They say good things come in threes and the latest album from electro-rock institution Phantogram is no exception. After Playing at the VMA’s pre-party, touring the UK with Muse and delivering the deliciously dark track ‘You Don’t Get Me High Anymore’ back in spring, it’s fair to say Phantogram are having a good year.
Now, two years since the release of their last album Voices, the duo otherwise known as Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter are set for an Autumn takeover with their third studio album Three and a tasty European tour.
Notion has been blessed with an exclusive and tantalising look behind the scenes of the making of Phantogram’s latest album Three before its release in October.
Since the release of ‘You Don’t Get Me High Anymore‘ we’ve been eagerly awaiting Phantogram’s third album. In anticipation of their October release date, we caught up with the duo to talk about the inspiration behind Three, their musical evolution and of course their much anticipated European tour.
Notion: You’ve been getting a lot of buzz online about your latest single ‘You Don’t Get Me High Anymore’, and rightly so. Can you tell us a little about when you wrote that?
Josh: It feels like that song kind of dictated the overall tone of the album, once we got that written we felt like we had found the dynamic for the rest of the songs. That track is all about not finding joy in things that you once found happiness in, and there was a time when we moved to LA where all the new relationships we were making felt forced and fake, so that kind of dictated the lyrics.
We’re very excited for Three to drop next month. What kind of life experiences have formed the basis for this album?
There was a lot of sadness during the recording process. Sarah’s sister, Becky, died in the middle of writing the album, which was a huge blow to both of us and made us reevaluate everything in our life. I think that darkness comes across at times in the album.
It’s been two years since you guys released Voices, how has Phantogram evolved musically since your last album?
We’ve learned a lot about ourselves and how to collaborate with other people. Previous Phantogram albums were all written in a barn in upstate New York where we kind of secluded ourselves and didn’t talk to anyone. Maybe the best thing that came out of the Big Grams project with Big Boi was that we learned how to work with a bunch of other people. We were able to pick and choose the elements of songwriting that we liked and bring them into the Phantogram world.
Who have you been working with on this album? Any features?
There are no features on this album, but we always love bringing other people in to see what they come up with. We worked with a wide range of people, we went to Atlanta to work with Tricky Stewart and The Dream and then worked with Ricky Reed and Dan Wilson in LA to give us different perspectives on a certain track.
Tell us about the artwork for the tracks you’ve released so far this year, ‘Same Old Blues’, ‘Cruel World’ and ‘You Don’t Get Me High Anymore’. There’s a juxtaposition in the imagery – both natural and calming with imagery of clouds and at the same time dark and disruptive with the inclusion of smoke fumes. Does this show an inner struggle with your new material? What were you trying to say with the artwork?
Not an internal struggle with the music, but maybe an internal personal struggle? The album cover with the flames resonated with us because it felt like our world was burning down. To me, the artwork between ‘Same Old Blues’ and ‘You Don’t Get Me High Anymore’ is connected, in that with ‘Same Old Blues’ you have an idyllic blue sky and everything seems fine, but that smoke in the ‘You Don’t Get Me High Anymore’ artwork could come and ruin that photo at anytime in your life.
We know you guys love performing live. What’s been your favourite live gig recently, and what was it like to perform at the VMAS this year?
The VMA pre-party was a lot of fun, it was the day before the show and live-streamed online and you don’t think about how much work it takes to get a livestream up and running but it was fun to see. We loved touring with Muse in the UK – to see how passionate their fan-base is and play on a circular stage in the middle of an arena was great.
Speaking of live performances, we know you have a European tour coming up and you’re playing some iconic venues over here. Do you still get excited about touring or has it become part and parcel of the job?
It’s so much fun to be able to go out and do what we love. It’s easy to forget the power of music when you are in the recording process but once you get out there and see what your music does to your fans it all comes rushing back. I’m not sure that we’ll ever get tired of touring.
If you were to describe the new album in three words, what would they be?
Really fucking good.
Phantogram will be touring the UK in November – if you want to grab tickets for any of there UK shows click here.
‘Three’ will be available to purchase on iTunes at the start of October.
Follow Phantogram on Twitter and Facebook
Follow Drew Wyllie on Twitter