Track-By-Track zum Album des New Yorker Shoegaze- und Electronic-Duos…

Schon vor einiger Zeit erschien das dritte Album von PHANTOGRAM. Hier sind exklusive Kommentare von Sängerin/Keyboarderin SARAH BARTHEL sowie Sänger/Gitarrist JOSH CARTER zu den Songs von Voices – im Original und komplett ungebügelt…


„Nothing but Trouble” started off with a beat that I made out of some psychedelic Hungarian funk from the 60s that I found. Then we got into some Bollywood record together and sampled that. I think I left town for a weekend and Sarah started working on an arrangement for the bassline melody. I remember working on the lyrics with Sarah in her apartment in Brooklyn and that one came together. I did like a really experimental guitar solo at the end of that song. The image that we see when we listen to it is your walking in a field with your friend and you see a forest. The sun is setting. You walk in this forest and you start seeing things and your feeling a paranoia and loneliness in overwhelming. All these different kind of strange things, just a kind of out of control feeling that things around you might be controlling you. That’s why we put it in the beginning of the album.


This one was started from a beat that I made when we were on tour in Vancouver. And then I had a weird sample and Sarah took it. I think it was the same weekend I ran away. Both of the songs – “Black Out Days” and “Nothing but Trouble” – have this sense of darkness which we wanted to start the album with. Those songs were written three years ago. We still feel very connected, even though it’s a long time in an artist’s life. You move on mentally with what you are working on but I feel like I am more connected with all the songs of “Voices” than I was six months ago, just because we are performing all these songs. We recorded and finished the album and then we had a wait before we went on tour. So now all those ideas are coming back to life. I think the meaning for all of our music changes over time with me because our lyrics are not specific and you can read them in many different ways. Even if I wrote the lyrics, the meanings change to me like they might come up with new meanings to reline later on. We do perform the songs a little bit different than how they are on the record. There’re just many different ways of re-contextualizing our songs and reimagining them because we tour so much and play so many live shows. That’s the fun of playing songs live compared to the recording: you can mess around with them as much as you want and you still have the idea behind the song.


That song was actually a beat that Josh made about five years ago. It was kind of intended to be used for an hip hop artist. I always wanted to figure out a way to make it into a song which is a big task. It was a little bit tough to figure it out but I grabbed it and I swapped around with it for about two weeks, went back and forth, went to Josh with the arrangement figuring out how to do it. When you write over a beat with a base it’s tough to let it move aloud to be a full song with different parts. Just technically! The process can be tough but I managed to figure it out and we’re really happy that we decided to make it into a song.


“Never Going Home” was an idea that I came up with on acoustic guitar in my apartment in Brooklyn and then I worked on it in Upstate New York. I think I worked on it a little bit independently and then we came together and we did that kind of pounding synth bassline. That song was a very personal song for me that came together relatively quickly. I decided I just wanted to sing on it, even though most of the time I am thinking about Sarah’s voice. Even when I am writing and singing or something. And we had Sarah do the vocals on top of mine, almost blended at the same volume. That’s one of my favorite songs of the record. It’s a very different sounding song from a lot of the record. It was really great to have Steven Drozd from The Flaming Lips. He plays some instruments on that track.


I remember writing that guitar riff and the bass line at my parent’s house when I was up visiting one weekend. That is in Upstate New York. I felt sort of a disconnection from reality because I was torn so much and just felt kind of lost like who my friends were and my family life and everything. I remember writing the idea for that and then I brought it back down in New York and started working on it with Sarah. We pretty much finished the whole idea in Upstate New York and then polished it off in Los Angeles where we finished the whole album. Sarah messed around with this really cool guitar space pedal at the end of the track. Very beautiful song!


…started with a beat Josh made as well when we were on a tour and I found it. I liked how dark it sounded with the bass in the rhythm so I just started fucking around with a melody and tried to figure out a chorus and we got together. Actually some of the lyrics are from a friend of ours: A post friend that passed away of cancer last year, a poem that he wrote. That kind of inspiration is from that. He’s from Texas and “Howling at the Moon” represents this feeling of loneliness in the middle of the desert and kind of running from coyotes. That’s the kind of image that we get. He gave us a lot of his poems and we asked him if we could use some. We knew, he knew, we all knew that he was going to pass away and he was really excited that we were going to use some stuff. We play it live which is pretty moving. I think that’s one of our favorite song to play live.


