The Trials of Growing Up and “Moving Out:” Phoneboy all Exclusive Interview at Richmond Music Hall


“We value friendship almost more than anything. We always love to have a good time and we want to make music that, you know, is emotional, but reflects that.”

The busy, buzzing of Richmond streets on a typical Saturday night were blessed with the sounds of alternative/indie/pop band Phoneboy on their second night of their first headlining tour. Within the honks of traffic, if you listened closely to the sounds surrounding Main Street on March 25, 2023, you could hear the sweet sounds of lead singers and guitarists Ricky Dana and Wyn Barnum, alongside bassist James Fusco, Jordan Torres on keys, and Christian Nace on drums playing their new sophmore album “Moving Out.”

The band initially started forming during Dana and Barnum’s freshman year of college, as they played  around with song writing and making music before releasing their first self-titled album in 2021 with fellow bandmates Fusco, Torres, and Nace. 

“Back in college freshman year,” Dana explains. “I was walking a guitar across campus and I ran into Wyn, and we started talking about what music we liked and then eventually we were like ‘yeah we should jam sometime’ and then the whole first semester we never jammed. But then the next semester came around and eventually we finally jammed and we realized we clicked really well so we started writing songs together.”

Dana and Barnum speak fondly upon their first year playing around with styles of music and songwriting, before commenting on how Fusco was added into the mix.

“I’ve known Wyn for 10 years,” Fusco comments. “We grew up together, he was a year older than me, still is, he moved out to Jersey for school, I ended up going to New York for school, and it just worked out.”

Ricky Dana, singer and guitarist of Phoneboy

Dana discusses how Torres went to the same college as himself and Barnum. 

“I met them my freshman year,” Torres responds. “and they were like ‘oh word you play keys, like wanna play a show with us?”

With that they had almost a complete band. With only a drummer missing, the band speaks upon how they met and collaborated with Nace as their drummer. 

“It was Christmas of 2021, around then, we were playing some shows and one of the other bands playing that night was…” Barnum says.

“My band opened up for these guys…” Nace interjects.

“We needed a drummer to come along with us and we liked how Nace played so…” Barnum finishes.

Ricky Dana and Wyn Barnum

They started their first headlining tour in Asbury Park, New Jersey before stopping in Richmond to play their set list and then heading off to the cherry blossoms in Washington D.C. 

With such rising popularity and heart breaking lyrics such as in their song “Gone, Gone, Gone:” ‘I’ve wandered in deserts. Just wanting some pleasure. But all I find is pain, confiscating all these times that we had together. Could we last forever?’ I wondered what musical artists’ have inspired Phoneboy’s style of lyric writing. 

They immediately started to list all their musical role models. The Strokes, Blink-182, Remo Drive, just to name a few. 

“A lot of indie/rock bands,” Fusco explains. “a lot of pop music, stuff we listened to growing up.”

It’s interesting how much of their art and music is based on nostalgic feelings childhood music brings out in their songwriting. They truly have been musicians and artists since birth.

Ricky Dana

It’s interesting how much of their art and music is based on nostalgic feelings childhood music brings out in their songwriting. They truly have been musicians and artists since birth.

Their newest album “Moving Out”, which was released the day before they arrived in Richmond, I was curious what their concept was for such an emotional album.

“Honestly, the concept sort of made itself,” Dana starts off. “We started writing songs and we realized ‘oh shit, they all kind of connect,’ because you know, we wrote them within a span of 4 months, 5 months. And it was a really tumultuous weird time because we just graduated college and we were trying to move out to a new place and stuff. So it sort of just conceptually came together like that.”

I think most people at Virginia Commonwealth University can relate to the concept of Phoneboy’s sophomore album “Moving Out.” It isn’t everyday that you graduate and are put out in the world with no more schooling to guide you.

Dana and the rest of the band spoke on how they put their insecurities and fears of moving on from college into the album, but I was curious what part of themselves did they put into the making of their album. 

“The scared part.” Dana immediately states.. “The COVID part too, you know, being locked in. Just how crazy it was between the years of 2021 and 2022. A lot of shit happened. We graduated during a pandemic. And then the pressure to move out. And also we’re just trying to make the band work. So just that really weird, indecisive, stressed out part of us.”

It’s obvious through the words of Dana that the band had a lot of personal self-doubt about growing up and ‘moving out’ that really made their sophomore album the way that it is. 

With over 5 million listens on Spotify to their hit song “1987”,  I asked the band how they felt about their growing popularity and whether it was gradual or overnight.

