'Phantoms' is the musical baby of a couple of "goofballs” who met when they were teenagers and attended a Justice concert that changed their lives. Yes, that is how it started, but with a unique sound, fun, energetic personalities and an ability to perform versatile sets, they are truly making a name for themselves in the electronic music scene.
This past week, they put on a lively and engaging show at the famous New City Gas in Montreal and we had a chance to chat with them a bit about how Phantoms came about, what they’ve been up to in the past year, their excitement over their new music (new EP coming out soon and singles from the EP coming out starting this Friday) and what is happening for them in the future.
The duo, who find inspiration from life, film, and other musicians who push boundaries, are motivated to share their new music and experience more special moments on tour with their global audience. "We are going to some amazing places, some aren’t even announced yet. We are going to like Barcelona in two weeks and we are playing Mexico and we are going to some really cool spots. We both love travelling so the places we get to go are pretty fucking awesome and getting to travel to more places internationally is going to be incredible."
With their new EP, they are looking to share an honest representation of what it feels like for their age group - after the party. They see this collection of work, as a continuation of their album: the next chapter where they "kind of evolve it a bit and make it sound more grown up.” It is about “..getting older and the feeling of everything that is happening right now, relationship wise. Like if the album was about going out or a night of partying, I think the EP deals with like the after 2 am feeling. When the night is wrapping up and it is just later.” Their first track off the EP titled ‘Are you up’ with Shaylen will be out this Friday, February 22, 2019. They shared a little sneak peak of the track which has a real funky sound, yesterday on their instagram. From the preview it sounds like it is one of those tracks where you can’t stop yourself from grooving to it, definitely worth checking out!
They have been performing DJ sets and live shows for crowds all around the world but they have been shifting towards doing their live shows more differently. "We are still experimenting with how we are going to change it [the live show] and what we are going to bring out with us, but there is going to be a lot more live stuff which we are very excited about. It is always nice to play a show that is really full of our own music"
2019 is going to be an exciting year full of new music for Phantoms as they follow up their last album with a new EP and take on a new direction with their live performances. We are looking forward to hearing and seeing this all unfold! You can follow Phantoms on twitter, instagram, facebook, and you can tune into their radio show ‘Is everyone ok?’ on Diplo’s revolution on SiriusXM Radio every Saturday 11 am Pacific and 2 pm Eastern time.
Check out the full interview below where we talk music, performing and life:
Past and Present
You guys have been friends since around the age of 15, what made you decide you wanted to colaborate musically and create Phantoms and transition from acting to music?
P: We were always musical growing up, the both of us. When we started hanging out as teenagers, we were just like playing drums at my house and it was pretty aimless when we were teenagers. Then we went to this Justice concert in 2007 in Los Angeles and it was our first exposure to electronic music. Because you know, electronic music in America kind of took a while. We were pretty blown away and that kind of turned our lives around and we were like we need to make this music, we need to start DJing and we need to do whatever to be involved in this scene because it was just so exciting for us at the time. Once we started making music, we just realized that acting is just not as fun for us as making music.
So, you are done with acting but you guys are very funny, would you ever consider a switch into comedy?
P: We take our music seriously but we don’t take ourselves seriously at all. We just love making people laugh, we still enjoy creating stuff, like obviously we did a bunch of snapchats with Dillon Francis and we enjoy making content whatever it is. I think that this is the only way that we would kind of get back into acting like I can’t audition for like commercials again. It’s so miserable doing that stuff. Everyone assumes that acting is just about like big roles but when you go out for like "Frat guy no. 2" and you have three lines and there is like a thousand kids, its just miserable. Not very fun! I mean it is just nice now to be able to see ourselves online and see people enjoy seeing us being weirdos and being silly online. It’s been nice to kind of get that side of ourselves out there because we are goofballs; a couple of weirdos!
Who are some of your most recent musical influences?
P: We have always really liked house music and it was really cool to see the tides really change in the last year where house music really started to get a wide audience and that was a pretty big influence on us last year. I (Vinnie) was pretty influenced by the 1975 record that came out last year just because I thought it was a good progression. I just thought that they took a lot of risks on it and it kind of made me want to take risks in our own music for our new EP that’s coming out. It just gave me that spark. I think like kind of going back to classics, going back to the root of where we were at working on the album and what we are trying in this EP is continue what we were saying on that record but kind of evolve it a bit and make it sound more grown up. So hopefully we achieved that! I guess only time will tell what the people say!
