Posted by Natalie Plumb on 10/04 at 03:09 PM
British Phil songwriter, Mike Doyle, has written over 30 original songs that he would call “fantasy motifs.”
“Every song has a story behind it,” said Phil Davidson, the band’s first manager and the band’s namesake. “All the songs are character references to people.”
For instance, “Big Spoon,” British Phil’s original song with the theme of people with whom, “when in the presence of, one would get naked” is a song that’s “easy for everyone to relate to in some way,” Phil said.
“Everyone’s got that friend they’d get naked with,” he added.
British Phil’s sound can be described as a changing sound, as the band welcomes auxiliary musicians often. The band is influenced by bluegrass, folk, “swamp,” known for “mysterious rock” and for “singing about trolls,” said lead vocalist and acoustic guitarist Doyle. They call it “swamp troll rock.”
British Phil has been a band for three years since their formation at Penn State. Its repertoire does not only include original songs in this individualistic style. In fact, much of its performance Saturday night at Darkhorse Tavern, 128 E. College Ave., consisted of cover songs, including those from Johnny Cash, Barenaked Ladies, Rusted Root, The Grateful Dead, Dave Matthews Band, Sublime, and particularly commendable singles from The Verve (“Bitter Sweet Symphony”) and The Killers (“All These Things That I’ve Done”).
Scott Harris, a senior in integrated arts, said British Phil had a unique style of performing cover songs.
“It’s a lot lighter than other cover bands,” Harris said, adding that the band’s sound was “not hard rock, but more of an indie and alternative rock style.”
Kartik Bajpai, a graduate student in information sciences, seemed to agree, saying the band “made it their own for every song.”
But Bajpai was not all compliments.
“They had the same sound throughout, but I would’ve preferred the cover songs to be played with more of the original releasing band’s style,” Bajpai said.
Doyle, who hand-draws all the cover art for every CD British Phil sells, said their cover style is just another thing unique about British Phil.
“Bass bear,” as he is nicknamed, or bass player, Charlie Nangeroni, said cover songs are a good way to get original songs known, adding that the band’s cover song choices are distinctive.
“We’ve been getting a lot of feedback lately that we’re playing several songs that no one has heard played at a bar before,” said Nangeroni, a senior in public relations.
A song many fans particularly enjoyed because of the rare occasion in which it is played at a bar was Elton John’s “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” said Nangeroni.
Despite arguments among band members about playing it, Doyle, a senior in mechanical engineering, said the song is his favorite.
Bryan Munley, electric guitarist for the band and a senior in energy business and sciences, said the song was a bit out of Doyle’s range and that “the high note gets pitchy.”
But, his criticism is all in good taste, Munley added.
“We’re good friends, we fight, but music brings us together,” he said.
Music certainly brings together Munley and Doyle, who have been jamming together since high school. Drummer Charlie Fisk, on the other hand, is British Phil’s fourth drummer, but he is “so humble and so talented,” Munley said; they want him to stay.
Senior Jim McLaughlin, a science major, singled out Fisk, a junior in physics, as being the most talented one on stage. Harris agreed.
“The drummer is phenomenal, and the rest of the band is great, too,” Harris said.
British Phil performs most Wednesday nights at the DarkHorse Tavern.
Author: Natalie Plumb
Bio: Natalie Plumb is a sophomore in Penn State's College of Communications' print journalism program. She enjoys writing, singing, playing guitar, reading, dancing, speaking French, traveling, playing basketball and softball, ballet, choir, tennis, skateboarding, snowboarding, swimming, and growing in her faith. Her favorite music genres tend to be techno, folk, gospel/religious, and, of course, just about anything you can dance to. That said, her favorite bands are not too exclusive. She enjoys experimenting and hears new bands often. Though most of these artists are mainstream, her favorite artists include, but are not limited to, Josh Groban, Natalie Grant, Carrie Underwood, Radiohead, Big Daddy Weave, John Mayer, Relient K, Jewel, Ju White, Fleetwood Mac, Stacie Orrico, Kelly Clarkson, Black Eyed Peas, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Cascada, Nine Days, Eve 6, Mae, Aerosmith, Ben Folds Five, Akon, The Wreckers, and many more
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