The Saturday Giant – Phil Cogley

by Faith Bennett
Though Phil Cogley has been making music “as long as he can remember” and has performed in multiple bands, he best captures his creativity as a solo artist. Even amidst touring and working on his fourth release as The Saturday Giant, Cogley was willing to talk a little about his work and upcoming show at Burro Bar.
The Saturday Giant’s last EP, When Death Comes, is a five song lament for the losses of his friend as well as his grandmother. The most obvious comparison to make is to alt-hip hop group Why’s 2009 release, Eskimo Snow, but it’s something Andrew Bird fans could easily latch onto as well. Bells and handclaps make appearances, adding to the more eclectic sound. Cogley has said that the most important thing to know about his music is that nothing is pre-recorded. All of the instruments on the album are played by Cogley and he plays them all during his live shows, looping the sound on stage to keep it from feeling impersonal.
Explaining his beginnings Cogley says “I don’t know if I’ve ever not been making music,” and laughs before stating that his guitar lessons started in the fifth grade. “I think when I started playing guitar is when I started singing. Of course I wasn’t very good I’ve never had any formal singing training so I’ve just had to learn what works for my voice.” It’s been quite awhile since he left fifth grade and naturally his talent for singing and playing instruments has improved since. “When I was five a family friend told my mom that ‘Phil could learn anything if you put it to music,” a partial explanation of his aptitude at learning not only to play guitar, piano, and sing himself but also to learn the art of recording. Learning new instruments “came about naturally, I think most musicians would say that once you learn your first instrument all subsequent instruments are easier. I wouldn’t say that I’m incredibly accomplished at of all the instruments. I know but I can at least get by.”
When it comes to doing it all himself he says being a bit of a control freak might be a factor. “You know, I like having my way when it comes to how things sound….It’s nice that I don’t have to worry about hurting anybody feelings. In a conventional band you might have someone who’s written a part for a song and it doesn’t really fit, and you kind of have to negotiate between that person’s ego and what’s best for the song. When I’m doing it myself I don’t really have to worry about that, I won’t hurt my own feelings if I don’t get to play a certain instrument on a certain song if it doesn’t make sense.” None of this is to say that he has anything against being in band.”I’ve been in a lot of bands, and I still like playing in bands when I’m home. My friends and I do have a couple of fun bands where we do kind of like a show or two a year maybe. I do like other people, but as far as having a serious music project it can be easy for that kind of thing to get derailed and not everyone be fully committed and I knew that this was something I wanted to do in a serious way, so doing this by myself was a good way to control that.”
Touring is another thing that’s greatly simplified by being a solo artist. The Saturday Giant is currently on a five and a half week tour now, and has a few more short tours coming before the year ends. He is spending a total of twenty weeks on the road this year “which if you think about it, twenty weeks out of fifty two isn’t that much, even though it feels like a lot sometimes.” It is a lot when you cover a great deal of the continental US, which he is. “It’s hard not to have your own bed and not to have a refrigerator and not have many of the amenities you’re used to, but it’s a compromise, it’s a risk worth taking for the experience.” Much of Cogley’s influences come from live music he himself is able to see, especially Columbus peers such as Dollfish and Sleepfleet. He himself also seeks to create a memorable experience in his live shows. Cogley thinks not using pre-recorded loops preserves the more visceral part of songwriting and music making rather than coming off coldly as electronic music.
This may be the last stop in Florida this year for the Saturday Giant, so try to to make the effort to see him at Burro Bar this month. Even if he does come back you’ll have had a good introduction, if his live performances videos are YouTube are any indicator, he should do pretty well here.
Saturday the Giant plays at Burro Bar on Sunday July 21st with Edenfield at Burro Bar, 100 E. Adams Street, downtown Jacksonville.