Do you have any influences outside the music world that you bring into your music?
P: Film for sure, there were a lot of movies from last year that I thought, the music and the film itself were tied together so well. Like 'Suspiria', the Thom Yorke soundtrack of that, I’ve been listening to a lot. The composer Jóhann Jóhannsson did a soundtrack for this movie called 'Mandy', its kind of like a metal soundtrack. It’s amazing, and that movie was also amazing! It’s cool to see the visuals and music tied together in a creative way.
Would you ever want to compose for a film or a tv show?
P: I (Vinnie) definitely think that would be a cool thing to do in the future. I know Thom Yorke was talking about how doing the Suspiria soundtrack was so scary because he had never done it and obviously Jonny Greenwood has done so many and I kind of feel the same way that he was talking about it before he did it, that it was pretty nerve-wracking and scary but it is definitely a cool thing to do in the future because there are so many cool things that you can do with soundtracks.
You have been working with more pop-leaning vocalists, most recently, you have released songs with Nicole Millar and Vanessa Hudgens. Can you tell me a bit about how it was working with these vocalists and how those singles came about?
P: We try to do most of our singles in a very organic way where we don’t just have the label sending us somebody and we put them on the track. We do it pretty much just with friends of ours. We met Nicole just around last year, at a bar, I think it was around Grammy time and there was some event going on where we just met and hit it off and we sent her that track and she liked it and she cut it. With Vanessa, we actually grew up with her during our acting days and we ran into each other on a flight, we were boarding a flight to JFK and we were like: "we should do a song together!" and one year later, we ended up making "Lay with me”. It was kind of like a collaboration. We wanted to do something like pop-y but cool. Something a little bit different for us and it was really fun working on that track but it was definitely different than the other stuff that we have made but we are stoked on how it came out. It was just cool to do the music video where we kind of got to nod at our past, doing Disney stuff, and kind of recreating some of the High School Musical scenes. I know those fans kind of freaked out and it was very cool!
Whats your favourite part of creating a new song?
P: I (Kyle) think its just the fact that you have this open canvas and you get to kind of see where it goes and see what sticks and what doesn’t. There have been a few times where you’ll start something and you’ll get halfway through and you will be like "yeah, this shouldn’t be this hard" and then you kind of go in a new direction and everything clicks. That is one of the really cool moments for me when you go "Oh shit! this is kind of cool, like I don’t mind it”. Because I am definitely the way like when I think of some lyrics and I’m like "this is fucking lame and stupid", and then you write it down and you are like "ok well this doesn’t completely suck" so that’s cool.
Would you rather play for a big crowd or a small intimate crowd?
P: The small intimate crowds are definitely a little more nerve-wracking but its more fun in some ways because you are a little more connected with the audience. Some of the festivals or the bigger shows that we have played are insane because you are looking out at the sea of people but it’s definitely a lot less personal. It feels like as if you were rehearsing on stage because it’s hard to feel like they’re there at times. It depends on how the monitors are laid out too. You are disconnected because you are in your own world and then when you walk to the front of the stage to interact with the crowd, you are in between like their sound system and yours so it almost sounds quiet and then you get so nervous because you are like “doesn’t it sound really quiet out there?” It is really weird. With the intimate shows, you are right there with the crowd and it feels like a party. It is kind of like what we started doing, so it feels more close to home.
When did you start doing the non-dj sets and are we going to get to see more singing and live instruments in your live performances?
P: That was pretty early on, like right around the time when we released our first EP ever (Broken Halo). We started DJ’ing and we wanted to elevate it and especially when I (Kyle) started singing on more stuff it just made more sense to do it that way. I mean its way more of a bitch to travel with like the gear. We have been doing a lot of DJ sets and its so easy you just roll up with a fucking USB stick. But with the gear we have a full crew with us and have to bring out everything. They are two very different shows. Doing the DJ stuff, we try to make it more of a party and the live show has a lot more happening, a lot more moving parts, we don’t have much time to have a drink or do anything. This year, we have a pretty good number of live dates coming up and we are also switching up the live show a little bit. We are still experimenting with how we are going to change it and what we are going to bring out with us but there is going to be a lot more live stuff which we are very excited about. It is always nice to play a show that is really full of our own music, it feels really cool.
