Most people are lucky if they still keep in touch with their childhood best friend, much less still hang out with them. Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter (who have been friends since attending middle school in a tiny, bucolic upstate New York town) not only still hang — they work together, making dreamy, fuzzed out electro-pop as Phantogram.
They’ve channeled the easy chemistry born of their longtime friendship into their new self-titled EP, which is alternately infectious and haunting, and ofttimes both. “Being friends for so long, there’s some kind of magical power behind that,” says Carter.
These days, their bedroom project has turned into a full band, for which they handpicked the new members. “The drummer, Chris Carhart, was a friend of Sarah’s. I was a little apprehensive, because we tried out 15 different drummers and she was like ‘what about my buddy Chris?’ And I said, ‘I don’t know, he probably sucks because he’s your friend,’” Carter says. [Barthel laughs]
They were understandably apprehensive about inviting new personalities into their fold, but that quickly faded. “It’s actually awesome. When we first hired a drummer to tour with us it was kind of weird because we were used to touring and playing shows as a duo,” says Carter. “So that was a minor adjustment. But now we have four people on stage altogether and the dynamic is kickass.”
The pair’s teen influences range from Beastie Boys and Public Enemy (his) to Sisqó and NSYNC (hers). “I don’t know how that flew under the radar with my mom. The first Beastie Boys record, my mom was like what the heck!,” Carter says. “Beck was the first concert I went to, and I really like him a lot. I was lucky enough to have a really cool older brother, this hip guy that’s into all this indie music. So I got exposed to My Bloody Valentine at a young age, and Sonic Youth, when everyone else my age only knew FM radio.”
“I was always so jealous of all the cool music he was exposed to in his house and from his family,” Barthel jumps in. “His parents would listen to The Beatles and Pink Floyd and lots of jazz. My first concert was New Kids On The Block. And it was f—ing awesome! Donny fell through the stage. We all thought it was supposed to happen, but I guess he didn’t mean to fall through the stage. He was my favorite New Kid, so I was really upset.”
Carter ribs her inaudibly and she laughs at herself. These lifelong friends must really live it up on the road, right?
“Usually we just get super pumped on Redbull and play hackysack, dance around in our JNCOs,” Carter deadpans.
[Editor’s note: We’re pretty sure they do not wear JNCO jeans while on tour, or ever. But if they do, that’s awesome.]