Seventeen years after keyboardist Sarah Barthel and guitarist Josh Carter met in junior high in upstate New York, the duo are still making music together as Phantogram.
"I was listening to boy bands, a lot of Top 40 stuff, but also Notorious B.I.G., Tupac, Missy Elliott, and Outkast," Barthel says, reminiscing about her middle-school musical tastes.
Time passed, and after going their separate ways for college, Barthel and Carter met up again.
"Josh gave me the music from his solo projects. I was such a big fan of his music. I sang one of his songs, and we had a connection. We had such good energy, we decided to write songs together."
That music, over the course of two albums and four EPs, has earned Phantogram comparisons to dreamy synth-rock greats like Cocteau Twins and Massive Attack.
But it is Phantogram's collaborations with a childhood influence of another genre that most impresses Barthel: their work on Big Boi's album Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors.
"It was a crazy experience after growing up idolizing Outkast. When your idol gets ahold of you and says they love your music, it gives you a feeling you're doing something right. Then you're hanging out in the studio with Big Boi and Andre 3000, becoming good friends with them."
Phantogram continues to make music with Big Boi, which might morph into a full album. The duo's current tour, however, hitting Grand Central on June 28, will heavily showcase their second full-length, Voices, released in February.
Barthel describes the record as replete with "feelings of darkness and visual colors of black and white and lots of red. It's trying to capture getting to the light out of the tunnel, that fun ride of coming out of the woods, all the way from song one to 11."
Fans with tickets to the sold-out show will witness a stage persona that Barthel says is modeled on Bowie and Prince.
"I've always been inspired by artists who put on a show instead of just standing up there singing, though I do like that too. We're all over the stage, moving and putting a lot of thought into the lighting and visual aspects of the show.
"I hope the audience has a fun time and that they get there early to check out the opening band, Bad Things, who are really awesome."
Crossfade's Top Blogs
Phantogram. With Bad Things. Presented by Poplife. Saturday, June 28. Grand Central, 697 N. Miami Ave., Miami. The show starts at 8 p.m., and tickets are sold out via ticketfly.com. All ages. Call 305-377-2277, or visit grandcentralmiami.com.
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