Phantogram has been steadily building their body of work and their audience for nearly a decade. Josh Carter and Sarah Barthel first broke out in 2009 with the cinematic Eyelid Movies (Barsuk) – recorded in a barn in Saratoga Springs, NY (a stone’s throw from their hometown of Greenwich) – and after releasing the buzz-building Nightlife EP (Barsuk) and much touring, Phantogram opted for a change of scenery by recording their expansive second and third LPs, 2014’s Voices and 2016’s Three (Republic), in Los Angeles.
Those albums spawned some alternative radio hits, debuted in the Top 10 on Billboard sales charts, and brought the band to the attention of larger audiences and new collaborators. They contributed to The Flaming Lips’ The Terror, A-Trak’s “Parallel Lines,” and Miley Cyrus’ Miley Cyrus and Her Dead Petz, remixed Charli XCX, and were sampled by Kanye West and A$AP Rocky… not to mention their fruitful psychedelic hip-hop collaboration project Big Grams with OutKast’s Big Boi.
Three is an iridescent record that glows with warmth even as it explores the desolation of personal pain. While recording it, the band suffered a devastating loss when Barthel’s sister (and Carter’s close friend since childhood) Becky died from suicide. Work on music stopped immediately, but then as the duo slowly returned to the studio, the aftermath of their personal loss (compounded by the deaths of David Bowie and Prince, two of Phantogram’s greatest musical heroes and inspirations) began to reverberate throughout the process, imbuing the album with varied shades of complicated, human emotion that Carter refers to as “Finding the beauty within tragedy.”
“It’s about heartbreak, and having to push forward and move on—and how challenging that is,” Barthel states.
In addition to impacting the band’s work, the experience inspired them to dedicate much of their professional and personal energy and time to spreading suicide prevention awareness and to advocate for reducing the cultural stigma of depression and other mental illness. They’re currently working on new collaborations and new Phantogram music for release in 2018.