ABOUT A BAND: PHANTOGRAM

August 3, 2016

Moody electronic pop duo, Phantogram are specialists in synth and blissful, sultry vocals. Having released two full length albums to date and a handful of EPs, we’re excited to get our hands on their third album, Three, out October 7th via Fiction. Ones to file next to: Purity Ring and Chairlift.

We caught up with Sarah Barthel & Josh Carter ahead of the release to talk about getting out of your comfort zone, first records and hitting the road.


UO: How did you first decide to form Phantogram?

Josh Carter: Sarah and I were friends in high school, and I was working on my music and beat making and we both just sat down and started working through the songs. We could feel the chemistry right away and just ran with it.

UO: Can you talk us through a typical day-in-your-life?

JC: I try to work on music every day, even when we aren’t recording Phantogram songs. Staying creative, working on production with new people that will push us out of our comfort zone and give us a new insight on music. It’s easy to get trapped in your own creative bubble and I think it’s important to take a step back to see how other people work, what gets them inspired and soak everything in. We can kind of pick and choose the elements that we connect with to bring them back to the Phantogram sound.

UO: What kind of music did you listen to growing up and how has that influenced your sound now?

Sarah Barthel: A lot of boy bands and girl bands as a kid. Whatever was playing on MTV, so a lot of good 90′s hip hop: Wu Tang, The Roots, Busta Rhymes, Nas, A Tribe Called Quest, Notorious BIG, and Camron, Lil’ Kim. And then I was really into bands like Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Fiona Apple… Along with a mixture of my parent’s music – James brown, Motown, Prince, and Michael Jackson.

UO: How are you feeling about your upcoming album release, ‘Three’ – can you tell us a bit about it?

JC: We are really excited and proud of it. It was one of the toughest writing processes we’ve been through but that adversity brought us together and pushed the music forward in a new direction that we couldn’t have achieved otherwise.

UO: What was the first record you bought?

SB: Fiona Apple – Tidal

UO: What’s your favourite show you’ve played to date?

SB: We Toured with Muse all around The US and Europe. Playing the O2 sold out 5 nights in a row was EPIC. They are such an inspiration when it comes to stage production and live show design.

UO: Do you have a pre-performance routine?

JC: We try to get into a different headspace around an hour before set time. Sarah will do some vocal warm-ups and I’ll usually start playing the guitar. Right before we go on stage we huddle up with our band and thank the universe for putting us in the position to do what we do. It keeps us thankful and grounded and I think it reminds us that we’re all in this together.

UO: What is the most rewarding part of your job?

SB: Seeing crowds of people singing along to your lyrics is pretty incredible. I’ll never get over the fact that people can connect to lyrics that Josh and I write.

UO: What is one the biggest changes you’ve noticed in music since you started out?

JC: There’s so much more accessibility to music these days that it’s easy to get drowned out by all the noise. When we first started we hit the road as much as possible. We rented a Prius when it was just Sarah and I, playing as many shows as possible. Sometimes it feels like the mindset of touring and playing live for your fans is a bit of a lost art. Everyone is trying to push their music online but the grassroots way of gaining fans through a solid live show is something that we’ve always tried to maintain.

UO: What’s the best live show you’ve ever seen?

SB: Radiohead in Rainbows tour

UO: Do you have a creative process – if so can you walk us through from initial idea to finished track?

SB: It usually starts with one of Josh’s epic beats. I’m immediately inspired when I hear a good one. Then I add melodies and instruments on top to see what happens. Lyrics usually come during that process.

UO: What is the most rewarding thing about being in music?

SB: Writing music that connects to people on a deeper level. Music is a universal language. It brings people together no matter what race, religion, or ethnicity. It’s magic.