Who’s That Girl?: A Conversation with Britta Phillips
The lady plays the bass. The lady sings. The lady writes. Britta Phillips is a force to be reckoned with. Originally joining the lineup of the band Luna in 2000 on bass guitar, Phillips would go on to marry and (to this day) fruitfully collaborate artistically with (Galaxie 500 co-founder) and husband, Dean Wareham.
Luna was formed in 1991 and remained active until a farewell tour in 2005. Things lay fallow for a good amount of time for the group, during which time Phillips and Wareham would release three full-length records together as Dean & Britta, and form their own imprint Double Feature records.
In 2014, Dean Wareham announced via Twitter that Luna would reunite for a tour of Spain in 2015, to be followed by US dates. Those dates have come and gone and Chicago is about to get a second shot to say farewell to Luna (and it’s a double dip to boot).
I recently interviewed Britta Phillips about her enchanting and sexy solo debut Luck Or Magic. Out on Double Feature, Luck Or Magic’s 10 songs are evenly split between 5 original compositions and 5 covers. I ask her about that, but may have snuck in a Luna question or two…and there may be a STUNNING kernel in there about a covers record?! Happy reading.
The Minimal Beat: Can you tell me more about how you came to choose the covers to record and appear on Luck or Magic?
Britta: Scott Hardkiss suggested so many covers for me. The two that ended up on my album are, “Landslide” and “Drive.” I never would have selected either of them (songs) as I tend to cover more obscure tracks, but I’m really glad I gave them a shot as I’m really happy with the way they turned out. “Wrap Your Arms Around Me” was suggested by another friend, Chris Hollow, from the Australian band The Sand Pebbles. I love ABBA but had never heard any of Agnatha’s solo songs. I decided to demo it and really liked how it turned out. The other two songs, “One Fine Summer Morning” and “Fallin’ In Love” are songs that I fell in love with the first time I heard them (almost 10 years ago) and have been in heavy rotation since. I recorded “Fallin’ In Love” for a label in Taiwan as a split 7” with Dean on the other side. They’d been asking for years if we had any extra tracks lying around and I finally just decided to record something new to go along with an outtake of Dean’s from his solo album (a cover of Robyn Hitchcock’s song, “Love”). You should definitely check out the original versions of “One Fine Summer Morning,” “Wrap Your Arms Around Me” and “Fallin’ In Love” (there are actually 3 versions of this, one by Dennis Wilson, one by the Beach Boys and one by Brian Wilson’s wife’s band, American Spring, which was the first version I heard).
TMB: It is very nice to see some of your collaborations with Scott Hardkiss on the LP, I am curious how far back some of the recorded material from the record dates? When did Sean (Eden, of Luna) lay down his guitar swells for “Ingrid Superstar?”
Britta: Scott and I started working together in early 2012. We didn’t have a lot of time together since we were both very busy with other projects (I was recording and touring with Dean), but we found a few weeks here and there in the year we had. That was the last bit recorded for my album. I sent Sean the track when I was in the studio with Eric Broucek for a month to finish my album in June 2015.
TMB: As an aside, the record sounds seamless, bravo on knitting together such a serene, beautiful record. I adore “Do It Last” – thank you – Is the song at all autobiographical? Who is it sung to?
Britta: Thank you! “Do It Last” is my favorite song/track. My songs are all a bit autobiographical with some poetic license. It is sung to Dean, but those sentiments are nothing I’ve ever expressed or ever would express in real life. Possessive and proprietary feelings that are rather embarrassing or “uncool”. I wanted to give them a glamorous life in song. To make them fun and sexy and a little badass.
TMB: I’m in Chicago, excited to see a 2nd go-round of the reunited Luna, are there plans beyond 2016 for the band?
Britta: No more touring plans right now, but we definitely will be doing more shows in the future.
TMB: Can fans expect another Dean & Britta record? A new LUNA record?
Britta: No plans for a new Dean & Britta record right now. I’ve been recording with Dean on a new project of his, though, and Luna has been recording a bunch of covers which will turn into an album, I’m sure.