If you were stuck in and could only play in one of the cities you have performed in so far for the rest of your lives, which one would it be and why?
P: That is a hard question because there are so many cities that I really like playing. I (Vinnie) am going to go with Portland, it’s a great city, the crowds there are always nice. I (Kyle) am going to go with where Electric Forest is held : Rothbury, Michigan. It is just so beautiful out there. I am sure it is cold as hell right now, but I just love it out there. Electric Forest is an amazing festival.
I believe your drink of choice is Tito’s but what is your favourite snack or food to have with you while traveling or on tour?
P: Well, we have the whole thing with not getting food poisoning on the road. Now, a little advice here to anybody that is travelling: it is the hotel food that will getcha! You don’t think about it, you say “oh, I'm going to get a nice little meal here”, don’t. You’re gonna get sick ok? Unless you are staying at a five star hotel or something like that. The amount of times we have gotten food poisoning from a hotel is just crazy. Normally when we are on the road, we try to eat healthy, but you can get a little weary of getting some weird veggies somewhere, so it ends up being a lot of breads. A lot of bread based foods and that will getcha fat. Try working out while having lots of bread. I mean when you have it once in a while you are good but if you have it all the time you’re gonna start getting a little bit of a gut.
You guys are pretty active online. How do you feel about social media and the online world today?
P: We talk about it a lot but we kinda hate it, we are kind of growing distant from it. We’ve grown up with in our lives for a while but Kyle and I also weren’t born into it per se. We were like 15 or 16 when it started to come through. We obviously have to do it and we enjoy the outlet of being like weirdos on there and connecting with fans and stuff, but there is just so much trash and it becomes sort of an echo-chamber of bullshit. I think that’s where a lot anxiety is coming from right now for people, like just seeing shit and checking online and seeing everybody else, seeing a lot of negative stuff, comparing themselves to other people. My gut is telling me that its not a good thing to do that. Sometimes I will notice that I am just picking up my phone and scrolling for no reason and I’ll be on it for way too long and then I will turn it off and realize I just did nothing and that just kind of gives me anxiety. It just feels like a way to buy time and not just check it like an end of day thing. Definitely trying to be more careful about it because you gotta still know how to be and how to sit alone quietly without staring at a screen constantly. A part of me is just wondering like are we becoming old guys, like the older generation not liking rock n roll and our parents not understanding electronic music and then we’re going “ahhh social media”.
I can only imagine what it's like for the generation before us because they really grew up with it. When I (Kyle) was growing up in like middle school and elementary school, I was definitely like a geek and you know you have a crush on somebody in the class and now you have to complete with people all over the world because that same person you have a crush on is like looking at some hottie running around in a complete other country, let alone the other hunks in the class! Seriously though! Imagine what that would do to your self-esteem, comparing yourself to all the other people out there.
What do you find is the most challenging thing about being in the music business today?
P: Waiting. Also the more success you have, the more pressure you have as well. You put pressure on yourself and if you have a label, sometimes they put pressure on you. We are very fortunate because we get along with our label very well. People can be brutal online too, if they have issues with or maybe they don’t really like a song. They can’t just not say anything. They have to let you know. It’s all that kind of stuff but if you manage to maintain a good headspace, you will be fine. Waiting for stuff to come out, and people bitching at you when you don’t have stuff coming out and you are just like, well, I thought this song would be out by now. So, that kind of stuff happens.
New EP and Music
I don’t want to be presumptuous but, is the first single off your ep called ‘Are you up?’ Or are one of you just trying to get in touch with an old ex-gf on social media because she blocked your phone number? Can you give us any hints or details about it??
P: Oh I thought I was tweeting on my personal account! - Just kidding. The first single is called "Are you up”. We did this one with Shaylen, who is also on our record label, she’s fucking amazing, her voice is awesome and it’s the first single off of this new EP. A lot of the things we talked about, the EP kind of touches on. The kind of, getting older and the feeling of everything that is happening right now, relationship wise. Like if the album was about going out or a night of partying, I think the EP deals with like the after 2 am feeling. When the night is wrapping up and it is just later.
Is this from more personal experiences or from what your friends are experiencing?
