St. Phillips Escalator is on the verge of releasing their long-anticipated sophomore album, The Derelict Sound. What’s more – it’s coming out on vinyl on Record Store Day. NYS Music met up with members of the Rochester-based rock band at Record Archive. It was easy to spot guitarist/vocalist Ryan Moore, with his signature newsboy cap and long sideburns, chatting with drummer Zachary Koch in the Archive’s Backroom Lounge. Friends since childhood, Moore, Koch, and bassist Noel Wilfeard were just out of their teens when they recorded their debut album Endless Trip with the help of members of garage rock revivalists The Chesterfield Kings. The 2015 EP Elevation was highly praised, with the one criticism that it was too short and left a reviewer wanting more. Now they’re just about ready to deliver.
Paula Cummings: Tell me about your single “New Age.” Why did you choose this as your first release off the new album?
Ryan Moore: We have a heavier psychedelic sound to the other songs and this one was a little catchy. It’s one of my favorite songs on the album, I think.
Zachary Koch: We wrote it starting with the beat – it was an early Doors’ first record kind of beat – and based it around that with minor chords. It just came together. But the style definitely references them (The Doors).
PC: The single comes from the sessions for The Derelict Sound. How did you choose the album title?
ZK: We just sat down and had a talk one day when we were making some plans. We were really trying to think of what would represent the record. We’ve been together for years now and we reference music from different eras – modern and vintage – but it’s not understood by many people when they first hear it. It’s a derelict sound, an unused kind of overlooked sound… dusted.
PC: What was the writing process like compared to your previous works, the first album a decade ago and the EP two years ago?
ZK: As far as the way we write the songs, I don’t think it’s changed much since the beginning. Maybe somebody has a fully baked song or if it’s just a riff then we’ll work it out at practice.
RM: We usually know if a song works for our sound right away. We only just give it a couple tries with some because it’s like beating a dead horse with some. We’re like, “That would have been great but we know it wouldn’t work.”
ZK: We build on it together. It’s a collaborative process. Sometimes a single idea comes to the group and we know it works right away. We’ll get inspired with a song first and then play with it. We always had the power trio and blues thing happening, and on this we tried to bring it more into the psych genre.
RM: I would say this is a little bit darker.
ZK: The songs fit together well. We had 13 songs, but we cut it down to ten because some of them just didn’t fit that vision. They’re still good songs but just didn’t fit the feel we wanted for this one.
PC: How has your music matured over the years?
ZK: We have more life experience, so the content is different from our first record. We were just coming out of our teens. And now there’s more life experience. I have some political lyric writing. Ryan’s lived in New York and so has Noel, so we all have different life experience that go into the writing. I think the music process has been the same, but maybe back then it was a little unhinged, like “Let’s write and play” without having an idea first. It was fun. It’s always fun, but there’s more goal-setting. But the writing process, that’s the same. It’s always just fun at the heart of it all.