Phantom Sound: Bringing Back the New Wave Spirit (Interview)
Phantom Sound is an indie rock project that quotes 80's new wave and pop rock in an inventive way. The one (wo)man project is backed in the studio by some industry heavyweights that guarantee a classic rock vibe that only build up the cross-genre fusion that Marisa seeks to achieve with her upcoming album, which she certainly has achieved with her first single. I got the chance to interview Marisa and talk a bit about the upcoming project...
Who is “Phantom Sound”? Tell us a bit about how this project came about.
"I started working on a different project with a band I was in while I was living in Berlin, I met Ken Stringfellow, and he was going to produce this project. Things didn't work out, the other members had other ideas, that I disagreed with, so I left. I was really heart broken to have to tell Ken that working with him was not going to happen, as I was so looking forward to it, but after a few conversations, he encouraged me to go it alone and write and sing my own songs, and he would produce. I really owe him a lot for pushing me along, because it honestly hadn't crossed my mind that I would a) write a whole album myself and b) do this without already having a band. So, thank you, Ken for so many things, but especially for your encouragement...thought I might sneak that in there!!"You have some amazingly talented people that you’re working with on the album (Clem Burke [from Blondie] and Ken Stringfellow [R.E.M.]), how were you able to get to collaborate with them?
"I wrote to Ken at first to just tell him how he's inspired me over the years with his music with The Posies and his solo work, but then I sort of dropped hints, maybe not so subtle, that I wanted to work with him, and as I mentioned, I had that band project going at the time, so thought that would be a good way to get something going. Working with Ken has been such a learning experience and has really helped me to grow musically. When we started this project, the idea was much smaller than it turned out to be. We hadn't planned to use live drums, but half way through, I decided I wanted to. We were recording the first single,"Get to Me", and I mentioned that I felt that track having a kind of "Blondie" back beat, and Ken said,"Well, why don't we ask Clem?", and then I think it was about an hour later after we had sent a few songs to him, that he said, yes! I was over the moon, as Clem is someone I admire, and I had been a Blondie fan for so long, it was pretty amazing. To me, he is a legend. He ended up playing on 6 tracks, and I have other guest drummers on the other 6 tracks, an amazing guy named Frankie Siragusa from a studio in Los Angeles called The Lab, who has played on Ken's most recent solo album, and my friend and band mate from a previous band I was in when I lived in NYC, named, Jeffrey Spring."You cite some classic pop rock, new wave and 80’s influences like Bowie and Roxy Music, what musical elements do you like to pull from these influences? What elements can we expect on the upcoming album?
"You can expect a true new wave 80's vibe from this album. It's really authentic, yet we did it in a contemporary way, and added a bit of rock too, so, I feel it's a sound that will remind people what they loved about 80's music, or that's my hope. A lot of bands in recent times that are touted as 80's inspired are, in my view, drawing inspiration from an 80's sound that didn't really solidify it's place in music history. For me, the true sound of the 80's and what made it influential was the New Wave scene, that included bands like Simple Minds, Duran Duran, Soft Cell, The Cure etc... and then there was the New Romantic, Blitz Kids doing their thing like Spandau Ballet, Steve Strange, and Boy George etc...this is what has influenced my sound and attitude, and I hope to bring back this want for change and creative expression that seems to be lost in the music scene these days. We also aim to reflect this in our live performances as well through style and anything else we can bring to it. We are still exploring this, as live shows are starting to come about..."Although you are influenced by a classic rock sound, your lead single “Get To Me” is much more indie sounding, is it a conscious effort to fall under the indie rock genre? If so, why indie?
"Not at all! I chose that as the lead single for many reasons, one being the strength of Clem's drumming and I also really liked the strong rock vibe it had, sitting along side a sort of understated vocal in the verses. I basically wanted to grab people by their balls and say,"Women rock, we are here, listen to us"...I would argue that that song has an 80's vibe to it as well, sort of something along the lines of early Gary Numan, but no matter what I say about my own music, someone else will feel or hear something different, but, the intention was not to be able to be easily classified as an indie artist..."Tell us a little bit about the upcoming album, what were some of the main musical and lyrical inspirations?
"Well, I think I have been clear about what has inspired me musically, but as far as the lyrics go, when I write, I just let it flow, and what comes out goes straight to paper. I don't often change what comes out, I do edit here and there, maybe try to find a better way to say something, but overall, I think my lyrics are meaningful yet simple, and I think people will find something in them that they can relate to. The lyrics on this album are personal things that I went through or experienced, things that may have touched me in a negative or positive way, and just thoughts about things that I wanted to explore musically..."I know you wrote and recorded the album throughout Europe; in Berlin, Amsterdam, London, and Paris. Did the changing of cities have any effect on the whole process? And did Europe influence the album as a whole? Knowing you originally hail from L.A.
I think Berlin inspired the fact that I am actually playing music again, as I had taken a break for a while, and wasn't sure I would come back to it or not, I am very happy I did. So, in that sense being over here has helped, but as far as the album, I think it's very much inspired by my life in Los Angeles, though things that occurred here have made their way on to the album as well, it would be hard for it not to... Where do you see yourself in 5 years? What is the future of “ The Phantom Sound” and what are your dreams/aspirations for the project?
I see myself taking this all over the world, that's the dream, but I would imagine that's every musicians dream to do that. I am a big dreamer, so...Glastonbury, here we come!! I would be happy to play any stage at Glastonbury. I am smiling as I write that...
Phantom Sound's Music Suggestions:
"...it's just a great song, the synth sounds really cut to the core and get me to feel things, so I hope it does the same for your readers..."
"...it is a quintessential 80's album and really helped to solidify The Furs place in music with it's mix of highly synthesised sounds, and lots of guitars to take it to a whole other level. Which is a similar approach to what we did with my album..."
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