Phantogram

Josh Carter and Sarah Barthel, the duo who make up the group Phantogram, bring to the table a new sound, one that is filled with mystery and sex appeal. The undercurrent of hip hop beats, lilting vocals and intense emotional lyrics would bring any listener to their feet, swaying to the dreamlike tracks. Unlike most artists who slave away in sterile studio settings, Phantogram prefers to record their music out in the country, 45 minutes outside their small hometown of Saratoga Springs in upstate New York.

When listening to their debut album Eyelid Movies, it becomes apparent that there are strong influences of both nature and city life. Catching up with Carter and Barthel as they headed back out into the country, Barthel described the importance nature has on their music. “Nature makes it easier to focus. It is very quiet and desolate, and in a good way lonely because you have more time to think and to concentrate.” Harmony Lodge, the barn where Barthel and Carter spend hours recording, allows them to effectively concentrate on their music without the distractions that accompany city life. While songs like “As Far As I Can See” might fall under the electronica umbrella, there is never the less a natural and organic vibe that captures urban life with ease. Josh explains, “the vision was to create a juxtaposition of electronic vs. nature,” and one can truly see this vision come to life with songs like “Running From The Cops” and “When I’m Small.”

Besides creating music that both soothes the soul and questions it, Phantogram has also captured the emotions of their sound lyrically. Any young adult who is going through the trials and turmoils of youth can easily relate to the dark, and often times impassioned, lyrics. “Although the songs are about personal experiences, they are mixed with the idea of existence in general: life, love, death, wonder and excitement.” “Mouth Full of Diamonds” a song that exemplifies the symbols of growing and breaking up, is the perfect example of how Phantogram can eloquently compose lyrics that accompany their darker sound. “‘Mouth Full of Diamonds’ was about a breakup, not necessarily a romantic breakup, but more of the separating of two people or ideas. Lyrically we try to make up lyrics that could have multiple meanings.” This idea of multiple meanings is what makes Phantogram’s melodic sound so attractive and beloved among indie pop fans.

For Carter and Barthel the creative process is just that, creative. There is no road map or right or wrong way to create their music. They just tend to go with their gut instincts following their intuition about a particular sound or lyric. “Some of our best songs have been written the quickest. Our singles have been written in a span of an hour or two. Then again we will spend a month on a song, reworking the idea over and over again. It is all very different,” says Carter.

However the songs are conceptualized and invented, it is clear that Phantogram has formed a unique and ingenious duo, one that is not to be missed. Sarah and Josh’s ultimate goal as artists is to, “be able to create and to connect with as many people as possible,” and it would seem that they are on the right track. Their upcoming tour around the US starts September 22nd in Boston and ends October 30th in Philadelphia. Catch them in San Francisco at the Treasure Island Festival October 16th.

– Emily Sands

THE SPRING ISSUE


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