Phillip Luna is a San Antonian, a multi-instrumentalist and a visual artist who has been active in the community for nearly three decades. He has fronted the hardcore/hard-rock band Worm, the psychedelic goth-grunge outfit 1.0 and the space-rock group Shit City Dream Girls. He plays, or has played, in such bands as Royal Punisher, Fear Snakeface, Whiskey Ships, Physics and Garrett T. Capps and the Only Hipsters. If you’re keeping score at home, you can see that his musical work spans a wide variety of genres and finds him collaborating with a diverse array of local talent.
But the 41-year-old father of three is far from finished. His latest, and arguably his greatest, project the Please Help finds Luna relaxing into a kind of comfort within chaos, at peace with the unrest and longing that attend all of our lives. “The Please Help is a total 180 for me, with a personal and positive spin,” Luna tells the Current over the phone. “Well mostly positive,” he corrects himself, before explaining that with the band’s debut record he wants to “share and explore universal themes of love and alienation and outer space, or our desire to be in other worlds.” It’s an ambition in stark contrast to the emotionally dark and “really aggressive” nature of much the other material produced by Luna-led groups.
The four-piece’s debut record, which Luna aims to fully release in July, is a luxurious romp through friendly ’90s rock territory, with frayed and grungy edges slightly smoothed by simple and infectious pop flourishes. It’s an album, as fully evidenced on lead single “What I’m Hoping,” of human longing and star-gazing, and the exhausting exhilaration that occurs in combination with these two states. It is also a record possessed of great song-to-song diversity of tone and style, with some more clearly upbeat and rollicking tracks that take their cues from pop punk and classic garage rock, while other tracks have a faint glimmer of some undiscovered shoegaze shout-along act.
Luna, unsurprised by this observation when I bring it up, explains that the songs were written over the course of a few years and all “come from very different mental places and inspirations.” While not necessarily an overt attempt at diversity, he does concede that “the Please Help will probably never have a neatly unified genre or style.” All in all, on this first album, the process works exceedingly well and the effort gains points for its sheer eclecticism. Luna is a man content to follow his muse wherever she leads him and, with the Please Help, she seems to be leading him towards the light.
After our conversation drifts through the band’s plans to release a condensed EP version of the record some time in March (in time for SXSW) and their intentions to tour behind the album over the summer, I can’t resist asking such a veteran of the scene what he sees as some of the best and worst things about the state of local music. Admirably hesitant to say a disparaging word, Luna finally relents that he has noticed that “there’s not a huge population of fully committed artists who won’t compromise or cut themselves short, which is ultimately a terrible thing for fans. Maybe it’s a confidence complex.”
As far as the good stuff, he gushes that “in the past three years the scene has exploded with some great new venues and bands.” We certainly don’t disagree. Luna went on to add that the folks who will help SA reach its musical potential will “commit to figuring out how to do things for [themselves] and accept that [they] are on a learning adventure.”
Check out the video for “What I’m Hoping,” produced in association with Noah Peterson at Peterson Entertainment, on sacurrent.com and see the Please Help do their thing live at The Ten Eleven on Saturday. Joining them on this harmonious bill are like-minded emotive pop-rockers The Rosedale Highs and one of my favorite relative newcomers to the local scene, the jangly garage-pop outfit Islands & Tigers.
The Please Help feat Islands & Tigers, The Rosedale Highs and Octahedron
9pm Sat, Feb 22
The Ten Eleven
1011 Ave B