Artist Interview: Phantogram. Dream soundtracks party of two? Your table is ready.

Artist Interview: Phantogram. Dream soundtracks party of two? Your table is ready.

MusicSeptember 25, 2014

Music is a trip. It’s a voyage; it’s an unpredictable series of wild experiences and emotional prowess. It feeds, it nourishes, it heartbreaks and it takeths away. It’s this erratic change of music through time that makes for an environment so suitable as to ensure no two acts are ever really the same.

Enter Phantogram, a pseudo-electronic trip-hop duo that plays addicting and melodic ethereal dreamscapes that all but trample common genre distinctions. If hard pressed, one would have to describe it as sounding like a hip-hop road trip to the top of the Alps when it’s strangely warm enough to not wear a burdening parka. It’s kind of like that.

Before Phantogram has a chance to come through the Boulder Theatre Sept. 28 and Ogden Theatre on Sept. 29 we bothered co-vocalist and guitarist Josh Carter about how he and partner Sarah Barthel write songs, what he thinks about the music industry and whether or not they’ve gotten ahold of Bill Murray.

When you and Sarah write music you say you like to dip away from civilization and write in the upstate New York countryside, why is that?

I think for me it’s just important to not have too many distractions, and also we’re from the countryside originally, so it’s like retreating back into the country to write music. It brings me back to the natural state of when we began.

Is it as easy to get away now that you’re so busy?

I write stuff everywhere, and I enjoy writing music all the time whether it’s at my apartment in Brooklyn or when I’m on the road. It’s a little more difficult obviously to write when you’re on the road. There’s a lot of distractions.

I like having a lot of space when I write. Sometimes even knowing that there’s somebody else in the same house bothers me when I’m working on shit, unless it’s Sarah. But I’m very private when I write. It’s good to be able to block out a lot of outside noise because there’s already a lot of noise going on in my own head. If I can channel that and only that, that’s preferable.

Is there an ultimate goal when you begin a song or does it happen organically?

Normally it’s quite organic, but we write very visually, so often when we’re working we start the dialogue between us, and what we’re visualizing, and maybe imaginary scenarios that are going on. We base our themes and lyrics and melodies around that.

And you have to keep in mind that you’re going to play them live at some point; do you struggle with that and ever pull back because of it?

When we wrote ‘Voices’ a lot of what happened in recording was keeping in mind that we had to executing things live and how it was gonna be performed. Obviously not too much, because you don’t want that to get in the way of being creative, but there was definitely thinking that we wanted to have other players with us on stage, helping us perform parts.

When we made ‘Eyelid Movies’ we didn’t even have fans, nobody even knew who we were, we were just making a record. For our first record there was no thought whatsoever, we had to learn as we went. We started touring just as a two-piece band triggering a lot of samples and live loops. It was a challenge for us, but it was definitely rewarding.

You command the stage like pros; do you feel like you’re comfortable up there now that you two are seasoned?

Oh yeah, I’m definitely comfortable on stage, and so is Sarah. We’ve been touring for quite a long time just as a two-piece, and then as three, and now we’re a four piece live. The good thing about what we’re doing right now is our hands aren’t quite as tied up and we’re a little bit freer to move around and just kind of vibe out.

With all the hard work you’ve put in you’ve gotten to see things in a different light. How do you perceive the industry now as a working artist?

I don’t work at any labels or anything like that, but the way I see it is it’s in a very interesting place. Essentially music and information is all free for most people and it’s up to the user to decide whether or not they want to pay for it. Definitely technology has made things very good for us as a band being able to be discovered. I feel like a lot of bands get chewed up and spit out really fast though because of that, and one thing that I pride myself about with Phantogram is that we’ve done things organically, and toured, and done things in a natural way.

What I would like to do as an artist is to release more music, which is possible now, like, record a song and throw it up on Soundcloud. They don’t have to be, quote, ‘single worthy,’ but to just record more, get it out more and keep the fans engaged, keep ourselves engaged as artists. To me that’s the goal in the next few years is doing more, and I think that will make things more fun for everybody.

Wherever it’s going we hope it works out more for the artists in the future …

Art is definitely worth something. I don’t think that you should just steal music. I don’t know fully, but I have a Spotify account and I love listening to new artists on Spotify. I mean, shit, I don’t even have our own album, so if I want to check out our song to warm up my voice before a show I go to my Spotify account and type in Phantogram.

Speaking of albums, you’re rumored to be working with Big Boi on an EP, any updates on that project?

Well, right now it’s in its infancy stage as a project, and we’re just hashing out ideas. I’m making beats every day. We’re just excited about getting shit done with Big. Hopefully next year.

Before we go, any word from Bill Murray about starring in one of your videos yet?

(laughs) No, we haven’t heard from him yet, but we’re hoping. Our fingers are crossed to get him in that video.

And now: One word answers, by Josh Carter

Who is the better cook? Sarah
Who is more outgoing? Sarah
Who’s the most frugal? Sarah
Who has the dirtiest web browsing history? (laughs) Sarah
Who wakes up the earliest? Sarah
Who’s most likely to cry in a movie? Sarah
Who’s the clumsiest? Sarah