Fake Plastic's Fr. Jones and Bobby Markle shoot the breeze with Sarah Barthel of Phantogram on the band's new EP, their upcoming album, collaborating with Big Boi, and the government shutdown.
Click here for FPT's previous interview with Phantogram.
FPT: You guys were a two-piece when we originally saw Phantogram but the band has filled out a bit lately. Can you tell me a little bit about the additions?
SB:Yeah, we’ve got a new drummer and another player onstage with us now helping fill in the sounds. We also have someone new running lights, sound, and monitors. There’s a whole bunch of people on the crew so we’re moving forward with that.
FPT: That speaks to something you’ve mentioned before that it’s not always easy recreating your music in a live setting. Is that something you take into account when you record new music?
SB: Yeah, for sure. At first it did because we knew it was just the two of us and we wanted to make sure we could do the same thing live. We kind of limited ourselves for that purpose. But this time around we decided to not worry about it too much and instead just do what we wanted to do. We wanted to add more people live anyway- we kind of had that in mind so we decided to just add as much as we wanted to and figure it out after.
FPT: Your new EP is your second EP in a row. Releasing consecutive EPs is an interesting thing that not a lot of bands do. Is there a strategy to that?
SB: I don’t think so. We just wanted to get new music out. Full-length records take longer than EPs and we just wanted to get new stuff out. And we did.
FPT: One of our other favorite musical duos is Outkast and you guys had the pleasure of collaborating with Big Boi on his album. What was that collaboration like and how did you end up working with him?
SB: He found us online somehow. A couple of years ago when we were touring for Nightlife, he discovered “Mouthful of Diamonds” and posted it on his blog. We found out about it and freaked out because, likewise, Outkast is one of our favorite duos. We grew up listening to them and have been huge fans. So we Facebooked him, he replied, we stayed in touch, and we met him during a time when we were both touring festivals. We kind of connected and we sent him some of Josh’s beats and he loved it. We kind of just went from there. He asked us to come down to Atlanta for a week. So we went down, hung out, and wrote music with him.
FPT: A week in Atlanta with Outkast. I’m sure that’s something that will be remembered. Did you get to meet Andre at all?
SB: Yeah, he stopped by too. We got to hang out with him for a night- I don’t know where. Apparently, that doesn’t really happen- he doesn’t stop by very often. The last time he had stopped by was six months prior. They were really surprised. All of a sudden the door opened and Andre walked in and everyone flipped out. But yea, it was a moment to remember for sure.
FPT: So you have a new full-length on the way. Can you tell us a little bit about it and how it compares to Eyelid Movies?
SB: Yeah, it’s coming out soon. I’m not sure what the date is. It’s definitely a step up for us- we’ve evolved a bit but we still sound like Phantogram of course. We didn’t want to change too much. We wanted to maintain the same fanbase but add more and have more people able to be hear it. We worked with the producer who helped us co-produce the record adding different sounds, tones, and elements to the previous sound so it’s more evolved. We’re very proud of it.
FPT: Can we expect any music videos for the new EP or LP?
SB: Yeah. We’re supposed to shoot one for “Black Out Days” in a couple weeks. That will be our first. Then we’re shooting one for “The Day You Died” and one for our first big single off the new album at some point too. So yeah- we’ll have videos for sure.
FPT: Speaking of “Black Out Days” – we saw you perform on Fallon recently. What was that experience like?
SB: Oh, it was fun to stop by and play. Fallon has a really good taste in music and is a super-nice guy too.
FPT: Fallon may have been one of the first talk show hosts to really expand the variety of music that comes on.
FPT: So you and Josh have known each other since junior high. Does that enhance your creative and performing process?
SB: I think so. I don’t really know what it’s like to work with someone who I’m not really good friends with- so it’s hard to compare but, from my experience, I think that the closer you are to somebody, the better. We’ve known each other forever and we’ve been through everything together. We’re practically the same person in one way or another. It makes the process enjoyable. We’re able to communicate correctly because we really know each other in-and-out and how one another’s brains work so there’s no walking on eggshells if one of us has something to say. If things go down on tour, it’s very open in our relationship. That definitely helps with anything.
FPT: If you weren’t in Phantogram, what would you be doing?
SB: Ummmmmmmmm, I don’t know. I’d probably be writing for a TV show- a comedy show maybe.
FPT: Out of all the ways your music has been featured in television and film, what is your favorite way one of your songs has been used?
SB: We kind of just started with being featured more than normal. We haven’t had that many placements for our songs. We’re still really interested in having our music in a movie- that’s the most exciting for us. One of our songs was in like a football/Gillette commericial so that was pretty crazy. I’m not sure what’s the most exciting but I do know that once our songs are in films, we are going to freak out a lot because we’ve always wanted our songs in movies.
FPT: What are your thoughts on the government shutdown? It’s over now but did the past three weeks affect you as an artist?
SB: It only affects me if I spend the time to freak out about it. But I choose not to involve myself in those aspects that go on. There’s only so much control I can have anyway. So something like that, I can become really paranoid and nervous if I do wrap my head around what’s going on with the government. Someone told me what happened and I was like “Ohhhh, fuck” and I just had to disconnect myself. So no- it doesn’t really affect me.