Music Interview—Vanessa Kaylor Phillips of One Square Mile

Music Interview—Vanessa Kaylor Phillips of One Square Mile

Hello, punk fans!  Recently, I had the chance to send some questions to the charismatic Vanessa Kaylor Phillips, the lead vocalist of One Square Mile.  Hailing from the heart of the South Bay’s punk rock scene, One Square Mile has been making waves with their latest offering, Source of Suffering, a compelling successor to their 2018 debut LP, The System.

This Hermosa Beach-based band, born in 2017, draws its name from the very city it calls home—a one-square-mile patch of land that has become the cradle of their musical journey.  Talk about local pride!  Their roots in Hermosa Beach’s punk and hardcore legacy are evident, yet One Square Mile boldly embraces evolution, as seen in their new EP.  Produced by the renowned Cameron Webb, Source of Suffering encapsulates the spirit of punk while pushing the boundaries of their sound.

Beyond the music, One Square Mile distinguishes itself by playing over 35 shows this year alone, a testament to their relentless energy on stage.

Here is what Vanessa shared with me about her experience as the lead vocalist for One Square Mile and their music!

Source of Suffering marks a bold sonic departure from your 2018 debut LP, The System.  Can you tell us about the creative process behind this new EP and what inspired the evolution in your sound?

Vanessa: The biggest influence in the evolution of our sound was I had never done a lot of aggressive signing.  I was in a punk band briefly in my 20s but had done more jazz/ blues stuff.  I had to learn the old songs and they eventually became a part of my muscle memory.  When John gave us new material, we (Todd and I) would work on lyrics together and separately.  We would get in the studio, play it over and over, record it, listen to it, come back, and work it over and over.  The stuff I was doing in the beginning they didn’t like at first, but they gave me homework, and I learned more and more from them of what I wanted but also kept to what I wanted to do vocally.

Having played over 35 shows this year, including opening for The C_nts and OFF!, how has the live performance experience shaped your identity as a band?  Are there any memorable moments from these shows that stand out?

Vanessa: The amount of shows we have played this year has absolutely shaped us as a band.  In order to go onstage and perform with a group, there has to be a level of trust.  We didn’t know each other at the start, with the exception of John and Todd, so each show, we built up our bond with one another.  Our live performance has become a powerful expression of raw, feral energy.  One memorable moment from a show recently is when John broke a string on stage and ran to his van in the parking lot to grab his other guitar he ran back on stage and finished the song with us.  It was rad!

Working with producer Cameron Webb at Maple Sound Studios must have been an exciting experience.  How did his collaboration impact the recording process, and what did you learn from working with someone with such an impressive track record in the punk scene?

Vanessa: Working with Cameron Webb gave us so much permission to do what we wanted.  He didn’t try to put us in a box.  He was very personable and treated you like you were his friend.  It made it very comfortable.  He would ask us questions like “Do we like it? how can we make it better?”  He wanted us to sit down and sit on the floor with him and sit in our mix; we were invited to explore where we could go without judgment or boundaries.  It can be very vulnerable opening yourself up creatively to someone on that level, but he cleared the playing field for us.  He is extremely down-to-earth and patient.  If we didn’t understand something, he would find a way to reach us.  That was my biggest takeaway: learning to meet people where they are and encouraging them to reach further.

The review from Black Market Playlists describes your music as “furious wild punk rock in the best tradition.”  How would you describe your own sound, and what elements do you believe set One Square Mile apart in today’s punk scene?

Vanessa: I agree that our music is wild, furious punk rock in the best tradition because we allow each other to shine.  No one is the main character; everyone has their part that they contribute to the end result.  We enjoy what we are doing, and that comes across in the final product.  One activity that we do together that helps build our live show is we spend time together breaking bread before we perform.  This adds a level of community and fellowship, demonstrating our connection.

As a vocalist, you have been praised for your energy and intensity.  How does your approach contribute to the band’s overall dynamics, and how do you navigate the balance between the raw energy of punk and the metal-rooted elements in the band’s sound?

Vanessa: The contrast between the raw punk and metal roots makes the EP so dynamic.  It’s the yin and yang or the sweet and sour; you can’t enjoy one without the other.  At times it can be difficult to tame the energy that I’m exuding because it can be like opening a Kombucha bottle but that’s when I rely on the band to pull me back to the tempo and the message we are trying to demonstrate.

With a focus on writing music that speaks to your lives and experiences, can you share some of the themes and stories explored in the lyrics of Source of Suffering?  How does the EP reflect your personal and collective journey?

Vanessa: When you play in a band with others, at least for us, we practice a lot together, and there would be times that one of us was growing through something personal or difficult but would still show up for practice.  There is a healing that happens when you can both tell your story and listen to stories of others.  A bonding over imperfection is a common theme for us.  The Source of Suffering speaks to the fact that everyone has a vice or something they are grappling with in life, but when we can share that with one another, we can grow and move past our challenges together.  Furthermore, we have political, social, economic, and religious observations we like to discuss in our lyrics.  “Welcome to the terror dome” is a popular line that speaks to acts of congress or another well-liked lyric, “Who’s your savior now?” talks about drug use and religion.

Looking ahead, what are your aspirations and goals for the future of One Square Mile?  Are there any specific milestones or projects on the horizon that you’re particularly excited about?

Vanessa: What is next for us?

We want to tour the world!

We want to record!

We want to do vinyl!

We want to play everywhere.

We have played a lot of shows this year, and having the addictive personalities we have, we want more!

We are going to write more songs, meet more friends, keep growing, keep getting challenged, and help others do the same.

Thank you for your time!

And thank you Vanessa! I wish you continued success and many more shows and albums to come!