At the 2015 edition of the Roots Picnic, Sarah Barthel of Phantogram told the crowd a story about her band’s first big single. She and longtime creative partner (and childhood friend) Josh Carter were both huge hip-hop fans growing up, and he initially devised the beat for “As Far As I Can See” not as a song of his own, but as a cut to shop around – he hoped it might get picked up by Jay Z, or somebody of that stature. It did not, but that worked out pretty well for Phantogram all the same.
Since the release of 2010’s Eyelid Moves, the New York band has evolved from a brooding duo with a knack for catchy, spectral soundscapes to a hard-hitting electronic rock juggernaut. This fall brings their latest record, Three, which finds Barthel and Carter diving head on into the dark overtones that have always permeated their work, motivated in part by the death of Barthel’s sister, Becky. In a recent interview with Complex Magazine, Barthel summed up a theme of the album as “owning the darkness” – accepting and embracing all elements of yourself, angels and devils alike.
The album features some of the band’s most atmospheric work to date, but also some of its poppiest, like the massive gothic single “You Don’t Get Me High Anymore.” And hip-hop is still a part of their lives, from Carter’s production work for Stones Throw artist Oh No and ATL hero Big Boi (the latter of whom collabed with the band last year on the Big Grams project) to getting namechecked and rapped over by artists from Vince Staples to Nas and Philly’s S.T.S.
With a headlining tour rolling into The Fillmore on Monday, I caught up with Carter over the phone to talk about the band’s origins, its growth in scope and its ability to fit in just about anywhere. Continue reading →