Diamond Nights

Singer/Guitarist/songwriter Morgan Phalen from Diamond Nights is interviewed by Zac Slack at Crossfire.

NYC has had its fair share of cool bands over the years and there is always room for one more. We welcome Diamond Nights to the zine as their debut album Popsicle is a taster of some very classic rock albums to come.

They take influences from bands such as Thin Lizzy, Black Sabbath, Reo Speedwagon and even Billy Idol creating a wonderfully warm retro pop rock sound that will take you back to the 70’s and 80’s but propel you into the future of rock and roll at the same time.

Singer/Guitarist/songwriter Morgan Phalen got up and spoke to Zac as soon as he emerged from his bed..

Full name please mister:

Morgan Lewis Phalen sir…

Where are you at right now?

I’m in NYC right now. We just got off tour for 6 weeks around the US and are trying to detox a little bit! Haha!

Aha, so you like to get a little saucy when you are on the road then or is it force of habit?

Well, actually it’s an actual tool of the trade!

So what’s your poison then?

Anything that is put in front of me really, I’m not that picky! I guess I have my limits but I have to watch out for anything that is gonna wreck my vocal chords but other than worrying about the next show. I don’t worry about the big picture that much…as long as we have a good time, that’s all we care about. On this tour we have played in front of varied crowds. Sometimes a few hundred people, others a handful, but as long as we are all happy then that is all that counts.

How long have Diamond Nights been together?

This line up has been together for about a year and a half. The project itself and the songs have been about 3 years. I started off with just a drummer and we played together for a while. We used to play out with just the two of us all the time.

Like the White Stripes set up?

Yeah. They seem to pull it off; but we were never really able to get it off the ground. We recorded stuff but nobody was really interested until we had a full line up, it didn’t really gel until we got a lead guitarist and the bass player we have now. We were just called Diamonds back then, but there was a doo-wop band from the 50’s called The Diamonds that had that song “Little Darling”? Morgan starts singing this track …and we needed to change it because of that.

So why Diamonds?

Well, Diamonds are cool, night time is cool, so there you go, no really deep meaning, it just stuck.

Where did you all meet?

The drummer and I went to high school together in Massachusetts. We had nothing to do in a small town and we played music there. He moved to NYC and then I moved there to, Rob in the band was also from Massachusetts and I knew him from back in the day and the lead guitarist we knew through friends of friends of friends in NYC.

What is the average age of the band?

Mid to late 20’s

Explain your sound?

Well, if you took rock radio from the past 30 years and kinda mushed it together into some kind of alien transmission from another dimension….it’s kind of like lost rock for another era. We try to make music that reflects our collections as we are record nerds I guess, so we pick up on stuff from Thrift stores and do our own thing around what we pick up. We have an appetite for music, getting it for free or on the cheap, we pick up all the cheapest old stuff no one wants!

Aha, you sound like the kind of guys who love turning up to a party with a bag of 7″s in a bag and playing a selection of different stuff…

Well, yeah, our drummer is a DJ. Personally, I’m the kind of guy that I think most people would not really be satisfied with hearing my tastes! I’m a closet DJ, I like to DJ in private haha!

What bands influenced you growing up?

Well, let’s start with Moondog. He was a blind street musician from New York who was classically trained at a blind school and would dress up as a Viking and perform with shakers and bells. He has made a bunch of orchestral pieces in his life and one of his songs was sampled recently by Mr Scruff on Ninja Tune. To me, he wrote perfect little pop songs, one line of vocals repeated over and over again etc…another fave record is from Steve Reich “Music for 18 Musicians” and these records have influenced me along the way.

What about new bands?

Well, I prefer old bands and tunes if I’m honest but we mentioned the White Stripes back then so I like those guys and also Interpol…

Your debut album is a corker. How did the production on this record come about because it’s very warm sounding but crisp when it wants to be?

Well, the record label (Kemado) we are signed to here in the US have a recording studio set up much like Motown used to have and we recorded the album there with a producer/engineer in house and we all did it together. We used 2 inch tape so that is where the warmth comes from, I’m glad you noticed that as that is exactly what we wanted to get across in the sound. We used a lot of old fashioned gear; we love the romance of recording and I think we got what we set out to do.

What is the oldest tune and the newest tune on the album?

Destination Diamonds, the track the album kicks off with is the oldest and the track Kiss and Tell nearer the back of the album is the newest. The label puts the records together and we like to make sure we give them as much as possible and write a lot of tunes so we have loads of stuff backed up ready for future recording sessions.

Another classic track from your debut album is Dirty Thief; did you have your top off and a medallion on when you sang it in the studio?

Haha! Nah, but the vocal on that tune is different to the others, I guess it’s a big track and to be honest it has been picked up by people in the UK much more than here in the US.

Who do people say you look like Morgan?

Well, it’s funny you asked. I was out the other day and someone said I looked like Tony Hawk which was strange! It’s the long hair I guess.

Do you guys skate at all?

We always have a skateboard in the back of the van, our drummer’s board in fact and we have all had skateboards at some point in our lives. My brother is a good skater, he lives in California but he is not a pro yet.

What was your first board?

Er….it was a Tony Alva set up, really nice to cruise around on.

So, i hear a European tour is imminent?

I think we will be touring the UK throughout October and November,; it’s great to travel so we are looking forward to it.

Lastly, do you believe that pain is invisible?

Well, yeah, i guess it is in some ways. We all have to go through that barrier at some point in our lives if we are skating or being in a band full time i suppose that if you don’t go through it at some point, you are doing something wrong. Generally though, the best always get through the other side and that is what makes us all tick.

Wanna say thanks to anyone?

Yep, Mom and Dad!

Check out Diamond Nights debut album Popsicle released on Kemado Records on September 5th. Check for all info and more.