The duo, comprised of Sarah Barthel on the keyboard and Joshua Carter on guitar, is touring in support of their 2010 Barsuk Records debut, “Eyelid Movies.” Other bands signed to Barsuk Records include Death Cab for Cutie, Ra Ra Riot and Rilo Kiley.
Phantogram meshes electronic samples and acoustic instruments to make the characteristic sound found on the band’s record. “Eyelid Movies” primarily features crisp drum loops, dreamlike vocal effects and string instruments with Barthel and Carter alternating as vocalists.
The album has carried the band, hailing from Saratoga Springs, N.Y., to nationwide acclaim, garnering several positive reviews and opening the door to high-profile concert opportunities. Four days ago, Phantogram took the stage at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio, Calif.
Carter said the change of scenery from Coachella to SLO Brewing Co. will not be a letdown for him.
“We like playing big venues and small venues,” he said. “It’s been really fun selling out the Independent in San Francisco, playing Coachella. We didn’t expect it, being from where we’re from.”
Saratoga Springs is definitely backcountry, Carter said.
To write and record “Eyelid Movies,” the band spent time in even more rural upstate New York at a barn on Carter’s parents’ property — a place they have dubbed “Harmony Lodge.”
“It’s definitely a little more serene,” Carter said. “There’s not too many distractions.”
The pastoral environment is not the only thing influencing their music, Carter said.
“If we lived in Hawaii, I don’t think we’d sound like Jack Johnson,” he said. “When we made the album, we just made music we would want to hear. You should do it for yourself to begin with.”
Even though Carter said he’s not trying to impress anybody in his music career, indie fans are finding and liking Phantogram’s music on blogs and other online venues.
Aerospace engineering junior Dave Nguyen said he was impressed when he first heard Phantogram on a mixtape he downloaded from a private forum.
“I really like the juxtaposition of a really electronic sound with the sweet, natural voice,” Nguyen said.
For some bands, a popular debut does not ensure long-term success, but Nguyen said Phantogram will remain a presence in the indie music scene.
“Their popularity has just been increasing ever since I heard about them,” he said.
With a new EP coming out this year and another album set for release in 2012, Carter said he has high hopes for the future.
One factor contributing to the band’s success is a diverse fan base, Carter said. The music contains elements that appeal to fans of hip-hop, shoegaze and pop music alike.
“We don’t follow any specific trends,” he said. “I don’t think we’ll ever be the ‘in’ sound, but I don’t think our sound is too out there.”
Music junior Tommy Nickerson said he finds the band’s willingness to be different intriguing.
“Their unique vocals offer an angle on this kind of music that is unheard of, and that fact alone proves that this is a quality band,” Nickerson said. “Bringing new ideas to the table is not only a rare characteristic of new bands in alternative rock but inspiring to the listener.”
Carter said he is excited to give his San Luis Obispo fans a live performance.
“Expect to hear loud music that’s pulsating and droning and fun,” he said.
Tim Oakley, from The Mathematicians, will be joining Barthel and Carter on drums tonight.
For those who miss the show, Phantogram will be featured on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” tonight at midnight.