By David Verdi
Phantogram is not exactly the same band it was five years ago. They’re also not exactly that different either. The experimental-pop duo of Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter have a fresh album Voices under their belt and are already in the middle of a tour for that release — a hard-hitting collection of songs that begin to move into a raunchier realm, previously only hinted at by Phantogram.
Songs like “Nothing but Trouble” evoke emotions out of listeners that border on the sinister or the scary. And that is exactly what Phantogram’s progression has been. Their newer, heavier sound is the natural order of their music evolving.
“Yeah, we’re super proud of it,” said Sarah Barthel in a recent interview with The Marquee. “We had some time to tour and some time to evolve the music that was on Eyelid Movies into live versions and I think we ended up realizing while playing and touring for three years that we kind of developed a heavy, harder sound, more in your face and also a more dynamic sound. So, we kind of took that into consideration when we sat down to start writing Voices. And yeah it’s just been a gradual evolution for us with our sounds. We didn’t want to branch out into something completely different by any means but we wanted to maintain that Phantogram sound that we kind of invented.”
Since 2009, when their debut album Eyelid Movies was released, the duo have added musicians with them on stage to keep up with the increasingly complex arrangement of songs, both new and old. The addition of a live drummer and a second keyboard player gives the duo the opportunity to do what they do best — experiment. And they do. Constantly.
Phantogram’s lyrical content is rarely literal, and that’s not by mistake. “We kind of play around with lyrics having more meanings than one,” said Barthel. “We’re not very literal when it comes to our song writing or lyrics because we want to keep it open for listeners to connect. We don’t want them to connect with our perspective of the song or our experience with writing the song. We kind of leave it open for the listener because I think it’s important to have your own ideas when you’re listening to the song so that you can connect to it in your own way.”
Barthel explained that Phantogram’s writing process varies from album to album and from song to song, with both she and Carter contributing equally to the themes and emotions of their work. “It’s different every time. Sometimes it starts with an interesting sounding word or an experience Josh and I have gone through. We’re very close so we have the same experiences and same troubles and happiness. So we’re experiencing it all together because we’re always, you know — Josh calls us psychic-twins, which I like the sound of because we’re always going and doing the same things. And it’s cool because it’s two of us and we use that to our advantage in a way,” Barthel said.
The rhythm and electronic aspect is no doubt one of the reasons why Phantogram has experienced reverse-crossover success. Despite their pop leanings Phantogram has endeared itself to fans of other genres, including the jam band scene. Barthel described the relationship with their psychedelic-inspired fans as quite deliberate. The band strives for an aspect they have coined as “Darkadelic.” “That’s kind of where the psychedelic aspect of our music is incorporated. We wanted the songs to travel, kind of like a jam band’s would. They (jam bands) do it in a way longer amount of time. But that was kind of the idea with keeping the psychedelic aspect to our songs. We’re trying to do something fresh and new in a way that’s experimental. There are hints of Darkadelic in there too. Darkadelic is the word for some of the songs that we came up with when we were writing the record. Josh and I are very visual writers when it comes to music. We’re always incorporating visuals, pictures and colors, light and dark, and everything in that kind of world.”
:: Phantogram ::
:: Ogden Theatre :: April 15 ::
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