Phangs makes ’90s-inspired music made for a coming-of-age movie soundtrack
Welcome to AP&R, where we highlight rising artists who will soon become your new favorite.
Jake Germany, who's best known for his solo work as Phangs, has had a prolific music career for well over a decade. After getting his start in the thriving Texas emo scene, Germany played with bands such as the Secret Handshake and Relient K, to name a couple, before moving to Nashville and eventually pursuing his emotionally transparent project Phangs full time. Versatility has always been a constant for Phangs, who incorporates everything from pop, rock and EDM to create radio-ready anthems. On his latest album, I Love Everything That You Hate About Yourself, Phangs has entered more guitar-driven territory. It suits his sound well, especially on the catchy singles “My Parents Love You” and “Pixelated,” both of which contain choruses that feel tailor-made for a coming-of-age movie soundtrack.
Phangs is the embodiment of who Germany truly is as a person: effortlessly cool, a rabid consumer of the things that he loves and a positive and uplifting presence that is needed in modern music today.
At what point did you start playing in bands within the local Dallas/Fort Worth music scene?
I ended up playing in the Secret Handshake right after I graduated high school. I skipped my high school graduation to play with them, and it was cool because I went from going to all of the shows in high school to immediately being in one of those local noteworthy bands within two years of my life. I did Warped Tour that summer and shared the same stage as Katy Perry, Shwayze, the Maine and all of these bands that were really awesome.
Why did you decide to make the transition from playing in bands to being a full-fledged solo artist?
I’ve just had my hands in so many different things throughout my life. Phangs is more so my baby and the project that I can do whatever I want with. It just feels like an extension of myself.
Your earlier material touched on so many different genres, from EDM and pop to hip-hop. With your latest album, you have adopted a more guitar-driven sound. What prompted this sonic shift?
Phangs was never supposed to be what it is. I made Phangs to be a publishing entity to write songs for other people. Being in Nashville, that was something I was doing a lot already, and I thought it would just be cool to have a name for the project as a writer. I released a couple of songs, and people latched on to it. Since then, I’ve just been continuing to write songs that I think are fun. I’ve been very lucky to have friends like Gibson Guitars, who let me make my own signature guitar, and that alone prompted me to play more. In turn, I started writing more guitar music, but it was still this authentic progression.
Speaking of the fun aspect behind your music, there is such a tangible feeling of warm and playful energy with everything you create. Where does this come from?
When I decided that Phangs would be an actual project, I knew I wanted to be completely transparent. These people are going to know everything about me, my dog's name, what kind of vehicle I drive. [I want to] be an open book. They’re gonna know that my favorite thing in the world is wrestling and that I love shitty teen drama shows. That’s what Phangs is: an open book of all the guilty pleasures that I love.
A lot of the sessions for Phangs have been with my friends. During the quarantine, I missed people, so I just started texting my friends who I have been lucky to collaborate with in the past, whether that be touring, in the studio or writing. With my song “A Hurt Like That,” I texted Matt Thiessen [Relient K] and was like, “I have this song. It would be really fun if you hopped on it,” and then he sent a vocal over, which was the same thing that happened with Phoebe Ryan. The only one that wasn’t an authentic thing was the one with LFO. I wrote this song called “Digital Age,” and I thought it sounded like a '90s summer, sit by the pool kind of banger. I was reaching back into memory and wondered what song would be on at that time and realized it would be “Summer Girls” by LFO. I DM’d LFO on Instagram, and they loved the song, which was really crazy. I love creating with other people, and it gives it a different life than I can give it by myself.
[Photo by Ryan Carcia]
As a husband and father, how does family inspire your songwriting?
I’ve always had dad energy, but I think having kids and an amazing, supportive wife changes things but also makes me view the people who come to my shows differently. I view music as a service industry and try to figure out how to serve people as if it were a restaurant. How can I cook the best meal for them that is nutritional, and will make them leave feeling good and want to come back? While I’m writing, I genuinely think about specific listeners that I know who are fans of my music. In Des Moines, Iowa, if this particular person heard this song after they got back from an awful day at school and just want to go into their room to put on a song, what can I say to them to make their life make more sense? That’s the way I approach songwriting as Phangs.
From your catalog of songs, which one are you the proudest of?
Lately, and especially at my shows, it’s a new song from the last album called “That’s Enough.” What’s crazy is that I wrote the entire album but felt like I needed one more song that summed the whole thing up a little better. I went back in and wrote the song where the whole premise is like, “You’re still here and still alive,” and sometimes that’s enough. It’s definitely touching people, and recently someone at both the Charlotte and Atlanta shows on the tour had “That’s Enough” tattooed on their arm.
I’ve always wanted to design shoes, and it’s always been so intriguing to me. Vans are the ultimate tour beater, and you can wear them forever. Getting to do this has been nuts to me. We released two pairs of shoes and a backpack, with a third pair coming. I’m an actual fan of Love Island. My wife and I put the kids to bed in time so we can watch it every night that I’m not on tour. We have three songs on this current season, and I never really write specifically for these kinds of things, so it’s always fun whenever a music supervisor hears a song and thinks it’s perfect.
SONG RECOMMENDATION: “My Parents Love You”