Today we are featuring Newphasemusic’s cover of Indigo Girls “GO” featuring Jana Cushman of Darkswoon. Both artists come from the Pacific Northwest, specifically Portland where there is a strong and unique industrial and electronic scene happening. These influences obviously come to the fore on this dynamic cover. Just in time for tomorrow’s election the song takes a strong stance against corporate interests and voter suppression, with lines like “grandma was a suffragette” from the original lyrics sounding even more urgent on a day like today. Jana absolutely owns these vocals, with the backdrop of crashing and stomping drums, punchy synths, and smart atmospheric production accenting her intensity. Newphasemusic should be an artist to watch going forward, the way they merge modern and retro themes with visceral hooks is an example of what the very best electronic music has to offer. Below is our interview with Daniel Henderson of Newphasemusic and Jana Cushman, stream the new track here:
Hi guys, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?
DH: It’s definitely been interesting. Fortunately I can work from home.
JC: As well as can be given the times we are living in. Keeping very busy back in school this fall. My pre covid life revolved around live music so within the wake of this past time, I’m back in school working on a music degree.
From all the songs out there, why did you choose to cover Indigo Girl’s “Go”?
DH: I saw The Indigo Girls at the Oregon Zoo last year. They played “Go” and it was relevant and important, and it occurred to me that it could be a cool song to cover. Jana popped into my head before I left the venue as someone who could do a good job on vocals, and they also played guitar—two components I needed. Fast forward one chaotic year after I released an EP and I finally asked Jana—they said yes, and we were off! My hunch about their vocals were right on, and I was pleasantly surprised to learn why.
JC: When Daniel asked me to be a part of this cover, I was really excited about the opportunity. I grew up singing the Indigo Girls with my Mom and sister. As a queer kid growing up in the conservative midwest, I felt empowered and inspired by them. It’s a good example of why visibility is so important and life saving. Having queer idols like the Indigo Girls gave me a vision of life where I could be true to myself and thrive instead of just trying to survive.
How did you go on balancing the original with your own take?
DH: I knew it was going to be a pretty radical departure. Newphasemusic is more of an electronic industrial project so I wanted to put more energy into it. It was inherently going to be different and knowing that made it fun, but I did want to remain true to the vocals. Jana grew up singing The Indigo Girls songs after all, and their melodies and lyrics matter so much to so many people. I did take some liberties with the drums, arrangement and music bed, though, and left a lot of room for loud guitars.
JC: I wanted to honor the original while still keeping true to my own style. I really had a lot of fun recording the guitar-I felt like stylistically I had a bit more freedom to rock out.
How was the recording and writing process?
JC: Socially distanced! (Sending files back and forth)
DH: Yeah, all virtual. Very iterative. I tracked bass, some synth ideas and some scratch guitars and sent it to Jana to give them an idea of what I was thinking. Jana sent some scratch vocal and guitar tracks, I gave input, they sent other tracks. Then I spent a month making things sound good. We both were breaking in new recording set-ups too, so we were growing in that way as well.
What was it like to work with Jana Cushman and how did the relationship develop?
DH: Oh, it was great! I believe I first met them at a show I played in early 2019 and we were acquaintances after that. Funny enough, the last show I saw before covid closed everything was a Darkswoon show, and we enjoyed some conversation together with a mutual friend. It was Jana’s voice that I heard in my head tackling “Go”, and they had the guitar chops as well. I was already a fan and really enjoyed getting to know them better as we worked, which was a highly enjoyable experience and honor in itself.
JC: Daniel and I didn’t know each other very well at the beginning of this project but we always had good conversations when we’d see each other out in pre covid times. There is a foundation of mutual artistic respect and Daniel has been a great supporter of my music. I felt really honored to work with him and felt like he applied a lot of patience in the process while I scrambled to get him my contributions while juggling a lot of personal life events. Throughout the process, I know I’ve made a good friend. And I’m sure we’ll work together again in the future.
What did they bring to the table?
DH: An extremely emotive vocal style, a deep and dark musical ethos, intriguing guitar work, and the ability to capture it. As this was a hybrid of both our styles, I conveyed what I was after, we discussed, and after a few rounds Jana just made it happen. When I got Jana’s lead guitar tracks I was ecstatic! They took it up a notch for sure.
Do you tend to take a different approach when you are collaborating with someone else rather than working on your own?
JC: Definitely-I think I spend a bit more time doubting myself when I have others to please. I write Darkswoon material by myself and although it comes to judgment when I bring the music to my band, there is something that feels a little more vulnerable in a collaboration.
DH: I produce, arrange, perform and engineer in Newphasemusic but I have placeholders for guests across my song catalog. I start with a demo of my vision. With collaboration comes professional courtesy to let the guest do what they do. I do aim to offer collaborators something just a little outside their comfort zone—from a producer standpoint, it adds excitement and edge that I hope to capture. “Go” was heavier than Jana usually goes, and more melodic than I usually go—and that’s where the energy happened. Then I iteratively reshape the track around what I receive. The end result is something new. The target moves, in a good way.
What role does Portland play in your music?
DH: I love this city, first off. But besides that, I played drums for a while in the middle of New York State and just couldn’t get much traction. I move out to Oregon to go back to school with the intent to work on Newphasemusic on the side, but managed to procure my dream position in a Cure Tribute—the first gig being Convergence 13, the traveling goth music convention. Since then I’ve performed with many great bands, toured the west coast 5 times, and now have launched Newphasemusic.
JC: I’m not sure anymore! I moved to this city to play music and still haven’t made it into the cool kids club but I love this city and all the creativity here. I think that I’ve found a good musical home in the scene here in Portland.
Does the new single mean we can expect new material—how’s that coming along?
DH: Yes! “Go” was a one-off to raise money for Rock The Vote, but I already have another album in the works. It will be less industrial, so “Go” was actually a nice trial for what I have in mind.
Any tentative release date or title in mind?
DH: The Dark Side of the Earth. I hope to start dropping advance singles off of that pretty soon, and hope that the album could be out at some point in 2022. You heard it here first…
What else is happening next in Newphasemusic’s world?
DH: In addition to working on the new album, I am also continuing to promote The Precedents of the United States of America EP which came out in July—proceeds from that benefit the ACLU. A remix album of the EP would be awesome if I can make that happen. As for live performance, I didn’t have anything lined up before covid hit and I need a live line-up and a vaccination first, so it will be a while. Jana, what about you?
JC: Darkswoon is recording our sophomore album this winter and I hope that when the city opens back up to live music, we’ll be able flourish here again. Everything is on hold but there is hope for the future and a new found appreciation for all the things in life we’ve had to do without. I can’t wait to get back out there.