James Fusco, bassist of Phoneboy

“It was a mix. I don’t know, I think it happened pretty gradually.” Fusco explains. “I

think we were able to tour with our good friends like The Happy Fits, with Good Kid, and that really helped us grow our audience a little bit.”

The steady climb up the music charts is what has been Phoneboy’s recent discovery for many listeners. With their increase in music production, how does each band member insert their relationships and experiences in their music?

“That’s a great question,” Dana contemplates. “You meet a lot of crazy people in your life, like people that change your life, and relationships that change your life. I think that’s how it comes out, like the crazy different relationships you have with people, the friendships that fall off.” 

Ricky Dana

“We don’t really talk shit about anybody in our songs,” Burnum clarifies. “Which I think is nice. Definitely a lot of influence on how to deal with situations like with our parents and our close friends.” 

“I think it’s impossible to keep your past out of anything you create.” Fusco chimes in. “Even if you’re trying to write fiction it’s still going to basically be a story about your life. So, it’s like: do we specifically write about any past relationships? I’d say the closest thing we have is “Roses” where we grabbed a lot of responses from our friends. We were trying to figure out crazy things that had happened to people on a night out. We wouldn’t have been able to do [that] without the relationships we have with our friends.”

“That’s one of the biggest things that’s translated.” Dana remarks. “We value friendship almost more than anything. We always love to have a good time and we want to make music that, you know, is emotional, but reflects that.”

Jordan Torres, pianist of Phoneboy

Phoneboy clearly has a vision for the future of the band and what they want their label to stand for. With all members on the same page, there should be no obstacles stopping them from their goals. I was interested in what mentorships they’ve experienced in their lives to prepare them so much for the future career of Phoneboy.

“The Happy Fits.” Dana immediately replies. Described as their “big brothers,” The Happy Fits supplied them with all the knowledge needed to become a touring band.

“And then our managers are huge mentors for us.” Barnum mentions. “They’ve been through everything we’ve been through. And going back to when James and I started playing music together, which we said was about 10 years ago, our friend Felix, his mom Linda Bouchard…”

“She’s a classical composer, so she had a lot of equipment for us.” Fusco adds to Barnum’s thought.

Ricky Dana

“She spent a lot of time,” Barnum continues. “She was our manager, basically, booking gigs for us. So, shout out to her.”

“She’s fucking awesome.” Fusco adds.

With great mentors, managers, and friendships, it seems like Phoneboy is a fool proof band. They’ve clearly got the business side of the music industry down, but I wanted to learn more about their musical training side of their band.

“I started playing guitar when I was at the end of fifth grade.” Barnum starts. “ I was in a really small class, small grade, and basically everyone else played an instrument except me, so I was like ‘I should probably play an instrument.’ So I started playing guitar and then a few months after I started a band with my friends that James eventually joined.”

Barnum, singer and guitarist of Phoneboy, and Fusco

“I started playing bass probably when I was 10 years old.” Fusco explains. “I played electric bass to start and then in high school I did jazz band so I played upright bass then. It was really just playing with my friends which was the inspiration I really needed to start a band.”

“I started playing guitar when I was in third grade.” Dana notes. “And then I had lessons for a little bit, not really though. I took some piano lessons as well. I played bass in a band in high school, played guitar in a band in high school, and then I started singing when I met Wyn.”

“I’ve been playing classical piano since I was five,” Torres discloses. “so I was classically trained up until I was 18. Through my music school I was put into a band when I was 10 and then I was in a few bands with them up until the end of high school. And then going into college I thought it was kind of over for me and then I met these guys.”

Phoneboy after their interview

“I’ve played drums since around 8 or 9 I would say.” Nace adds in. “Self-taught. I was in a band since high school until- yeah- still do.”

After the interview, I was quizzed on my own personal musical background, maybe they are looking for a sixth member? All jokes aside, the band was incredibly generous to allow me to interview them right before they headlined their own concert.

After heading back to the concert hall and hearing fellow alternative/indie band Breakup Shoes play their opening act, I was all pumped and ready to hear Phoneboy’s sophomore album live. 

Starting with their hit song “Ferrari” and ending with shouts of encore, they re-entered the stage to play three more songs on their set list. The Richmond crowd was definitely lucky to have witnessed this amazing band perform live on their first headlining tour.

What I can say to Phoneboy is: Please don’t forget the charm of Richmond, and please come back to play us another concert, the city is always cheering.

Breakup Shoes, opening band