”Bad Dreams” was a beat that I made where I took a drum lick from a shuffle. It was really slow and I sped it up by 300% and then added some snares and kicks and stuff and some chopped up rhythms – almost like an Outkast style production in elements of it. I pitch corrected it and broke this bass line. And then I brought that to Sarah and we worked on the lyrics together. She put her vocals over it and then turned it into a real song. That one got kind of influenced by that band Kent. For me, it’s the darkness and the rhythm of it. It’s a really rhythm centric song and really moody. I like it a lot. We had real fun in the studio with that one. We put a lot of really cool analogue synthesizers and guitar pedals and experimented a lot with the synth sounds. Like in the studio it really breathed new life and just kind of exploded. That was my favorite one to work on in the studio. It’s hard to tell how much time we put into it. A lot of songs that we work on generally could start like four or five years ago and then maybe we’ll finish them in ten years. Sometime they’re all just like bits and pieces and different ideas and we’ll come back to. I think making this record was different than how we made our first work because on “Eyelid Movies” and “Nightlife” we were just working on a song until we felt like it was done and then we moved on to the next song. And with this one we worked on songs, moved to a different song and then worked on a different song and went back to the old song – like patchwork working. I think keeping these ideas together and reconnecting them is good and bad. Sometimes I don’t like to step away from a work. I feel like I lose the inspiration or like the general feeling I was going for. But sometimes it’s good to go away from it because you need to give your ears a raft and your mind a raft and then you might go back to it like “oh, this is what the song needs” or “this is what needs taken away from it”. It can go both ways.


…was a song that I wrote and recorded like about ten years ago and I recorded that to tape. I started to sing the lyrics on it and Sarah sings on it and totally does some way cooler stuff vocally than I was doing. It’s a real beautiful song and I love the vocals. We ended up naming it Bill Murray because we had all the songs and ideas written down. We had a different song title before but we just thought it was an interesting idea for a song name. So when it came to name the songs we were like “keep it Bill Murray!”. There’s no actual connection. It was like visual basis and like maybe the song could go really well on that scene in “Rushmore” were he’s sitting in the bar at the swimming pool.


I remember being in Upstate New York at Edie Road Studio where we recorded most of the record. I was messing around with a children orchestra record that I had from the mid 70s. I was just cutting up and fucking around with the heavy snippets. It was like kids blowing horns or playing violins. Then I worked on the melody with snare drums to the rhythm like the three- four six- eight. Then Sarah added the analogue textures. I really like the emotion behind everything. I wrote the lyrics right under the stars in the country and we wanted kind of like an explosion. And so I asked my friend Darby Cicci from The Antlers if he could do stuff on it and he did.


That one was again another beat that Josh made and I kind of fucked around with the notes of this sample. It was a voice sample. We were in Switzerland. I pitch corrected and I kind of turned it into a melody to move the song further and then just fucked around with some other vocal melodies. And then all ideas that Josh and I came up with years and years ago made the chorus of the song. We added the guitars and this bunch of filters and fucked around with it in logic. I think we just wanted real heavy My Bloody Valentine’s textures with a real snappy Shuffle, almost like a hip hop rhythm.


That’s our favorite Song! That came from another really old idea that we kind of fucked around with. So we first started jamming together. We kind of incorporated and turned it into a vocal melody. I think it first started off as a guitar melody and then I added lyrics and different movement to it. We really love it because it’s a short song but we really wanted it to kind of space out and keep the building in growing and changing. There’s no chorus. It just keeps going up and up. At the end, we were really inspired by The Smashing Pumpkins and that shoegaze sound with that really interesting beat that once again Josh made on tour and I found it. It’s kind of a definition: The song describes us the most and defines all of us and everything that we do because it has the really beat driven, interesting and pounding rhythm with heavy emotion in the lyrics and quiet piano as well. It’s a really sad song and sort of the quintessential. If there’s only one song that I could play for somebody to describe Phantogram and what kind of music they make, I think that would be one of the best options because it really just has all the elements of what we do – tied together in one song.

(Caroline / Universal Music)
VÖ: 18.02.2014

Autor: [ von der Website]Friedrich Reip[/EMAIL]