For many, this past Valentine’s day meant chocolates, candy, flowers, explaining why you don’t like Valentine’s day, drinking one’s sorrows away, or all of the above.

For the members of the Oakland-based band Phosphene — Rachel Frankel, Matt Hemmerich and Kevin Kaw — all of February 14, 2015 was spent at Different Fur Studios in San Francisco, recording a new track for an EP to be released later this year.

“At least this gift is lasting,” said Frankel, the band’s vocalist and guitarist.

A quiet but audible “ouch” is the response from Hemmerich, followed by a laugh. Frankel and Hemmerich, the band’s drummer, met while attending San Francisco State and have been dating since 2010. They began creating music together not long after.

Kaw’s entrance as the band’s bassist/guitarist is less romantic, though that depends on your views about a chance meeting in line at a venue. Hemmerich and Kaw met in fall of 2013 while waiting in line for a songwriting and composition workshop featuring Aaron Dessner and Matt Berninger of The National.

“We were the only two people [in line],” said Hemmerich.

“I thought they were going to line up,” said Kaw.

“Same,” said Hemmerich, “I thought it was going to be crazy so I skipped work, and then huh, just one man to beat. So we just started talking.” The talking turned into rehearsals with Kaw and eventually asking him to join the band.

Phosphene has had iterations where they were two, three and four members, but as of now, the trio finds there are benefits to remaining smaller.

“It encourages us to experiment,” said Kaw. “To figure out ways to get different sounds to make it fuller. Four people is nice, but three can make it full with effect pedals or reverb and delay, depends.”

In the simplest terms, Phosphene can be described as meshing a dark dream-pop with shoegaze, though the band’s music also shows numerous influences including folk, indie and post-rock — a combination of the member’s overlap in musical interests.

2014 was a good but intense year for the band. They released their first LP, played shows throughout the year around the Bay Area and created a music video. They also won free studio time from the Converse Rubber Tracks program which led to the release of their most indie-pop song, “Silver,” a song decidedly more upbeat than those off their LP. “Silver,” while maintaining the hazy glaze that holds the band’s music together, is a tight dream-pop song that is perfect for a spring mix. The band’s approach to the song was different than the songs on their self-titled album.

“There was a different mentality. For ‘Silver’ it was a one-day thing. We just focused on that song,” said Hemmerich. “For our first record, it was four days to track and do vocals and overlays and mix for 9 songs. That was nuts, but that was all we had in our budget. We are really glad we did it and we’re so happy the songs came out, but I think we want to take it a little slower.”

Taking it slower in 2015 includes working on a five-song EP, including “Silver,” and hopefully organizing the band’s first tour. Even a small tour up the Northwest will take a significant amount of organization, including booking venues, finding bands to play with and places to stay, as well as coordinating time-off in their full-time work schedules. The band members note that they are fans of calculated risks, and that extends to tour planning.

“We want to avoid playing for 10 people,” said Hemmerich.

“It’s good to get your soul crushed a little bit, but I think not like a massive amount,” he adds and laughs.

About The Author

Katie is the Music Editor at OL. She's a music geek, culture junkie, massive A's fan, and Oakland native. When she was six, she stood for five minutes with a felt pennant stuck under Chris Mullin’s armpit. Check out her Oakland music listings at, follow on twitter/instagram as @craziesthawk, or contact at

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