INTERVIEW: Phantogram Open Up on “Cathartic” Recording Experience

While we love watching Australian artists slowly crack the overseas market, it’s equally exciting when hidden gems from lands afar begin to stamp their mark on our own live scene.

Enter Phantogram, the dark electro-rock duo from New York who have had the J’s in a spin for the past few months over their single You Don’t Get Me High Anymore. Whilst members Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter have been turning heads for the better part of half a decade, the pair have only just begun to truly make an impression in Australia, having recently completed a huge run of summer dates taking in the likes of Beyond The Valley and Field Day. 

We were lucky enough to catch the pair at the latter, finding the time to ask about what inspired their darkly impressionable third album Three, as well as what’s on the horizon for the new year.

It’s been a huge year for you guys. Talk us through your highlights?

Josh: Obviously releasing our new album was a big thing for us. It’s a very cathartic record so that’s been a good experience for us personally to put it out in the open and show that to people. Taking it around the world and seeing people respond so positively to the music has just been amazing for us. I think taking it over to Europe was definitely a big highlight.

As you’ve just mentioned, it’s a cathartic record. Sarah, you’ve said yourself that you’re drawn to dark music. Did that influence this album?

Sarah: It did in a musical sense. I think with what we’ve been through in the past few years this album more reflected individual experiences that both we and other people have been through. I had a death in the family right in the middle of recording, which affected the path of the album thematically.

In a way, we are lucky enough to have music as something which we can draw upon to heal and deal with trauma. I think that’s why this album has had such a darker feel to it.

Josh: As we get older we go through so many different experiences and meet so many different people so that in itself can open your mind to what other people go through.

Was it a scary experience sharing those personal experiences with so many people?

Josh: Like we said. it was more of a way that we could process everything. It’s been amazing meeting so many people around the world who have been able to relate to the record in their own way. I think that is what makes it all worth it for us, the fact that despite us opening up on such intense experiences, people are still able to relate to it in their own way.

At the end of the day, when you’re creating art, that’s the kind of reaction that I think you want to try and get out of people.

The album itself was very succinct – it ran for just over half an hour. Was that something that you guys did on purpose?

Sarah: It wasn’t something that we went out of our way to do, but we do like to keep things simple with records. The album itself has 10 songs, which we feel is a pretty good length for an album.

Josh: There are albums out there nowadays which are just too long, particularly in the hip-hop world. Like, that new Kanye West record (The Life Of Pablo) had like 20 songs on it or something. You don’t need to do that. If an album is too long then people are going to lose interest. If you keep things shorter it can have more impact, and that’s what we were going for on Three.

Just to wrap up, you guys have done a few collaborations in the past few years, including an amazing effort with Big Boi a few years ago. Are there any more collaborations coming up?

Sarah: For sure there are! We love collaborating with other artists, especially now with the internet. It’s so much easier. We can’t give too much away, but we are planning on having a big 2017 with some collaborations.

Josh: We’ve been doing some writing with artists over in the States for the past few months. One thing that I can tell you is that we did some music making with Odesza a few months back which was really great, so watch this space and we will see what happens!

Image: Pitchfork