According to National Geographic, 300 to 400 dead sea turtles were found off of the coast of Jiquilisco Bay in El Salvador since last month. As of the date of this article, the cause of the die off has not been confirmed.
I had to write this story because it should be told by one who is both on the outside and on the inside. I know and also I don’t know. I want to know, and also I don’t want to know. That is my story of Turtle Stand, but what is the real story? How does one blur the lines of truth, that which should be kept private and that which should be shared with the public? How does one survive a broken heart and not tell anyone the heart is broken? How does one drive down a long lonely rural road when the light in life seems to have gone out and keep driving towards a new dawn?
This was the first time I sat down and talked with the members of Phantom Phunk since the release of their first album, Arboles Ossific. So much has changed, and so much has remained the same.
While part of this album was recorded and mixed at Harmonic Factory in Tampa, Florida, some of it was recorded and mixed at Westfall Recording Company in Austin, Texas. This was a departure from the way they produced their debut album. This time they wanted to explore the other side of the glass. “I enjoyed just being a musician,” Hector said.
As an artist, the musician paints a story with music and lyrics that the listener can relate to. It was an easy question.
What are the songs about?
Hector, Nick and Juan all chimed in with their thoughts. It was an easy conversation. This was different from my first interview with the band, before they had toured the South East, before they had played large festivals. Now, Phantom Phunk are more secure in the way they talk about their work. Conversation is spontaneous and enjoyable with this band. Experience and time are great teachers and we, their listening audience, are reaping the rewards.
“If you can relate, that is the point” – Juan
“Our meaning may not be the meaning of the listener, because the listener can create his own meaning” – Nick
“At some point, the music stopped being about one thing and became a metaphor” – Hector
In the Beginning
“It started out as a guitar riff…an unfinished thought,” said Nick. And then, when driving down a rural road on the outskirts of Tampa, he spotted two squashed turtles, and then a third.
“And then I found out that there used to be a lady who had a turtle stand,” Juan explained. “It was a long time ago. People would go to her stand. She sold dead turtles and turtle shells.”
Turtle Stand (the song)
Music and Lyrics by Nick Emiliozzi
“Come and take a look at my turtle stand.
All my turtles Clean. They fit in your hands.”
Turtle Stand the song is a dichotomy from its haunting lyrics to its upbeat and even humorous presentation. It is a wild ride down a hill with the top down in the mountains of Georgia or a quick ride to the store in an early sixties gold Corvette with shiny chrome bumpers. It will make you happy and it will make you sad at the same time. It will make you long for things that are and things that could be but aren’t.
Memory’s a Ghost
Music and Lyrics by Hector Alexander and Juan Gonzalez
“If I recall you used to be shy
But now your hair is green and you’re with some guy
Who reminds me of Peter O’Toole,
Dancing to songs and ripping the bong.”
Bands like Phantom Phunk are born again and again in the same lifetime. And like real life we sometimes long for the comfort of the past, but its realities are not as sweet as the memories, and like real life, music and relationships evolve, change, and move on. “It’s about growing up,” said Hector, “filled with flashbacks and open-ended.”
Music and Lyrics by Juan Gonzalez
“Well my hands are getting bloody
Why can’t you just be my buddy?
Are you real or are you faking?
This one is such a simple song and so complex at the same time. Literally bleeding from playing the guitar and pondering the universal questions of trust and faith in relationships, two sides of the same thought create layer upon layer to ponder long after the tune ends.
Music and Lyrics by Alexander-Sasha Cheine
Written by a member who is now conspicuously absent from the studio and likely from the future, Paper Neck is a search. It is a pounding Tampa thunderstorm of thought and sound, and an integral part of the Turtle Stand journey.
“Misty salt water splashes up and catches my face
And it reminds me of a feeling I’ve had many times”
There are two sides, they explained. The public side identifies with environmental issues and the personal side identifies with process. Turtle Stand chronicles the uncertainty that spread through the band at a time when they were not sure what to do, and yet, as time went on they realized that the music told a much more cohesive story than they originally realized and originally planned.
Hearing is Only Part of the Journey
Phantom Phunk are more than musicians and song writers. They are artists as well, with a passion for creating worlds with photography and drawing. This can be seen in the booklet that comes along with the album, Turtle Stand. These pictures are a comment on the environment and a comment on humanity. Clearly, Phantom Phunk knows we can do better. Each of us simply has to find our own way of contributing to the betterment of the world. Ideally vegetarians and aspiring vegans, Phantom Phunk are already doing their part.
Their artwork has become a standout feature of their Facebook page and soon will be released as part of an on-line comic series which will be launched some time in 2018. The series will be based on the band mates chemistry and will follow them along sort of like a diary. Phunk Phans – stay tuned, because they plan to have Phan participation and will even be accepting Phan art as well.
Listening to the whole album, Turtle Stand, is like entering another dimension, one that is unfamiliar and yet familiar at the same time. It is a journey that anyone can take. Come along for the ride, you will not be disappointed.
This is their story. This is their second story. I can’t wait for the third.
Back Seat Sax
Raymond Sanders Funhouse
Memory’s a Ghost
Steep Your Body