Phantom Planet – Interview [2002]

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phantom planet

Mission:Interview
Objective: Phantom Planet
Agenda: Bassist, Sam Farrar

What’s up Sam?

Nothing, just messing around with Pro Tools

Pro Tools is a bitch of a program I heard.

It’s tough.

A friend of mine is using the light version and said it’s still hard.

That’s what I have; they are the same it just has less options.

Are you just working on music for yourself?

Yeah, I mess around with it all the time. I have my friends playing stuff and we create all this weird music; I don’t know what we’ll ever do with it.

I know Fredonia, New York. I know the Flaming Lips own some of that house where you recorded right?

Yeah, Dave Friedmann owns it with some of the lips.

Anyone live there?

Only the group that is recording at the time. It’s a very family run environment. It’s really cool.

How did you choose that environment and Dave to be your producer?

It was just Dave. We just wanted to work with him. He’s amazing. The Soft Bulletin [The Flaming Lips] is one of our favorite records of all time. But we knew we had to work in Fredonia because that is the only place he works. We never had recorded outside of L.A. before and it was a really good idea.

Did you go there during the winter?

Yeah, it was f*cking freezing.

You were in the snow belt. But it was cool because we spent a lot of time with each other and did music all the time. I know the Lips weren’t prepared for the winters there.

It’s not fun. But at the same time, we were there the first time and it was snowing and then we went home for two weeks and came back and it was lush, beautiful green.

I have read some fans reactions to the new record and they seem to say ‘this isn’t the same band we fell in love with.”

I don’t think we thought about the sound. We were on the road and Alex was listening to different things and we have grown up. I don’t know how we got here and we grew up a little bit.

It’s a catch-22. Fans aren’t happy if it isn’t like the album they loved previous and others aren’t happy if you don’t grow up.

Like the Strokes, to me it sounds like the first record. I understand they want to take a risk, but not to much of a risk. I think its cool for bands to change. I always compare our record to snapshots of where we’ve been and where we are going. I hope that down the road when we listen to these again we remember different points in our lives.

Even if you put the Flaming Lips into this conversation, what did they sound like before the Soft Bulletin-they didn’t even seem like the same band. Fans were probably pissed.

Exactly.

With making a new record do you have to stop listening to music or listen to a lot of different stuff?

We listen to a lot of different stuff. We are such lovers of music we can’t stop listening. We all have IPods full of shit.

With rock as a whole today-do you listen to newer stuff, older stuff? The newer stuff seems to be a little plain.

Definitely. Our goal has been to find newer bands. But there are a few cool bands out there. I like the Burning Brides, The Stills.

Phantom Planet doesn’t have this big publicity force, but a solid fan base. It’s really grass roots.

I don’t know how we ended up where we are. It’s been seven or eight years and we have these fans that are waiting for us at shows. I hope they never go away.

You guys aren’t completely eclectic, but you aren’t so stuck in a sound that you can go in any direction.

It’s very comfortable. I like that we can do what we want and have fans who like what we do. No matter what we try to do we still have a great fan base who stick with us.

If you are Three Doors Down you have no place to go, no wiggle room.

Exactly.

They have one song they do ten different ways.

Totally. We have landed in a place where we can do whatever we want as long as we are happy.

Do you have freedom with the record label?

Very much so, they always want a hit and thankfully Alex is a catchy songwriter and it works.

You have a twisted formula like Fountains of Wayne. Brilliant and odd.

That’s the trick isn’t it? (We both laugh)

Does Alex bring songs in and do you know it’ll work or don’t like?

He brings some in and I’m like ‘I don’t know about that one’ but sometimes I’m wrong and when we work it out it becomes a great song.

Do you ever ask Alex what a song is about or just wonder about it?

It’s funny that you ask because I’m still not sure what some of the songs are about. I like it that way. He was asked what “By the Bed” was about and he said it was personal and he’d rather not explain it. He wants people to have their own version. There are lots of stories.

I don’t ask about what a song is about because it can ruin a song for you. If I knew what every Beatle song was about I think it would take the magic out of the song.

Exactly.

I don’t want to know.

You have your own opinions and that is what makes the song great.

I mean if I was listening to REM and was sad because I had a rough time with my girlfriend would it change the way I view felt if he wasn’t really singing about what I thought?

Fran from Travis, have you seen them play?

I actually saw them play at a little club and it was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen.

I believe it, but he was telling these stories and one of the stories he told was that songs to him were like stars in the sky and you associate songs with certain times in your life and you want to make them your own and keep them personal.

Speaking of shows, do you have to get up for a show?

Most of the guys in the band can just get out on stage and jump around a lot. I have to be in the right mood to jump around a lot-usually with a jack and a coke. But there are days when you are playing at noon in the bright sun and you don’t feel like being rock ‘n’ roll. But once the shows get going its great.

Can anything replace that feeling?

I haven’t experienced anything like it yet. Sex is great.

But there is no one watching.

Yeah. (Laughs) There is nothing like it in the world.

I was wondering if you thought ITunes.com was a good solution to the MP3 problem.

I use it everyday. I love it. I think it’s amazing. My dad is a songwriter and I used to download music all the time and we argued about it. I think the ITunes site is dope. It’s definitely the future.

What do your parents think?

Actually I’m pretty lucky. Early on they thought it was interesting and didn’t take me as seriously as they do now. But when the band got formed and saw I wasn’t playing death metal in the garage by myself that I was serious. And then we had a show at the Roxy and they saw it at a different layer and things progressed and they saw it more seriously.

So was it death metal in the garage?

Totally, are you kidding me. We just liked to play, that was a long time ago.

And you get the whole ‘what the hell is that?’ and ‘is that supposed to be music?’ (We both laugh)

Exactly.

How has the music progressed?

At first we were playing just power chords and it grew from there because we wanted to make things more interesting. I think the easiest answer is the more you play the more you grow.

+ charlie craine

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