In Conversation: Wicca Phase Springs Eternal

Adam McIlwee is embarking on a personal evolution...

Wicca Phase Springs Eternal is the solo project of Adam McIlwee, who is also a member of the GothBoiClique group. When we speak, he is at home in Pennsylvania, USA, although he is in the process of packing up his belongings and moving to New York soon. 

McIlwee’s eponymous album, released today, sees him utilise 10 years of songwriting experience. ‘Wicca Phase Springs Eternal’ is very much “aesthetic-heavy” and invites the listener into his world. However, McIlwee avoided writing about lore for a long time, even to the point where he “forgot” about it.

With this new album, he delves deeper into this theme. “It comes in waves and there are periods where I’ll want to write one way and then periods where I’ll want to write another way. Just because I’ll get bored. I get bored easily – with everything. But I think, what happened with Wicca Phase, was that I started finding success when I started writing more personal songs and more relationship-based songs and I still had a lot of those in me, so I just kept doing it.” 

He speaks about the ‘Secret Boy’ mixtape “gain[ing] traction” and making him want to continue with these types of songs, which coincided with his signing to Run for Cover and the ‘Suffer On’ release. “That lore part did get forgotten about, because it just wasn’t where I was, creatively,” he adds. “And I think I needed to work that other stuff out of me so I could get back into the lore-based stuff.

“It’s really as simple as I forgot about it. I forgot that side of Wicca Phase or maybe, it’s hard for me to remember what kind of headspace I was in in 2017/17, maybe I didn’t have anything more to say about the lore and the branding. Maybe I thought it was established enough that I could move on to more personal things, because writing songs that are melodramatic in nature is just something I am naturally good at. It’s almost the default that I go to.”

Being a (former) Tiger’s Jaw member and then working on solo material meant that McIlwee was looking to write “different kinds of lyrics” to define the different eras of his career. Wicca Phase allowed McIlwee to “separate the two projects”. Once he’d left Tiger’s Jaw, he found that it allowed him to return to writing personal songs for Wicca Phase.

Wicca Phase Springs Eternal’s music has been branded as “emo rap” previously and it has kind of stuck, but this doesn’t always bother him. He understands that the onus is on him as an artist to move away from that label himself, to the point where it can’t apply anymore.

“[The term is] limiting. There is a part of it that’s undeniably true to Wicca Phase. For a long time, that is what I was doing and it felt like when I started Wicca Phase, that term wasn’t really around. It just wasn’t. Then we saw the rise of Post Malone, Juice WRLD and Lil Peep and the term became popularised, so I think it made sense for me to be put within that bubble I guess…”

The problem is when he is associated with “really bad artists that are also looped in or people that aspire to that genre”. He adds that his end-game was never emo rap. “I never wanted to do that, really.” 

Recent single ‘Moving Without Movement’ has real ‘80s energy but McIlwee worked to ensure that it would sound like a modern take, rather than a retro rehashing. We can hear Kate Bush influences on the song and, while McIlwee is pleased with this, he says: “With this record, I did more planning with Run for Cover than I have in the past. I went to them and I said, ‘What kind of album do you want?’” He knew which direction he wanted to go in lyrically, but he wanted some feedback from the label. It was important to him that they were happy with the record and they suggested he “play around” with different genres that were of interest to him. They asked him to “showcase the versatility of my songwriting”.

He looked at ‘80s artists who made ‘big’- sounding songs without a band. “The plan there was just an upbeat, eighties-inspired pop song, but some elements of modern pop too, like The 1975 or something like that. I didn’t want it to be an eighties throwback song.”

Stepping into the past even further and Wicca Phase has been looking to artists from the sixties and seventies to draw inspiration. When Wicca Phase started, he was influenced by “modern” music, like rap and trap songs, but this changed when he started to listen to “more of [the older] stuff again”. He listened to British folk artists and lesser-known artists from that era. He felt that this would set him apart from his contemporaries, who he felt wouldn’t be listening to this type of music. “It’s going to bring a unique influence to the project that not a lot of people have…It’s more important to me to have these deep-rooted influences, lesser-known influences.”  He also says it is “dangerous” for him to listen to new music while he is writing new music for fear of being influenced by a song subconsciously. “I know that if I just keep listening to these older artists, who sound nothing like Wicca Phase, even if a melody or chord progression finds its way to a Wicca Phase song from one of the old songs, it’s going to sound so far removed that you’re not going to draw a direct comparison and you’re not going to accidentally rip someone off. It just won’t happen. It’s safer.”

As for next steps, McIlwee says he has “no shortage of new music in me. No shortage of ideas.” He’s excited to see how fans respond to the album and what they like from it. “I have no intention of stopping,” he says.

New album ‘Wicca Phase Springs Eternal’ is out now.

Words: Narzra Ahmed
Photo Credit: Ebru Yildiz 

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