Phantogram's Josh Carter on Sticky Fingers, Coachella, and the "Mouthful of Diamonds" Cocktail
Phantogram is hitting the road in support of the follow up EP, or "mini-EP" as guitarist Josh Carter likes to call it, to the group's dynamic debut LP, Eyelid Movies. Last year, this trip-hop group played a packed show at Rip's Ales and Cocktails for Sticky Fingers. This time around, the band is scheduled to headline The Crescent Ballroom on Saturday, November 5.
We recently caught up with Josh Carter to discuss performing at Sticky Fingers, sharing a time slot with The Strokes at Coachella, and what goes into a "Mouthful of Diamonds" drink.
Up on the Sun: How's the tour going so far?
Josh Carter: It's going great so far. All of our shows have been either sold out or very well attended. We're having a good time.
I've heard that you guys have played a few shows with a drummer. Are you going to be doing that for the majority of this tour?
Yeah, we have a drummer for the entire tour. We've been touring with a live drummer for the past year now.
Does that help you recreate your recorded sound?
Yeah, we still use drum machines and everything like that. Our drummer also helps with some of the live sampling, the three of us have samplers on stage. I think having the live drums helps make our set a little bit more dynamic, well actually, a lot more dynamic, and a little more fun for us and the audience.
Last year when you played in Phoenix, it was at a local dance party called Sticky Fingers. What was that like compared to a typical club show?
It was weird. It was good, but it was hot and sweaty, and there wasn't really a stage. We were jammed into a corner and there was so many people there, nobody could move. For our first time in Phoenix, it was cool to be there. We did our best and powered through our set.
You guys played a bunch of festivals this year. What have been some of the morememorable experiences?
All festivals have been really great for us. We did Coachella, Lollapalooza, Bumbershoot, Outside Lands. Coachella was amazing for us. We had a great night time slot. We were a little nervous because we were playing at the same exact time as The Strokes, but like 10,000 people came to see us. That was amazing, we had a great time.
My second memorable experience was Outside Lands because we'd been talking to Big Boi for a little while. We're huge fans of Outkast. We hung out with Big Boi for awhile after our set. It was really cool because I grew up on Outkast in high school. They've all been really great, we've been having fun doing it.
Tell me about your new album, Nightlife, what makes it a "mini-LP" as opposed to an EP, and what are some its dominant themes and tones?
You can call it whatever you want, mini-LP, EP, but the reason why we tend to call it a mini-EP is it's more of a body of work rather than a collection of songs. When I listen to an EP, there's maybe two or three b-sides off the record, and a couple of remixes. That's not at all now Nightlife is. Nightlife is complex songs that aren't b-sides off of Eyelid Movies. I think it's a nice bridge to gap Phantogram's debut album to the future of Phantogram. There's a hint, an element of the sound that points to the future of Phantogram. I think it's a nice way to bridge the gap.
What is the meaning or inspiration behind the first Nightlife single, "Don't Move"?
I made that beat for "Don't Move" a couple years ago, we had always liked the beat. When it came time to write an EP, Sarah [Barthel] and I thought we should write a song with that beat. Sarah came up with the vocal melody and I wrote the guitar parts, and I finished up the arrangement of the music and I wrote lyrics for the song, sent them to Sarah, and she laid down her vocals. She came up with a really cool vocal melody and harmony. I really like the way it came out.
I see you guys have your own drink called "Mouthful of Diamonds." What goes in to it and how does it taste?
Actually, what that was, we played a show in Mexico City and it was sponsored by Ketel One vodka and they wanted us to come up with our own concoction called Mouthful of Diamonds for the show as some kind of promotion because Ketel One was sponsoring it. I don't even remember what it was...Ketel One, basil, and lemon, sparkling lemonade or something like that. It was a pretty tasty drink. It's not really our drink, it's just what we came up with for that show.
What have you been listening to lately?
I listen to all kinds of music, I'm trying to think what I've listened to...I really like this guy called Dirty Beaches; I like his stuff a lot. I've been listening to a lot of Debussy, Beethoven, The Honeydrippers, The Beatles, Curtis Mayfield, Al Green, My Bloody Valentine, all kinds of music, really. The main thing when I'm in my car is a lot of classical music. I listen to a lot of bands out there because I'm part of it. I don't sit around and listen to our music and think classical music and jazz music is good for my brain as far as the songwriter goes. I find it more inspirational as an artist not listening to anything very current.
You guys are going to wrap up the tour here soon, after that, what are some of your future plans and goals?
After the headline tour we plan on getting time off and working on the next full-length record.
Do you have an ETA for that?
No, we don't. We're both really excited about working on the next full-length.