Los Angeles is famous for its bands pushing the envelope, and Phavian is definitely a collective ready to set your imagination in flight. The musical artistry found within is absolutely intriguing, progressive rock with metal and acoustic elements taking the listener on a sonic journey well beyond the City of Angels. Their latest magnum opus is entitled Meridian II, the second installment of a projected four part epic. Imagine Opeth or Porcupine Tree with an enchanted female vocalist and you are only beginning to envision the stunning wonders Phavian has in store for the listener. Here is an interview we conducted with drummer Patrick Hassani to find out more about the captivating world of Phavian. Read on…
Introduce yourself, tell me what you do in Phavian, and how long the band has been together.
Hi, I’m Patrick, the drummer and manager for Phavian. We have been gigging for close to five years now.
What do you think of the local Los Angeles music scene and how does Phavian fit into the scheme of things?
The music scene here in Los Angeles is strange to say the least. On one hand, you have the world’s biggest names come through, there are shows every night, and there are tons of venues to play. On the other hand, you have a music scene that has been so saturated and over done that the local scene is struggling to survive.
Phavian has a particularly strange place within the LA scene. Prog music doesn’t really exist here in Los Angeles and so we’ve been doing everything we can to help build the scene. But in that quest we’ve run into quite a few obstacles. We’re too metal for some shows. We’re not metal enough for other shows. We’re too big for some venues. We’re too small for other venues.
Most people think that Sunset Strip is like a haven for local bands, but if you spend any time as a local band here you would quickly find that isn’t true. All of the big names (The Whiskey, The Roxy, House of Blues, etc) all strongly believe in the Pay-to-Play ideology, and that KILLS local bands. I can’t even begin to count the number of offers we have received to play any of those venues where they want us to sell 80 tickets at $15 to play a half hour set to an empty house. There are a lot of bands that continue to feed into the system, but we’ve made a point of not doing it ourselves. Instead we find the venues that like to work WITH us. As a result we both end up with big crowds and money in our pockets. To me, that’s a much better idea than shelling out $1,200 to play to only the fans that we bring ourselves.
Are there any local bands you could recommend?
Absolutely! You can check out Zookeeper’s Palace (http://www.zookeeperspalace.com/), Lucid Fly (http://www.lucidfly.com/), Schwarzenator (https://www.facebook.com/SchwarzenatorMusic), Ashentide (http://www.ashentide.com/), and many, many more. If you look at any of our show lineups you’ll find some good bands. I actually book the lineup for all of our shows, and I only like to pick bands that I like personally.
Is there any story or concept behind the Meridian II title?
You bet. Meridian II is actually the second part in a four part concept. It continues the story left off in Meridian I, and follows our main character in his quest for revenge and world domination. For a more in depth and poetic description, you can always go to our website (http://www.phavian.com/albums/meridian-ii/). But for those of you in a rush, it’s an album full of raging storms, revenge, hatred, death, and the end of the world.
Select two songs from Meridian II and what inspired the lyrics.
As I mentioned before, all of the songs are part of a concept, but I’ll talk about two of my favorites. “Adam’s Ale,” the opening track, starts with a small child finding our main character that has been hiding out since the end of Meridian I. It gives you some insight into what he has been doing.
“Purl,” although sparse in lyrics, actually gives you a quick preview into where our character’s head is now. At this point he has been beaten, bruised, and ruined. He only has thoughts of revenge now, and this song is essentially where he turns evil.
Who produced Meridian II and what was it like working with them?
We actually produced Meridian II, and all of the albums in this quad album release, ourselves. However, we did work with engineers along the way who need to be thanked for their valued input, hard work, and helping us make all of this a reality. Those engineers are Charlie Park (Recording Engineer), Nicholas Zagorin (Recording Engineer), and Assen Stoyanov (Mixing Engineer). All three of them really did a great job helping us take on a project that turned out to be much more difficult than any of us had anticipated. Thanks guys!
Elizabeth Matson has a stunning voice! What is her vocal background and has she had any formal vocal training?
She does indeed! Elizabeth has been singing for her whole life. She’s also been formally trained both through private lessons and school – she even graduated from LMU with a degree in vocal performance.
What could one expect from Phavian show?
That really depends on if you come to an electric or acoustic show. Our electric shows are heavier, full of head banging, and much louder! Our acoustic shows are much more intimate, quirky, and quiet. But in both cases, we do our best to entertain our audience both aurally and visually. It’s never fun to see a band that just stands in one place and doesn’t interact with you. At any given point you can find any one of us rocking out and making funny faces at you. We also like to hang out before and after our performances. The audience is the reason we can do what we do, so we like to come around and try to make friends with as many of them as possible. So, if you’re ever at a Phavian show, come up and talk to us!
What kind of touring have you do so far?
We’ve done two tours so far. Our first was up the west coast of the USA. The second was the southwest. However, now we’re gearing up for a 3-month long tour. This summer is going to have us covering almost everything west of the Mississippi, and a little bit east of it as well.
If you could open up for any band either now or from the past, who would it be and why?
If we had to pick a single band, it would probably be Opeth. They are easily our biggest influence and some of our biggest heroes. Plus, I think Mikael Akerfeldt is one of the funniest people on the face of the planet. If you’re reading this Mikael, have Phavian open for you. It’s a guaranteed laugh for every single joke you crack on tour!
Who did the cover art for Meridian II and how much input did you have on it?
The very talented Matthew Hill did the artwork for both Meridian I and Meridian II. The concept for both of them was ours. We did our best to explain it to him, and then he knocked both of them out of the park. We really only had to give a little bit of input to him, most of which was just little bits of detail like, “Yes, we do like those awesome gargoyles you put on the tops of all the pillars.”
As far you know, will there be a Meridian III?
There will not be a Meridian III. Instead, the next two albums in the series will be called Inversion and Stretta. They will continue the concept started by Meridian I and II.
Are you involved with any other bands or music projects outside of Phavian?
Most of us are involved with a few other projects on the side. Jason plays bass as a hired gun and in a few other groups (Foxy and the Sound, Leah Finkelstein). Elizabeth performs in choirs and as a hired gun. Puyan has been working on some non-Phavian material that we will all hopefully see in the near future. I write music that falls all over the map – gypsy folk, orchestral pieces, more prog tunes. Like Puyan, I hope to release some of that in the very near future.
What is it you’d like a listener to remember the most when hearing your music for the first time?
The first time you listen to Phavian, or any prog band really, is that you need to come at it with open ears and give it time to sink in. Most of the tunes are built to have depth, and as a result it’s hard to understand it all in the first listen. Take the time to sit down and do nothing but listen to your music. Your iPhone speaker won’t ever do any prog song, Phavian related or not, justice.
What’s up next for Phavian?
As I mentioned earlier, this summer we will be doing a three month tour throughout the United States. And when we return from that, we will be focusing on releasing Inversion. Things move quickly in Phavian-land.
Any final words of wisdom?
Please support independent music! That means going out to shows, buying CDs, and telling your friends. A lot of music lovers don’t realize that without the budgets that a huge record label brings, we rely on them to help spread the word. When you purchase our albums, come to our shows, or tell your friends to listen to us, you’re giving us a chance to succeed. As much as we try to do it ourselves, you, the fans, are the only way we can survive!
Elizabeth Matson – Vocals
Puyan Hassani – Guitar
Rob Cubillos – Guitar
Jason Lobell – Bass
Patrick Hassani – Drums
(Interview by Kenneth Morton)
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