Donovan Days is the newest project from Philadelphia artist and musician Donovan Phillips, formerly known as ialive. As a long-standing member of the left-leaning Alternative Rap scene, we find him trading samplers and sharp-tongued Rhymes for fuzzed out guitars, swirling effects, and meandering melodies. The self-titled debut showcases his production with live instrumentation and sugary vocals that feel simultaneously familiar and unique. While often knocking about in the hazy nether regions of mixed genre, we see Donovan Days go full-tilt, experimenting with Psychedelic Garage Rock, Electronic Pop, and upbeat Punky Art Rock.
“I’ve always just been driven by music that can move me emotionally,” explains Donovan about his new album. That emotion is carried by driving melodies and riffs that go from hypnotic to head-nodding. With the high hopes of the return of live music, the plan is to take the songs on the road, but what that looks like is yet to be determined. “I’m not proficient at any instrument. I would need to include a band to bring these songs to life,” he confesses. Until then, Donovan is continuing the writing, experimenting, and treading new territory best as he knows how.
“I have been imagining this musical shift for myself for the past few years. I’ve felt boxed in by genre and creatively stifled by the rigidity people tend to group music into. I needed to change to continue. Donovan Days is definitively my own perspective as an aging artist, but above all, this album is about transition. It is experimental by nature. The songs reflect my fears and excitement of jumping into something new as an adult, spending time there, and being musically honest with myself.”
What compelled you to shift focus from your Hip-Hop fuelled music as ialive to your newly-minted Experimental Psych-Rock project, Donovan Days?
I have been imagining this musical shift for myself for the past few years. I’ve felt boxed in by genre and creatively stifled by the rigidity people tend to group music into. I needed to change to continue. Also, the elements I was interested in experimenting with were devoid of actual rapping and more lived in the production and song-writing.
I would say your last couple projects as ialive – primarily TIMEWAVE ZERO with Height Keech, Don’t Do Nothing, and I’ll Wait Forever- were vaguely Psych-Rock influenced… but how did you get here, to Donovan Days, musically?
I’m definitely a fan of Psychedelic music and that’s where my most interest is these days. With Donovan Days, I was able to experiment with guitar, bass, synths, and external gear more than I have before. I think, opening those possibilities up gave me a wider scope of where I could go with the music.
What were some of your greatest sources of inspiration and influence while recording Donovan Days’ self-titled debut?
I’m influenced directly by John Dwyer and [Thee] Oh Sees, Brian Eno, Roxy Music, The Kinks, and a lot [of music] coming out on Flightless Records. I think, more indirectly, I’m inspired by ideas that Terrance McKenna talks about, Raine Eisler, and current state of affairs. The biggest influence, I think, is the experimentation that drives the ship.
Did you record, perform, produce, etc. the entirety of Donovan Days by yourself? If so, how was an album inclusion typically created from start to finish?
I always start with a piece of music, which, eventually, works its way into a song. I like to build off of songs that I feel are strong and do things in lumps. It’s a lot of “throwing sh*t at a wall and seeing what sticks.” It’s rarely a fully-realized idea until it’s close to being finished; but once things take shape, I run with it.
Would you mind explaining a bit about the ideology behind the project/album name, Donovan Days, as well as its unique album and single artwork?
Darko [The Super] gave me the name “Donovan Days.” I had started the music and I knew I wanted to use my real name in the title, but I couldn’t figure out how to make it work. Darko asked “what my worst enemy was?” and I replied, “time.” We threw a few examples of time around and alliteration is just a great literary device.
Seeing as Donovan Days’ self-titled debut has now been unleashed into the terribly unsuspecting world, what can we expect next from this new project?
I’m going to continue to promote it with some videos and visuals, but I’m definitely keeping the song-writing going. I hope to release as much music as I can. Once things clear up [with COVID-19], I hope to do some shows and tours.
How exactly did you come about finding Donovan Days’ lone collaborator, The Binary Marketing Show?
[The Binary Marketing Show] (TBMS) are one of my favorite musical groups. I met them through the Already Dead [Tapes & Records] family, but we’ve become close over the past few years and it’s been a great collaborative relationship. Much more from us in the future…
Would you mind explaining a bit about the concept or storyline behind Donovan Days’ premiere music video for album stand-out “GREEN LIGHT?”
I think, the video is less a narrative than it is an aesthetic. I tried to accentuate the frenetic energy of the song and concept with effects and symbolism. Sometimes, with videos, it’s OK to just make things look “cool.”
What can we expect to hear next from your production duo Necessary People with Height Keech?
We have a bunch of releases planned for 2021 that Necessary People are working on, but nothing to announce yet. Definitely check out Cold Rhymes Records to stay in-the-loop.
Now that your ialive moniker has more or less been retired, what can we expect from your groups The Hell Hole Store & Cool Code & Don with Darko The Super & Cody Cody Jones, respectively?
I like to think that “ialive” will “live” in collaboration and production. I’ll continue to do [The Hell Hole Store] (HHS) records with Darko [The Super] and produce for people, but as a solo artist, Donovan Days will be the focus.
Would you mind explaining your specific role behind-the-scenes as part of Height Keech’s Baltimore-based imprint, Cold Rhymes Records?
I help Height with the planning and execution of most releases. He, MISTER, and myself all share duties of making sure things are in order for each release and future plans. I, specifically, help with post production, organizing, artwork, and the [This Cold Rhymes] Podcast.