Phantoms are LA-native electronic duo Vinnie Pergola and Kyle Kaplan. Recently signed to Casablanca/Republic Records, they are another bright future talent on artist development group FAMILY Artists’ incredible roster. Their recently released debut EP titled Broken Halo is an integration of infectious pop sensibilities and moody lyrics glazed over well-produced dance beats. We caught up with the duo on release day at the creative FAMILY office space in downtown LA and took photos around the city they call home. We moved the conversation to Crane’s, a hidden gem bar located in the basement of what used to be an old bank vault, and chatted over drinks in the atmospheric booth you can find on the album artwork for their single “Voyeur”.
Former child stars Vinnie and Kyle met growing up in the industry at 15 years-old and instantly bonded over their mutual love for music, their similar sense of humor (get your dose of Phantoms comedy via their Snapchats @kapkapkap / @vinniepergola), and gradual disinterest in acting. They discovered LA’s emerging electronic music scene around 2007 and became immediately enthralled, which triggered their desire to be a part of that world - thus, Phantoms was born.
Kyle: “We started this project wanting it to be about going out at night. When you really think about nightlife, a lot of people either go out to celebrate, or when they’re going through some dark shit, and just for all sorts of reasons... And the idea that certain nightly connections and friendships start to disappear, like phantoms - that’s where the name stemmed from.”
The duo exists at an interesting place within current EDM music and culture: they merge funky and rhythmic elements with catchy pop toplines, and mix emotional moments into their edgy electronic production. It’s a refreshing formula that works for Phantoms and differentiates them in a very saturated and inundated electronic market. Working alongside their in-house co-writer E.B. Sollis, their songwriting process is very personal and collaborative; they like to keep things in the family ;), and mostly feature vocals from friends within their young Hollywood social circle, such as Nicholas Braun, Hayley Kiyoko and Skylar Astin.
Kyle: “I’m really stoked that it turned out that way because it all worked out well and didn’t feel like a label was telling us, ‘hey, work with this person and with this person!’ We work with people that we either really respect in their artistry, or have more of a personal connection to in some way.”
FAMILY is an artist development group that seems to treat every aspect of their acts’ careers as an art project. With their guidance, Phantoms have developed a strong visual aesthetic for the band, complementing their music and elevating their brand in a seamless and cohesive way. From their consistent album artwork and imagery to their first two music videos, directed by LYKA alum Ace Norton, the visuals they release provide emotional context to each catchy dance track. Phantoms as a whole have carved out a niche for themselves within the music industry, mirroring the artistic success of other acts on FAMILY’s diverse roster.
Kyle: “The best part is you can walk into the studio and have ho99o9 in one room, Hundred Waters in the next, and Kodak to Graph just walking by, and it’s really awesome to have this team where there’s no real competition. We all just want each other to do well.”
Vinnie: “We all get along and it really is like a family.”
Each song on their debut EP reflects the many layers of the Phantoms project; they audibly express the moodiness of nightlife and partying in a sophisticated way, and are able to harness the raw energy of their enigmatic personalities to put on a killer and charismatic live show. The EP is a strong intro into Phantoms and has been garnering local LA buzz, in addition to catching the attention of Casablanca/Republic who will help elevate the project to the next level.
Vinnie: “At the start of creating this EP, we had some songs written but we really thought about how we wanted to best represent this first release - we wanted to showcase the different layers of Phantoms all in one place. Broken Halo is our poppier side, but still has the darkness to the lyrics, where as All In is on the more emotional side. And we have the Com Truise remix, he’s a good friend of ours and one of our biggest supporters.”
Although Phantoms is still a relatively new project, they have big plans in line for the rest of the year and early 2016. They’re about to embark on a nationwide tour with Beat Connection in October through mid-December, they have a Selena Gomez remix in the works, and have plans to release a full-length in 2016. Now go add them on Snapchat.
If you weren’t doing music, what do you think you would be doing?
V: I probably would have been in film somehow, that was always the main goal when I was younger. Not even acting, I always wanted to be on the other side of things. I’m really happy it turned into all of this though, music is a lot more fun.
K: I’d probably be a pilot, I love flying. It’s my passion. It’s my thing.
Question for you, E.B., what was it like working and writing on this project?
E.B.: I come from an all rock & roll background, Mike [Feinberg] managed my classic rock band for 8 years. I never worked in electronic music, and I was really curious to see what the process was like. And it really was no different than any other project or environment I’ve been in, whether it’s with rappers or country singers, if the energy is right and you guys are vibing with one another, magic is going to come out. With them, I knew within literally half an hour of sitting with them - ‘Call My Name’ was the first song we wrote together. I was like, ‘this is going to work’. I could write with these guys forever.
K: ‘Call My Name’ is going to be a single off the upcoming LP, probably coming out in February.
What has been your proudest moment as a project so far?
K: I think for me what stands out is the day that we finished the record, we were in our manager’s office, E.B., Vinnie, Mike and myself, and we were just listening to the fucking tunes and Mike’s opinion means a lot to us. He’s a man of few words but to see him do this silent nod, and the big celebration we had, that was a big one. We put so much time into the record itself, so I think that’s been it for me.
V: Yeah, I think it’s the same for me too, actually.
Any guilty pleasure music?
K: Big guilty pleasure for me is Ariana Grande, her record is so good. I’m really big on all pop music, so like, T-Swift and all that shit.
V: Pop music... and Deafheaven for me.
K: And E.B.’s is Dispatch.
What do you guys like to do outside of music? Other than Snapchat?
V: Other than Snapchat hahaha what are some hobbies of ours? I like playing with dogs a lot. That’s the dream. I sit outside the coffee shop at Oaks and dog watch.
Have you met Chewy yet? The overweight beagle?
K: Yes! Oh yes.
V: Chewy’s good. Lots of good local dogs at Oaks.
K: I’m going to say working out for when I read this interview later and I’m not going to be working out. It’ll be a reminder, like, “you fucking piece of shit, go work out!”
What are you listening to at the moment?
V: I’m listening to The Weeknd album.
K: Yeah, The Weeknd and that Bob Moses album is so good.
V: Bob Moses, yes. And another person that I just consistently listen to a lot is Nils Frahm. It’s contemporary classical music with beautiful piano melodies and stuff, good synth work and good background music to any situation. Nils Frahm: big one for me.
Did you have specific music influences for this particular project? Or people that got you into making music in the first place?
K: Justice is a huge one from back in the day. It’s a weird mix of everything, from Taylor Swift to Daniel Avery…
V: Simian Mobile Disco... we really try to find a way to take all of the sounds we like and put them through our filter. It’s difficult sometimes, but I think we’ve found a nice balance. We like a good pop song as much as we like a dark techno song.
Favorite brunch spots in LA?
V: Mine is probably Franklin & Co.
K: I like Home.
EB: La Poubelle is my favorite everything.
I like Franklin & Co. because their bloody marys have a full slider on top of them.
EB: Is that true? Going for it.
K: E.B. loves sliders, haha.
Bloody Marys or mimosas?
K: Bloody marys.
V: That’s a good one, I’m going to say bloody marys. I was never really into bloody marys until recently.
K: All you really need is a couple of hungover flights and all of a sudden you’re drinking bloody marys. How does that even happen?
EB: Just a big glass of Tito’s on ice with two cherry tomatoes.