Meet Josh Carter and Sarah Barthel, the duo behind electro rock, dream pop, electronica Phantogram. While both Josh and Sarah lay vocals for their tracks, Josh also plays the guitar while Sarah plays the keyboard. Both members agree that the music they put out into the world focuses more on the dark side of life (even though they do show that there is a “light at the end of the tunnel”) and that they use the writing and production of their songs as therapy for the challenges they are facing at that time.
Both from New York, Josh and Sarah met in preschool, and have remained friends ever since. They parted ways for a little while (simply due to life), but in the summer of 2007 they reunited and decided to form a band. At first, they named themselves Charlie Everywhere. This name was used to release their first two EPs, while signed to a local label. Once 2009 hit and they signed with UK label, Barely Breaking Even, they changed their name to Phantogram, which was inspired by an optical illusion. The name has stuck ever since.
When asked who their inspirations are, both Josh and Sarah responded by saying that the Beatles, David Bowie, the Flaming Lips and Prince are at the top of the list. On their lyrics, Josh tells Interview Magazine:
“We write about life and love and death; it’s just what gravitates towards us.”
Though he says that he and Sarah do have many laughs and good times together, he cannot see them writing an upbeat happy song, because that’s “just not how [they] express [them]selves.”
“Our beats and our production aren’t dark or emo by any means; it’s basically the lyrics I think, and the melody sometimes can be too. We like to incorporate all different elements into our music. Whatever the listener can connect to, they can pick and choose. Maybe one day a song might make you feel completely different than the next, but we like to have a lot of everything in our songs.”
Catering to everyone, we like that! 👌 Speaking of their music, the band is known to record their tracks in a barn in Upstate New York. In 2013, the duo signed to Republic Records and, since the beginning of their careers, have released four EPs as well as three studio albums. Their most recognized was their latest album released in 2016, Three.
Phantogram – Three
On the album, Josh says:
“It was just very surreal and strange, when Bowie passed away. Becky, Sarah’s sister, passed away a couple days after. A lot of the recurring theme in the music is all of our heroes are passing away. The idea that all of our heroes are gone—of everyone and everything being destroyed around us and we’re still standing, and we’re still pushing on, and we’re still moving forward. That’s also a lot of motivation for us to keep going and going and going, and that’s I think the main theme behind the album.”
Besides putting out music, Phantogram has also toured with Metric, Muse, West Coast as well as many others. Plus, they have played numerous festivals over the years, including Coachella, Bonnaroo, Lollapalloza and Treasure Island. AH-MAZINGGG! They’ve even had several TV appearances; on Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel (both twice!), as well as Stephen Colbert – dope AF! 🔥
The duo, though, wants to make sure everyone knows that, no matter what, they will always remain true to themselves:
“Phantogram will always be Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter. We’ll always be the producers, the writers, the shot callers in what we do.”
Catch the duo perform at Osheaga this summer! We can’t wait to see them kill it on stage!
What are your thoughts on Phantogram? Let us know by commenting/reacting below, or tweeting us @umusic!