Phantom Isle discuss future plans ahead of Garibaldi gig
The band's latest single Figures is out now
Like thousands of other musicians, the members of Phantom Isle spent lockdown writing new material.
However, for the Northants quartet, that’s only half of the story as while away from the stage, the band has also been working to hone its sound and ultimately their direction.
Later this month, Phantom Isle will headline the Garibaldi, with Tragic and bloody/bath in tow.
The gig will follow a triumphant return at The Old Blue Last in London last month, two days after ‘freedom day’, when the Government removed the remaining coronavirus restrictions.
“It was unbelievable, we're still buzzing from it,” says singer and guitarist Peter Marchant, talking about the atmosphere at the gig.
“The noise was such a big thing for us, it was something we hadn't heard - even before lockdown I don’t think.”
Prior to Phantom Isle’s proper live return, the band had played a handful of socially distanced gigs, including at a folk festival in Kent and at the Craufurd Arms in Milton Keynes in December.
Drummer Sam Thorne said: “I think part of it was that everyone was just starved of live music.
“We had to move a few gigs but it meant that show was about two days after restrictions were lifted which was a very nice spot.
“I think we had people walking by, hearing live music, and just ‘going for it’ and coming in.
“People were shouting, singing and screaming and dancing throughout the entire set.”
Thorne and Marchant are joined in Phantom Isle by keyboard player Joshua Pullen and bassist Jonny Longland.
The band heads to Northampton following the release of their latest single Figures which saw Phantom Isle continue on a trajectory towards a sound still rooted in alternative and new wave, but now heavily infused with synths and electronic beats – a style hinted in previous singles Mar V and Whip.
“We’ve sort of been making one or two decisions about our sound recently that have swayed our plans slightly,” explains Marchant.
“It’s meant we’re re-establishing exactly what we're doing with upcoming releases.”
“People were coming up at gigs asking what sort of thing we play - and it's about a 10-minute answer,” jokes Thorne.
“Mar V had a much more upbeat dance sort of feel, a bit of disco almost.
“It was still indie at its core with Peter's vocals tying it all together.
“Figures has a more krautrock sort of feel and everyone seems to be really enjoying it.”
Addressing the musical direction of Phantom Isle has also resulted in their decision to press ahead towards an EP and another single – both of which are pencilled in for the end of this year or early 2022.
Talking in more detail about refining their sound, Marchant explains it was Pullen’s purchase of a sequencer which helped to allow the band to adapt their style of writing and move towards a dancier sound.
“It’s kind of changed the way we write a little,” he explains.
“Mar V for example, our most successful track to date, was supposed to be a remix of I Am Urs but just grew into another single.
“We kind of realised we're quite good at writing quite dancey, electronic indie.”
Marchant cites the likes of Hot Chip, LCD Soundsystem and more recently Working Men’s Club as acts which have been embraced by indie fans yet have an electronic core.
“We’re still a punky indie rock band,” he says, “But with synths and drum machines as well as live drums which are still a big aspect of our sound.
“Those things working together is quite a defining aspect of us at the moment.
“As a singer, I’ve been trying different vocal styles, speaking some parts, but I keep coming back to this Freddie Mercury influence I grew up with, or the Suede ‘Brett Anderson’ sort of thing I keep getting compared to vocally and I can't quite get away from it.”
As well as working towards an EP, a priority for Phantom Isle, like almost all other musicians, is to simply get back inside of the country’s venues.
The Figures tour will also see the band play in Milton Keynes and Leicester with both Marchant and Thorne keen to take the band further north to other major cities.
Thorne said: “It felt like we were peaking after playing Mano (Germany) and then it was a bit like snakes and ladders, up and then back down.
“The main thing is increasing the rate at which we release new music and play – with those combined, we can go a long way.”
It would be remiss to write about Phantom Isle, without mentioning the ever present influence of Pete’s brother Matt, a member of the band who sadly passed away in 2019 following a battle with glioblastoma, a type of brain cancer.
Pete said: “I think he'd be proud of what we're doing. I think a lot about what he would say when he looks at us playing to 900 people in Germany or to that crowd in London.
“These are the kind of things he would have wanted.
“He was an amazing diplomat, he had this amazing knack of sorting out stupid little disagreements between people. We rarely disagree, but in those times that we did, he knew what to do.
“I always think Matt is that calming element, even though he's not with us anymore. I still think ‘What would Matt say in this situation’.
“He really did have an amazing way in which he approached problems in life.”
Phantom Isle play at The Garibaldi Hotel in Northampton on Saturday, August 28.
Support is by bloody/bath and Tragic. Music is from 7pm, admission is free.
For more information, visit https://www.facebook.com/phantom.isle