Joel RL Phelps

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Joel RL Phelps
06 Joel RL Phelbs.JPG
Phelps in 2014
Background information

Joel RL Phelps (born 1966) is an American musician and songwriter originally from Montana, known for his work with the indie rock bands Silkworm and The Downer Trio.[1]

Phelps has played with Pacific Northwest bands such as Ein Heit, which he joined in high school, and The Wilma Pool. He founded Silkworm after Ein Heit broke up in 1987.[2] More recently he teamed up with G. Stuart Dahlquist, brother of the late Silkworm drummer Michael Dahlquist, to form the band Dama/Libra.[3] He also writes and performs solo material.[4][5]


Phelps left Silkworm in 1994 in the middle of a tour, and recorded an album in 1995 with members of other bands such as Jessamine, Citizens' Utilities, and the Deflowers.[6] He primarily performed with a trio which was himself, Bill Herzog (Jesse Sykes and the Sweet Hereafter, Sunn O)))), and Robert Mercer (Treasure State). The band, known as The Downer Trio shares instrumentation with Phelps primarily on vocals and guitar, Robert Mercer on bass, and William Herzog on drums.[7] The group continues recording, and touring, but with much less frequency than in the 1990s when there were tours with Damon and Naomi, and Mark Eitzel. The Trio has shared the stage with many notable acts such as Television, Billy Bragg, Low, Palace, Bonny Prince Billy, and Modest Mouse. They occasionally play as The Downer Quartet when joined by Scott Malin.[8] The band was dormant for nearly a decade as Phelps managed and overcame a drinking problem.[9] They released their last album, Gala, in 2013.[1][10]

Personal life[edit]

Phelps is originally from Montana where he says he was "fascinated by the outdoors, by the spatial sense."[11] He attended Sentinel High School at the same time as the other members of Silkworm were at Hellgate High School.[12] He had a sister who died in 1999 who shows up in his song's lyrics.[13] He attended University of Montana in Missoula where he was a straight-A student.[14] He currently lives in Vancouver BC, where he has worked helping people recover from addictions.[15][9]


The Downer Trio

Solo recordings[edit]

  • Warm Springs Night (1995)
  • Spokane Motel Blues 7" (1995)
  • Alita Aleta 7" (1996)

The Downer Trio[edit]

  • The Downer Trio EP (1997)
  • 3 (1998)
  • Blackbird (1999)
  • Inland Empires EP (2000)
  • Customs/Traditions (2004)
  • Gala (2013)


  • Claw


  1. ^ a b Heller, Jason (August 13, 2014). "Joel RL Phelps is indie rock's best-kept secret". The A.V. Club. Retrieved October 22, 2019.
  2. ^ Walsh, Cory (December 7, 2019). "Revisiting Silkworm, a Band Born in Missoula". The Missoulian. No. Vol 144 No 341. pp. B2. Retrieved 17 December 2020.
  3. ^ Peters, Taylor (2014-04-30). "Joel RL Phelps (Silkworm, The Downer Trio) and G. Stuart Dahlquist (Burning Witch, Asva) end years of will they/won't they speculation with new collaboration as Thine". Tiny Mix Tapes. Retrieved 2020-12-16.
  4. ^ "ABOUT / CONTACT". D A M A / L I B R A. 2012-07-20. Retrieved 2020-12-16.
  5. ^ "Silkworm". Trouser Press. 2005-02-16. Retrieved 2020-12-16.
  6. ^ Heller, Jason (2014-08-13). "Joel RL Phelps is indie rock's best-kept secret". Music. Retrieved 2020-12-16.
  7. ^ Browning, Rob (February 17, 2014). "Joel RL Phelps and the Downer Trio: Gala". PopMatters. Retrieved October 22, 2019.
  8. ^ "ABOUT". JOEL RL PHELPS TheDOWNERTRIO. 2013-07-08. Retrieved 2020-12-16.
  9. ^ a b Laugher, Nick (2014-04-24). "Overcoming Addiction and Making Albums with Joel RL Phelps". VICE. Retrieved 2020-12-17.
  10. ^ "Joel RL Phelps and the Downer Trio: Gala". PopMatters. Retrieved 2020-12-16.
  11. ^ "Interview: Joel RL Phelps by Matt Dornan". Comes with a Smile. Retrieved 2020-12-16.
  12. ^ Vanek, Josh (March 21, 2013). "Spinning Legends". Missoula Independent. No. Vol 24 No 12. Retrieved 17 December 2020.
  13. ^ "Come Back to the Five & Dime, Joel R.L. Phelps". Indiefolkforever. 2004-02-26. Retrieved 2020-12-16.
  14. ^ "UM Lists Falls' Straight-A Students". The Missoulian. No. Vol 21 No 850. January 29, 1986. p. 10. Retrieved 17 December 2020.
  15. ^ "Joel R.L. Phelps & The Downer Trio". Comedy Minus One. 2016-09-19. Retrieved 2020-12-16.

External links[edit]