Today’s Feature – May 25-26: Phantasm

May 26, 2008 at 4:06 pm (Today's Feature)

From day one back in 2003, Phantasm has been locked in, ready for business and prepared to conquer. Their first show, a Battle of the Bands, saw them pull the crowd in with a “funk jam that transitioned into their rendition of Shinobi vs. Dragon Ninja by The Lost Prophets,” and they never let go. They tied for first place, earning the right to come right back and open for established alternative act Fastball… and they’d hardly been together for two months.

The music that the Phantasm trio creates has no boundaries; it goes where it wants, when it wants. In a day when overproduced albums can repeat the same formula in every tune, these New Yorkers are attacking from all angles, all of the time. Their “loud rock mayhem and tight rhythms with cleverly executed outbursts of controlled chaos” can be heard in several renditions on their latest album, “Clever Cunning Actor.” A truly exuberant example of “free your mind” sounds and textures, the collection contains multiple “big rock riffs, funk, Middle Eastern rhythms, turntables, and hand percussion.”

Certainly, all of this sounds like a lot to take in. And it is. Their record and live shows are intense. They get into it to say the least, with “a definite element of unpredictability, mostly from Steven… (as well as) 360 jumps by Aaron. They’ve even got their YouTube section to house the madness: While the band continues to tirelessly play, they’re also pulling together a new record; a collection that they claim will far exceed their previous work. Keep an eye out for some demos in the near future, and get into the XXQ’s to learn more.

XXQs: Phantasm (PEV): How did the band first come together and begin to play as Phantasm?

Jay: Aaron, Steven and I have been making music together since 2003. We have had a few guys come and go but we have always been the core writing members. Less than a year ago we decided to continue the Phantasm name as a three piece.

PEV: Tell us about the first ever live Phantasm show?

~Date: February 5th, 2003. Venue: Jamestown Community College. Student Union. Battle of the Bands. Location: Jamestown, NY. Time: Noon.

At this point we had only been together for about 2 months.

We opened the show with a funk jam that transitioned into our rendition of Shinobi vs. Dragon Ninja by The Lost Prophets. The show consisted of our first set of originals: Pressure and TLC (later renamed The Sunshine State) and some covers of bands that influenced us: Incubus, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and The Underachiever’s Social Club. I believe there was also a medley consisting of Billie Jean, The Rocky Theme and a poorly executed drum solo.

Battle of the bands outcome: Phantasm ties for first with a group of prog rock prodigy’s that called themselves Intuit. Both bands got to open for Fastball at JCC’s Spring Concert the following May.

PEV: Hailing from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, what kind of music were you listening to growing up?

Jay: We actually moved to Philadelphia in November of 2007. We all grew up in Western New York State, near Jamestown…

Aaron: Queen, Beach Boys, Korn, Ace of Bass, Bluegrass through his father, Classical music through playing piano and violin.

Steven: The Carpenters, ELO, then he discovered Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, and Jimi Hendrix.

Jay: Michael Jackson, Elvis, then Queen mostly hip-hop after that (Busta Rhymes, Redman, Notorious BIG) I got into rock a little later.

PEV: What were those earlier days like for the band? When you were just starting out playing gigs together?

Jay: We thought we were awesome (we weren’t). I dare to say we were even cocky about it. That didn’t last too long though.

We practiced together a lot which helped us to improve as musicians. We did our best to get shows. We played every chance we could. We got screwed over a lot, but the more experience we had the better everything got.

Everything was new and exciting and we always had so much fun traveling and playing shows.

PEV: Was there a certain point when you realized that music was going to become more than just a hobby?

Jay: Music has always been more than just a hobby for us. Flossing is a hobby, music is a way of life.

PEV: Who have you not collaborated with so far that you would like to?

Steven: I would like to duet with Ella Fitzgerald or with Mike Patton.

PEV: In all your travels, which city do you think offers the best scene for music?

Jay: We spent about two years touring throughout the north eastern US. Philly always showed a lot of promise. So when we decided to relocate from Western New York to a major market, it was our first choice. After living here for about five months, I still believe this to be true. It seems like a big city with a small town mentality. We haven’t really run into any big egos since we’ve been here.

PEV: How has “life on the road” been for you? Good parts? Bad parts?

Jay: The Good: Getting to travel around in a van with my best friends and play music every day. Adventure and meeting new people. Seeing places that we would never have seen otherwise.

The Bad: Gas prices. Difficulties locating a shower.

PEV: What can fans expect from a live Phantasm performance?

Jay: Three guys playing their asses off. A definite element of unpredictability, mostly from Steven (if he can get his hands on a table width=’100%’ width=’100%’ width=’100%’ saw or giant Canadian Flag). 360 jumps by Aaron.

PEV: Is there an up and coming artist out right now that you think we should all be looking into?

Jay: Check out Hierosonic, Grind City and Emok.

PEV: What can fans expect from your latest CD, “Clever Cunning Actor”?

Jay: This record has a lot of sonic textures and genre fusion. Big rock riffs, funk, Middle Eastern rhythms, turntables, and hand percussion.

PEV: How has your work on this album differ from your previous works?

Jay: A lot more together, more focused. The album has a flow to it. One song flows right into the next. Much more time was spent on it.

PEV: What is one thing we’d be surprised to hear about the members of Phantasm?

Jay: The number “76” appears as the center two digits of all our social security numbers.

PEV: When you sit down to write, what kind of environment do you surround yourselves in?

Jay: We definitely keep a positive vibe. We set up in a triangle all facing each other. We keep a giant white board for writing down ideas/notes. In the past we have experimented in practicing in different places like a old country home that was being remodeled in the woods, or with only one colored light bulb on in a dark room. Just to try and capture a certain feel or ideal.

PEV: When you are not touring or performing, what can we find the members of Phantasm doing in their spare time?

Jay: Watching episodes of either “House,” “Arrested Development,” or “Futurama” on DVD. Playing Supernintendo. Learning about the occult, and conspiracy theory from a podcast called “Out There Radio”, reading various books on middle eastern philosophy and fringe sciences. Aaron enjoys juggling in his spare time. Steven is an avid cyclist.

PEV: Before a show, are there any pre-show rituals you do or is just go out there and perform?

Jay: We used to listen to Prodigy before shows but we haven’t done that in a while. Steven drinks a lot of water and does breathing exercises.

PEV: Any embarrassing or funny live performance stories?

Jay: I personally have fallen off the stage at least twice immediately after ending a show. Aaron has hit Steven in the head with his bass more times than I can recall, and more times than he can recall due to the severity of the impact.

PEV: In one word, describe Phantasm.

Jay: Dangerous.

PEV: So, what is next for Phantasm?

Jay: We’re writing an album. These are the best songs we have ever created. Look for some demos online within the next few months and a release shortly thereafter.

For more information on the Phantasm, check out or on MySpace. You can see some live performances at YouTube.

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