Phantogram are an electronic rock duo from upstate New York whose music incorporates psychedelic pop vocals, J Dilla-style hip-hop beats, and shoegazing sensibility. Debuting with self-released EPs in the late 2000s, they issued their debut full-length, Eyelid Movies, in 2010, followed by the chart-climbing Voices (2014) and Three (2016). In addition to their own work, they also teamed with OutKast's Big Boi for 2015's collaborative Top 40 hit Big Grams.
Founded in 2007 and based in Saratoga Springs, New York, the duo is comprised of longtime friends Josh Carter (guitar, vocals) and Sarah Barthel (keyboards, vocals), who originally hail from the nearby small town of Greenwich, New York. Originally known as Charlie Everywhere and associated with the local independent label Sub-Bombin Records, the duo released the eponymous Phantogram EP in March 2009 and sparked widespread interest with two songs in particular, "Mouthful of Diamonds" and "When I'm Small."
Phantogram subsequently released the Running from the Cops EP in May 2009 on the international label BBE Records. The duo finally made their full-length album debut with Eyelid Movies (2010), an 11-track album featuring the four previously released EP songs "Mouthful of Diamonds," "When I'm Small," "Running from the Cops," and "Bloody Palms." The album was released internationally by BBE Records, domestically by Barsuk Records, and on vinyl by Ghostly International. The duo returned in late 2011 with the Nightlife EP, which sold enough to hit the lower reaches of the U.S. charts.
They continued to tour heavily but found the time to collaborate with OutKast's Big Boi on his second album, Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumours (2012), and also featured on the Flaming Lips track "Young Lust" in 2013. Their success continued in 2013 when fan favorite "When I'm Small" appeared on the MTV adaptation of the hit U.K. show Skins and they released a four-song, self-titled EP. Toward the end of the year, they returned to upstate New York and began to write and record their second full-length album. The pair traveled to L.A. to put the finishing touches on the record, titled Voices, with producer John Hill (Santigold, M.I.A.). It was released by their new label, Republic, in early 2014. After the band toured and did promotional appearances for the record -- which almost reached the Billboard Top Ten, stalling out at a rather impressive number 11 -- they rekindled their relationship with Big Boi. The trio hit the studio and emerged with a new name, Big Grams, and a self-titled EP. Featuring guests like Skrillex and Run the Jewels, the album reached number 38 on the Billboard charts.
The duo enjoyed the process of collaboration so much that they chose for the first time to invite outside musicians to participate in the sessions for their third album. Featuring Darby Cicci of the Antlers, superstar session drummer Matt Chamberlain, Dan Wilson of Semisonic fame, and Ricky Reed (aka Wallpaper), Three was released by Republic in October 2016. The album was their highest charting to date, peaking at number nine on the Billboard 200. Two years later, they released "Someday" b/w "Saturday," with proceeds donated to suicide prevention. They soon followed with the swelling, synth-heavy "Into Happiness." ~ Jason Birchmeier & Scott Kerr