!’ Then Alex proceeded to sing that phrase over everything we worked on over the next few days, until finally he put it to that track and we realized that it kind of works. That was the last song we worked on for the record. Once we had that weird tagline, it became a bit of a mantra and an encapsulation of the feeling of making the record. I have never in my life written any song that has any tinge of positivity in it, let alone a positive message. There’s a fair amount of sadness and heartbreak and regret on this record, but there’s also a positivity and an excitement and a joy about life that I previously thought impossible.”
For Life doesn’t arrive in stores until next Friday, Sept. 18, but you can stream the entire album thanks to EW’s exclusive premiere below.