A psych-pop band from upstate New York who knows and loves Hattie’s fried chicken and may or may not drink smoothies up their noses? Sign me up! I’ve been listening to Phantogram fairly obsessively since their first album, Eyelid Movies, came out in 2009. My Skidmore friends turned me on to them with the highest praise.
Their popturnes (a word I just made up for pop-nocturnes, or “electronic of the night”) are addictively glitchy without sacrificing the awesome driving rhythm that made you put on your street beat playlist in the first place. I caught up with singer and keyboardist Sarah Barthel and guitarist Josh Carter fresh off the stage at Governor’s Ball a few weekends ago to see what I should be eating. Because, they know these things.
Have either of you ever worked in the restaurant industry?
Josh: I started washing dishes when I was fifteen, graduated to flipping burgers when I was seventeen and throughout my early twenties I waited tables. When we wrote our first album we were both waiters.
Sarah: I’ve been in the restaurant business since I was sixteen. Josh waited tables across the street for me, so we’d always meet up after our shifts, and then we’d spend the rest of the week working on the record.
You guys must be 20 percent tippers across the board.
Josh: At least, if not more. It’s 20% minimum because I know what it’s like to have shitty customers.
Speaking of restaurants, what’s your favorite world city to eat in when you’re on tour?
Josh: Cleveland, Ohio. Nah, I’m fucking with you. New Orleans is good. Paris, for you Sarah?
Sarah: Yeah, I’m just a big fan of cheese and bread, wherever that is. I will find that in Cleveland.
Josh: I like that the food is awesome in New York.
I know you go to a lodge upstate to hang and record. Is there good food up there or a kitchen where you cook?
Sarah: Josh’s parents cooked every single night for us while we wrote and recorded our first album.
Josh: Both of my parents are really good cooks. We just had good home food like spaghetti and meatballs, chili, risotto, jambalaya.
Sarah: Thanksgiving was prime rib. And for Christmas they did the Feast of the Seven Fishes. We had that and then a Jewish dinner. His parents celebrate all different religions.
Josh: We did potato latkes and matzo ball soup.
Have you ever been at a well-known restaurant where a chef came out and said hi?
Josh: There’s a great restaurant in Saratoga where they’re famous for fried chicken, called Hattie’s, and the chef came out and said hi to me once. That was nice.
There’s a brand new sandwich called Mouthful of Diamonds which you just invented. What’s in it?
Sarah: French baguette, we’ll start with that.
Josh: Mouthful of diamonds…it would be like, a lobster roll?
Sarah: Yeah, a lobster roll for sure. With actual diamonds though, not cubic zirconia.
Anything interesting happening on your tour rider?
Sarah: We always ask for a shitload of smoothies. We drink a lot of smoothies. There’s five or six of us that tour and we ask for 10 for each show. Then we do smoothie chugging contests.
Josh: Sarah wins every time. And she drinks it up her nose, too.
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