P: It is a mix. Definitely partly personal. We have been doing this for a bit and as we are aging we are seeing things a little differently. We are just trying to write from what we are experiencing. A lot of it is just like it being 3 am at the party and you are like: “why am I still here? I still want to be here but do I want to be here?” Just dealing with that kind of stuff and that headspace and also kind of applying that kind of stuff to relationships now and how everything is coming about. We tried to do it in an honest way and I am excited for it. We definitely want people to listen to it like a body of work. It’s not just sort of a random collection of songs. We are going to release the songs to follow, kind of like a sample pack of what to expect from the EP.
What has been your most memorable moment in the studio while making this EP?
P: Before we wrote this, we went to New York, were just going through a transitional period. I don’t want to say like writer’s block but we were working on some stuff and we were just kind of like iffy on everything, so we said let’s have a change of scenery, let’s go to New York. We were in this weird AirBnB that was like nice but it had no curtains in it and the sun would just come in and obviously New York nights go pretty late and we were dealing with a lack of sleep. We were there for two weeks and just not sleeping at all and on our EP, there is a song that is coming out, it is the last song on the EP that is really close to home because that is what we were feeling, where our headspace were at that time. After that song, a lot of the EP just came out very quickly after that. And for that song we kept the original vocals we recorded on it, we didn’t really clean it up very much. We intentionally left it kind of raw. That was definitely the best experience recording it. I remember listening back to it and just being very proud of it. More on a personal level than like thinking this song is going to be huge! Just really happy we got to get that out. It was a bunch of stuff bubbling up and getting to put that on paper and getting it out was really cool.
What has been the most challenging thing so far creating this EP?
P: We moved into a new studio and it is a great studio, but we would record a lot around rush hour and you would kind of hear a bunch of fucking cars going through and we would just be recording and then have to stop and wait for some guy in a Charger. Also there is like a masseuse under the studio. I don’t know why they decided to put a massage place under a giant recording studio but they did, and they didn’t like the bass a lot!
So you’re saying there is a lot of bass, we are getting lots of hints from you here!
P: Yeah there is a lot of boomin' bass sounds and there is an instrumental track on there as well!
Anything else you would like your fans to know with regards to this EP?
P: We are really excited to get this out. We released some singles between the album and this, but this I think is really the next chapter of where the album left off and we can’t wait for people to hear it!
The Future of Phantoms:
Do you find that you have found your sound in a general sense and or are there other types of sounds you would like to experiment with in the future?
P: It is constantly changing so it’s hard to say. We have been having a bit more fun experimenting a little bit. We always try to keep things in the dance-house range. But even on this EP, there is a song thats far outside of dance music and I always feel like, as long as in our hearts it feels like a Phantoms song, then it will fit in our world. That’s what is kind of nice. It doesn’t have to be tied to a genre or even a sound. We talk about this stuff when we are writing and recording, this one song that we put on the EP was pretty different for us but it still fits in our sound. Who knows what’s going to happen going forward. Dance music is changing a lot right now and I have no idea where it’s going, I just want to keep doing what we are doing and hope that it keeps going well.
Dream colabs that you would love to happen in the near future?
P: We definitely want to work on some more club tracks. We have a few people we are going into the studio with for after this EP. One person in particular that we have done a lot of stuff with in the past. Not necessarily anything since. The dream collab.. We still really want to work with Ariana Grande!
How has it been hosting "Is everyone ok?” on Diplo’s revolution on siriusxm?
P: It is really amazing because we get to talk about whatever we want to talk about which most of the time is just us complaining about the stupidest shit and we get to pick the music that goes on the show and we definitely get to put new artists on there or old stuff that we like and really cultivate it. We like to put cool songs on there that are not just like big pop songs. It’s been awesome! The show replays a bunch now and we get a bunch of feedback on it every week. It’s been fucking awesome. We are like 36 episodes deep now I think!
What is the one thing you are most looking forward to in 2019?
P: The travel. We are going to some amazing places, some aren’t even announced yet. We are going to like Barcelona in two weeks and we are playing Mexico and we are going to some really cool spots. We both love travelling so the places we get to go are pretty fucking awesome and getting to travel to more places internationally is going to be incredible.
On behalf of your fans in Canada and around the world, Thank you Kyle and Vinnie for taking the time to answer our questions and share what’s happening with Phantoms in 2019!