By SELENE SAN FELICE
Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter are about to celebrate their tenth anniversary as electrorock duo Phantogram, and their years leading up to 2017 have been eventful to say the least. Between seven EPs and three albums the pair has collaborated with artists like Miley Cyrus, A$AP Rocky, The Flaming Lips and Big Boi of Outkast, while putting out hits like “You Don’t Get Me High Anymore.” They’re also festival playing pros by now, making them the perfect addition to this weekend’s Next Big Thing lineup. While on tour, Sarah took the time to speak with us about Phantogram’s most recent album, Three, and life on the road.
In your Reddit AMA last month you guys said no to a user asking for a live album. Why no?
Sarah: I don’t know if that’s true. I think in general, It’s always good to hear live CD’s but it’s better for people to come see us play because we have a lot of visuals that are a part of our music. That’s what makes it a whole. If we did do that, we would have to do a DVD. Right now we’ve got big screens with projections coming from the front and the back, a lot of intense lights and a lot of smoke.
Can Next Big Thing fans expect a big production from your set then?
S: Well, for this show in Tampa it doesn’t have all of that stuff, so we’ll probably just be rockin’ out. The cool thing about us is that it’s nice to incorporate all the visuals, but in certain situations where you can’t bring all the productions you would like we step up the movin’ and shakin’ onstage.
Tell me about the future of Big Grams (collab project with Big Boi of Outkast).
S: We have an EP out with him now and we’ll have another one out when we’re done with the Phantogram cycle.
A lot of people might not know Big Boi is really into bowling. Have you guys been bowling together?
S: I think Josh has, but I have not. But he has a league and everything down in Atlanta. It’s kind of funny.
I know mental health awareness is important to you especially after the loss of your sister, and Phantogram has been heavily influenced by hip-hop. What are your thoughts on Kanye’s situation right now?
S: Being an artist is complicated. It’s not always an “in the club, let’s get drunk and have fun” kind of thing. A lot of people like to hide that there’s anything wrong, so I’m glad he’s getting the help he needs.
Wes Craig just did an incredible illustration for “You don’t get me high anymore.” Tell me about the darkness and violence behind Three.
S: We have a lot of separate meanings in our songs. That one can be relatable to anybody who knows what it’s like to lose passion or lose a feeling—that certain high I guess— from something or someone. The music inspired the lyrics first because of the choppiness and the heaviness. It has a back and forth paranoid, kind of anxious kind of sound. It felt frantic. So that’s what we decided to write the song about.
The Observer noted that fans got upset after waiting an hour for you guys to come on in Dallas, but all was forgotten after the performance. Tell me about the struggle of trying to keep fans happy on the road.
S: I didn’t even know that was an issue, but that’s a bummer. I know what it’s like to have to wait so long. That’s kind of the venue’s fault, unfortunately, we have no control over that. We try to as much a we can. But the one thing we do have control over, I guess, is that when they get in they can forget about something that sometimes isn’t even worth complaining about. Waiting in line a little bit longer for us is going to be worth it.
As a band that’s been touring on and off for the past 10 years, what’s on your tour rider?
S: Oh man. Um, wine, beer, strippers, uh..puppies, kombucha, yogurt, club soda, eggs, pickles… I’m actually looking at my refrigerator right now…coffee, almond milk and cocaine. (Laughs) Just kidding.
Does Leroy (Sarah’s dog) have a tour rider?
S: He does not, but he should get anything his little heart desires. I should look into that.