A conversation with Phantogram

The NewsHouse caught up with the Block Party special guests on the formation of the band, playing in front of their parents and holographic Tupac.

NewsHouse: Let’s start from scratch: how’d you two meet and when did you know it was time to make a band?

Sarah Barthel: We’ve been friends since we were 15 or 14 years old. We went to high school together and my neighbor was one of Josh’s best friends. It was just that little block where all the kids would come to hang out. Then I went to college and Josh went to New York to work on different bands and we both moved back upstate at the same time in 2005. We started hanging out and after about two years we decided to take the band seriously.

Josh Carter: Well that’s when we decided to start trying to make music together. I was working on solo stuff which was like true Phantogram, I just didn’t know what to do with it. The more Sarah and I hung out as friends, she’d go off singing here and there and I noticed she had a really good voice. I’d come over her house to see if I could get a free dinner from her mom or something and she’d play the piano and I noticed that was good, too. I asked if she wanted to help me on one of my songs and it came out cool so I asked her if she wanted to start a band.

NH: So did you know right from that one song how Phantogram would sound?

JC: Yeah, I think we just vibed together because we’re best friends. The first song we wrote together was “Mouthful of Diamonds” and it was cool and catchy and different, and it turned out to be one of our more popular songs. I think the second we did was “Running From The Cops.” It just kind of flowed.

NH: Any new music in the works? Side projects? Cool collaborations?

SB: We just got done collaborating with Big Boi from Outkast. We did a few songs that hopefully will be on his next record. He flew us down for a week and we wrote a song with a catchy chorus and worked on it all there, and he ended up rhyming on it later on in the month. He liked it and he said he’s going to use it. There might be a couple other songs, too, but we’re not sure yet.

NH: How’d that come about?

JC: He found us on Shazaam. He heard “Mouthful of Diamonds” and didn’t know what it was so he just Shazaam-ed it.

SB: He posted something on his website about our song. Our manager found out about it and we were like, “Holy s---, whoa!” So we tried to message Tweet with him because he would kind of tell his fans about us. We started having a dialogue on Twitter and tried to meet up a couple of times. We finally were able to meet up in Texas and we kind of just hung out with him and talked about collaborating. He ended up wanting it to happen so he just flew us down. We also just finished collaborating with The Flaming Lips, so they’re going to use the song for their next record. I think it’s coming out in September. It was supposed to be on the Heady Fwends thing they just put out for Record Store Day, but they ended up wanting to use it for the next record.

NH: Do you still get nervous before big shows like tonight?

SB: Mostly just if our parents are there. That changes everything.

JC: Last year we played at Coachella and I was cool as a cucumber, wasn’t nervous at all. But then we got back from a European tour, and we aren’t quite as big in Europe as we are in the states, and playing some small venues is a little bit more nerve racking. It’s more intimate and you can see the whites of everybody’s eyes. I guess it all depends, I either get nervous or I don’t. It’s all about the state of mind I’m in that day, not necessarily the size of the venue or audience.

NH: Speaking of Coachella, you’re playing at Bonnaroo this year. From a fan’s perspective, what would be your favorite festival to go see?

SB: Coachella seemed pretty cool…

JC: Tupac played!

SB: Yea, that was really creepy. I want to get one – a Tupac. “Meet Tupac, guys!”

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