By Chesney Hearst, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Known for reinforcing rock and pop sounds with thicker, heavier electronic elements, the American duo Phantogram will make their debut in Brazil on Tuesday, May 12th. Arriving in the city as part of the Converse Rubber Tracks Free Show series, Phantogram will headline the first of two shows held at the Circo Voador venue located in the neighborhood of Lapa.
Phantogram members Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter recently spoke with The Rio Times about their music, working with Rio’s own Leo Justi on a remix of their song “Black Out Days,” and their thoughts about playing in Rio de Janeiro.
“We’ve wanted to come to Brazil for so long, it looks great in pictures and we’ve seen a growing audience online of people from Brazil that are just discovering Phantogram, or have been fans for a while,” explained Sarah Barthel, adding, “So it feels great to finally be able to visit!”
Barthel and Carter have released four EPs and two studio albums; Eyelid Movies in 2009 and Voices in 2014, making a name for themselves around the world. Although they only began working together in 2007, the pair became acquainted years earlier.
“Josh [Carter] and I met in junior high, but it wasn’t until after I went to college before we started the band,” said Barthel. “Josh was making a bunch of beats and we started working together in upstate New York.”
When asked when he knew that he wanted to become a musician and what some of Phantogram’s influences were Carter replied, “I knew right when I started playing drums that music was something I’d want to be a part of from the start. We’ve had a wide range of influences; The Beatles, J Dilla, Pavement, Outkast were all big for me back then.”
Further explaining their musical evolution Barthel said, “We were originally called Charlie Everywhere but after we signed to Barsuk [Records] we wanted a name that was more in line with the music we were making.”
Indicating the layers and depth of their sounds, a phantogram is a two-dimensional object or image that at times, depending on angles and light, may appear three-dimensional.
When asked if music video and the visual presentation of live shows were important to them, Barthel, who studied arts while attending college, said, it was “Very important to us and something we think about during the writing process. When we’re writing we try and imagine where this song puts us emotionally and mentally and play off of that once it’s done. It helps when thinking of ideas for music videos or our light show.”
The duo’s thoughts about dimensions and hidden depths shine through in their videos for the singles; “When I’m Small“, “As Far As I Can See”, “Mouthful of Diamonds“, “Don’t Move“, “Fall in Love”, and “Black Out Days.”
Known for collaborating with other artists including Future Islands and Big Boi from Outkast, Phantogram enlisted Rio music producer and DJ, Leo Justi last year to remix “Black Out Days”, later adding rapper Danny Brown to the track.
“That’s one of our favorite remixes we’ve had made. Hands down,” said Carter. “Leo had just released Heavy Baile when we approached him about remixing ‘Black Out Days’ and he sent back such an amazing remix that we said ‘we’ve got to get someone featured on this.’ So we reached out to Danny Brown and he gave us a great verse that really brought everything together. Really fun to see a song reinterpreted like that.”
Leo Justi also spoke to The Rio Times about the experience, saying, “I would say that I found it super dope to remix such a good song. I used to be in an indie band and since I shifted my focus to club music I’ve missed working with harmonies, guitars etc. Plus having Danny Brown, which is a sick flow, it was something I really enjoyed.”
The remixes and collaborations are part of Phantogram’s ever-evolving sound. Performing together for over seven years, Barthel and Carter’s music has been called everything from electronic rock to trip-hop/psych-pop. When asked how she defined it Barthel replied, “Now we describe it as beat-heavy darkadelic dream pop. Hopefully it puts you in another place, mentally.”
Tonight for the show, Circo Voador gates will open at 8PM and Brazilian band, The Outs will start off the night.
Also performing as part of the Converse Rubber Tracks Free Show series, former drummer for the Ramones, Marky Ramone will return to Rio on Wednesday, May 13th. Joining him as he plays to a full house, will be Blitzkrieg and Andrew WK. Brazilian rock band, Hell Oh! will open the night.