Phantogram Interview

Just before playing their last stop on their first full Canadian tour at Venue in Vancouver, we caught up with Phantogram. Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter, of the New York based psychedelic electro pop/rock group took a minute to talk rude Canadians (wait, what?), their writing process, future happenings, and sardines with us.

MVRemix: This is your first full fledged Canadian tour. How is it going so far?

Sarah: Good, good.

Josh: It’s going well, we’re having a good time.

Sarah: Yeah, this is our last show in Canada. We were in Eastern Canada last week and we flew out here at the beginning of the week to do some shows out here.

MVRemix: What is your impression of Canadians so far?

Sarah: So nice.

Josh: They’re friendly, they’re very friendly.

MVRemix: Have you had anybody say anything rude to you?

Josh: No.

Sarah: Not yet, no.

Josh: One time in Toronto, we had a rude sound guy. That was about a year ago.

Sarah: That was the only rude person.

Josh: Yeah, he was just grumpy his girlfriend broke up with him, so I guess that’s okay.

MVRemix: You’ve played Ottawa, Edmonton, and Calgary , and then last night you played in Nelson. Nelson is a town with a population of 10,000 people. So compared to your other tour dates, what brought on that choice?

Sarah: Good question. I don’t know. Our booking agent booked it.

Josh: I’m glad we went though because it was beautiful. It was gorgeous, serene, mountains, and we saw a black bear – pretty cool.

Sarah: The drive was incredible today and yesterday, and last night was good. People liked it, and a lot of people showed up. There’s a good music scene there. People always come out to check out new stuff whenever they can.

MVRemix: Was it a small venue?

Josh: Yeah, it was relatively small. But it was cozy and nice.

MVRemix: How did it come that you started making music together?

Sarah: We didn’t start working together in music until four years ago. I was in college after high school, and Josh went to New York to play in a band with his brother, and he moved back upstate, and I moved back down right at the same time, coincidentally. We started hanging out again, and Josh let me listen to some of his ideas that he was doing for his solo project, and I loved everything. It was extremely inspiring. It was so incredible to be able to hear it. I love it so much (that) it was strange to actually hear such good music that was my friend, something that I really wanted to be a part of. He asked me to sing on some of his songs, and from there we started working together.

MVRemix: Do you write together?

Josh: Depends. Some of the stuff I write, but a lot of times we’ll write together, get together and hash things out. Sometimes we work on music together in our rehearsal area, and that’s a lot of fun because we can feed off each other. It all just depends, sometimes I’ll write something on guitar, or Sarah will write something on piano, or I’ll make a beat. It’s different every time.

MVRemix: With Eyelids Movies, I think it would do really well as the soundtrack to a psychological horror movie. Was this kind of feeling intentional?

Josh: No, we didn’t have that intention. I think that maybe that’s sort of what came out of us; Because deep down, we are really messed up individuals… [laughs]. I guess when we write it’s dark. We tend to write when we’re in more of a sad or dark place in our lives.

Sarah: Yeah. When we wrote Eyelid Movies, it was Winter, or Fall and Winter of upstate New York. Very desolate and cold and quiet, kind of lonely. I think a lot of the inspiration came from creating as much going on in the music, to counterbalance the absolute nothingness that was happening in our lives.

Josh: I tend to write when I’m depressed anyway.

MVRemix: You played a new song, “Sixteen Years” at Coachella. Do you have a new album in the works?

Josh: We have a new EP coming out in a couple months.

MVRemix: How many songs?

Josh: Five songs, we’re going for.

MVRemix: On YouTube, you guys have a couple acoustic versions. A completely different sound, but brought a whole new tone to what you already have. Have you thought about going in that direction? A little more stripped down?

Sarah: Yeah, I mean it’s always fun to find the core of the song, and the simplicity and the beauty of the song and acoustic guitar. Josh and I sometimes talk about doing stuff like that, keeping it more minimal. It just depends, I don’t know at the moment, but I’m almost positive we’ll go that route at some point. At least for ourselves, or everyone else.

Josh: Yeah. I think right now, our upcoming recordings are going to be more beat heavy stuff, but in the future we definitely want to branch out and do maybe everything all acoustic or something. It depends.

MVRemix: In a previous interview about a year ago, you mentioned you were eating tuna fish and sleeping in your car (on tour). Have things changed in the past year?

Sarah: Yeah, a little bit.

Josh: Now we’re eating sardines and sleeping in the van.

Sarah: [laughs] We have a van now, not a car. We don’t have to recline, we just kind of lay on the benches.

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