INTERVIEW: Phantom Isle

Confronting the pangs of personal sacrifice and emotional impact of constant pressure, Phantom Isle’s new single Four Walls is a dynamic force of nature.

Layering up fierce guitar hooks, sparkling synth lines and anthemic vocal harmonies, the London-based five-piece deliver Four Walls in full technicolour with their vibrant accompanying music video.

I had a chat to the band to find out more about their influences, live experiences and the story behind their latest single…

Hey guys! Introduce yourself to our readers…

Peter: Our squad is known as Phantom Isle. We have my big brother Matt Marchant on guitar and keys, our good school friend Joshua Pullen on keys, the right honourable Jonny Longland on bass and Sam Thorne MP (Man of Percussion) on drums. And my name’s Pete Marchant – I sing and play the electromagnetic guitar.

I’m loving your new single Four Walls. Can you tell me about how it was written and produced?

Pete: Miike Snow’s 2012 track Paddling Out came on my Spotify shuffle – I loved the glitchy, sliced piano chords triggered with samplers. I was curious to see how that would sound with guitar chords, so I started experimenting with a sampler on Logic. The result was the intro that you now hear on Four Walls.

Matt and I then wrote the rest of the chords, bass parts and lyrics on top of that intro. Sam and Josh then worked their magic with the drums and synth when we started jamming the song in rehearsals.

Matt: One of things I had at the back of my mind when creating the bass line was that I wanted it to have to the distinctiveness of a classic guitar riff, as I tried to do with all my bass parts – keeping it interesting throughout the different sections of the song. People were responding to the song well at our shows so we decided to make it a single.

Joshua: We took the demo to our friend and producer Michael Smith who did our last single Focus. We opted for a maximalist production style, which is unusual these days with lots of artists doing things in a very minimal way.

The themes of the song explore some very poignant issues. What are your main sources of inspiration?

Pete: I guess the lyrics in this track reflect on some of the more challenging experiences we have had as people trying to a living from our art.

To outsiders, it’s an exciting life, which it is and there’s nothing we would rather be doing, but at the same time we have had to make a lot of sacrifices; financially, socially and in terms of seeing family. You find yourself so wrapped up in this life of ‘networking’ and working full time that you lose touch with old friends and family, especially when you move to a new city. Hopefully we’ll make up for lost time somewhere down the line!

Matt: I was diagnosed with cancer last year, and after that happened these lyrics took on a different meaning for me. They’re relatable to any kind of struggle with a major goal, whether it’s artistic success or staying alive. The lyric: ‘the urgency to dive into the dark will bring the end before we even get to start’ is relevant, as I feel like my story has the potential to end due to the illness, as morbid as that sounds!

The Four Walls analogy is definitely relevant to the fact I’ve had to stay inside and recover over the last few months and it’s stopped me from being able to attend band practices and experience things that are relevant to my life as a songwriter.

You’ve been aptly compared to bands like The War On Drugs and Tame Impala. If you could tour with anyone in the world, who would it be and why?

Joshua: Currently as a band we’re obsessed with the thin and wavering vocals of Connan Mockasin. So sexy… so creepy. He’d be a right laugh on tour.

Matt: I definitely agree with that. Spector would definitely be one for me. They’ve got such distinctive songs and to my ears they have a truly original style compared to any indie bands of their time. I’ve met Fred a few times and he’s a legend. I’ve always wanted to tour with The Cribs too.

Sam: Steely Dan. The sheer songwriting quality, the live performances… watching those solos from the side of the stage would be the dream.

Pete: I saw The Strokes at All Points East last night – somewhat clichéd answer, but such perfection in Nick Valensi’s guitar playing and Casablancas’ vocal delivery. Majestic.

Jonny: Out of anyone? James Brown. He knew how to party.

I see you’ve got a headline show at Paper Dress Vintage in London on 14th June. What’s been your favourite live experience to date?

Joshua: It’s got to be The Great Escape last year. We had such a great time and the venue was absolutely rammed. We were playing in a hotel that had white walls and curtains – it felt like we were playing someone’s wedding… we then went and hung out with Christo from Phobophobes for the night.

Pete: The Shacklewell Arms in East London is always a good gig. Every time we’ve played there the crowd have been really welcoming – ace venue.

What’s the best advice you’ve given as band?

Joshua: ‘Shut up and play the hits.’ – James Murphy

No-one is here to see you tune your guitar and chat sh*t.

What’s up next for Phantom Isle?

Pete: We’re working on our next single at the moment, and we’ve got a headline show at Paper Dress Vintage in London on 14th June – come party.

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