With its national profile continuing to rise, indie rock duo Phantogram is returning to the Capital Region this weekend.
Whenever Phantogram comes to Clifton Park’s Upstate Concert Hall, like it will this Saturday, it’s considered a homecoming of sorts. Both from Greenwich, New York, Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter have gone from playing as “Charlie Everywhere” throughout Capital Region bars in 2007 to one of the area’s biggest musical success stories.
In 2016, Phantogram was playing around the world, touting collaborations with Big Boi and A$AP Rocky, and debuting their aptly-title third album, Three, at No. 9 on the Billboard 200. But Barthel says the energy of those early days was crucial.
“Touring and touring and nonstop touring – and just non-stop creating, just going. I mean, I don’t know how it works now with Instagram and all that, how bands are discovered," says Barthel. "But having your grassroots and beginning small and being excited and doing it for the right reasons is the way to do it.”
Now gearing up for its fourth album, Phantogram’s Clifton Park appearance comes smack dab in the middle of a tour featuring lots of new music. Barthel says the band is known for what she calls “darkadelic” pop, infused with hip-hop and layers of electronic experimentation – and the band’s newest single, “Mister Impossible,” fits the bill.
“It’s just super darkadelic and experimental and [we] thought it represents us to the fullest," she says.
Barthel and Carter aren’t Greenwich-based anymore. Barthel says she and Carter recorded “Mister Impossible” and May’s single “Into Happiness” in L.A.’s always fertile Laurel Canyon. And while she can’t reveal much about the album – the duo have yet to announce a release date – she says it’s done.
“[Our songwriting process is] kind of different for each song, but sometimes it starts with a beat, sometimes it starts with a melody, sometimes it starts with a visual idea," Barthel explains. "‘Into Happiness’ started with a cool beat that Josh made, then we added everything from there.”
If you think “Into Happiness” sounds lighter than some of the band’s previous work, you’re not alone. When releasing “Into Happiness,” Barthel and Carter said the song embodied their personal journeys since the career-highs of Three, telling Rolling Stone “it’s been a long a path, coming out of the darkness and into the light.” And Barthel says it still comes with a twinge of sadness.
“It was a very kind-of bittersweet song, or feeling, that we had while writing it, and [we] wanted to keep it that way," she notes. "You know, when you miss somebody, it feels good…and then when you miss somebody, it doesn’t feel good.”
Barthel says fans will "have to see" if the band debuts any other new music on the tour, but those coming to Saturday's performance are in for a treat regardless.
“They can expect, definitely, an experience," she says. "We bring on the production – as much as we can fit in that venue. We usually have a bunch more, but we can’t fit it – but we’ll make up for it with other lights. And yeah, it’s just an experience.”
Doors open at Upstate Concert Hall at 7 p.m. on Saturday, with the show kicking off at 8 p.m.