First started back in 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Grand Rapids indie-rock band Low Phase saw just how much the West Michigan music scene suffered during those difficult times. But by working together with friends, and sharing the love that they have for each other and their music, they hope to lift everyone up, especially following the release of their stellar debut EP, Star Dog, last month.
“I think that this project, and I can only speak for myself right now, but it is the only reason I was able to make it through the pandemic with the least amount of scars I could,” Low Phase lead vocalist/guitarist/songwriter Caleb Waldvogel said.
Made up of Waldvogel, lead guitarist/vocalist Marley Kaye, her brother drummer/percussionist Miles Ferguson, and bassist John Bomer, Low Phase has years of experience despite being a young band.
All of the members first started playing in bands as teenagers, while still in high school in Rockford, and local music fans likely remember Waldvogel’s previous popular indie-folk project Political Lizard, or Kaye’s past touring electronic and indie-pop acts PARTS and Marsfade.
But Low Phase is not quite like anything any of them have done before.
“We’ve all been in a lot of projects already,” Kaye said. “So I think that’s part of (it) too, is just changing sound, changing projects, changing members and finding what feels best out of all of that, and then having to adapt to the change that is the music scene here.”
Growing up in the bustling house shows of the pre-pandemic Grand Rapids music scene, Kaye said the DIY mindset that she saw thrive at that early age left an impression on her as far as what a band can do, by just working together and making things happen on their own.
So coming back from COVID, Low Phase set their sights high, and held each other close, as they faced their shared fears about returning to the live stage.
“My whole life, the reason I got into music or knew it was right for me was that I have always been introverted, but as soon as I get on the stage, that goes away, and I blossom,” Kaye said. “I’ve been told that since I was a kid. There’s like a mystery to that that I don’t fully understand, but it’s very present.”
That social fear and lingering anxiety that crept up on so many during the social isolation of lockdown was alleviated for the members of Low Phase by knowing that they had each other, and they had music.
“There’s something super intimate and vulnerable about being in a band with your best friends,” Waldvogel said about the bond the band shares. “There’s a sort of connection that you wouldn’t get outside of that creative sphere. So we help each other grow as musicians… and just as people.”
With over 30 songs written, and about 10 or so they play live regularly, the band set out to record their debut EP at Planet Sunday Studios, with Joel Ferguson, Miles’ and Marley’s father, producing.
“When we started in our first project, The Great Indoors, I was probably 14, 15 and you see Joel as a god,” Waldvogel said. “You’re like, ‘OK, this man knows everything, and I know nothing. So it is really weird to grow up, and become like peers with him. Almost.’”
For the EP’s release show, Low Phase partnered with two of their other childhood local music idols, Luke Dean of the band Vagabonds, and DIY hardcore production company Free Space Shows, and Jackie Kalmink of Holland indie-rock band The Fever Haze, who played on the bill, and has influenced the band from their earliest days.
“It’s crazy to play alongside of these people that, were, and still are the top dogs in your scene,” Waldvogel said. “You see them as these huge icons in the scene that have been around for a decade, and write some incredible songs. So it’s a really good feeling.”
Looking to tour more, after playing a handful of shows outside the area ahead of the release of Star Dog this summer, Low Phase will play at The Pyramid Scheme Sept. 2, with their sights set on possibly playing SXSW in Austin next March.
“I’ve noticed that it’s definitely changed since COVID,” Kaye said about getting out and touring again. “I think everyone was stuck at home for so long that as soon as venues started hosting shows again, it just became oversaturated with everyone trying to tour at once. And with the music industry in the dire state that it’s in, I think that also adds a layer of making touring harder. So I’m just thankful that we get to do it at all. I’ve missed it a lot.”
“We get to play shows and we get to meet new people, which is the most exciting thing,” Waldvogel added. “One of my favorite David Bowie lyrics is, ‘Never thought I’d meet so many people.’ And I’m like, ‘Oh my God. What a blessing it is to meet these new bands.’”