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.
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
I’m looking at some 50-year-old cuttings from a morning newspaper called the Nottingham Guardian Journal. The first of them is dated Saturday, May 13, 1967. It’s from a page called The Younger Set, containing pieces on fashion and music. The reviews include Hendrix’s “The Wind Cries Mary” (“magnificent… the most creative musician in Britain today”) and Percy Sledge’s “Out of Left Field” (“reaffirms my faith in soul music”). A week later we have the Doors’ debut album (“a very cool, tight sound”), Jefferson Airplane’s “Somebody to Love” (“a very mind-blowing cut from from one of the leading new-wave groups”) and, er, Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich (“completely moronic”).
The Guardian Journal died in 1973 and is remembered only for having been the place where Graham Greene learned the craft of sub-editing before leaving for London to join The Times. And in 1967 it carried these reviews, along with others of The Velvet Underground…
Paper Neck, the title of the new single by Phantom Phunk might infer an inability hold a heavy load, but nothing could be farther from the truth. From the opening moments of the track one is thrown into the big arena, where only legendary rock bands go.This song, no doubt, will propel Phantom Phunk into the mainstream heavy metal conscience.
Sasha’s amped out vocals kick the door wide open for the downpour of drums and bass that rumble under the lightening flash of guitars. Heavy, uncompromising and deep, Paper Neck leads you right into the storm. And as all Phunk Phans know, Phantom Phunk’s music requires the listener to dig below the surface to find meaning. The second to last line of the lyrics asks a simple question – “Do we have the exact same problems?” yet that line alone can evoke a million conversations and quite a few thesis papers.
After their signature “Tommy’s Cosmic Avocado,” off of their first album, Arboles Ossific, it is hard to believe that another epic song was coming right on the heels of their debut.Released as a new single before their second album hits the shelves, Paper Neck leaves us with only one question: Is there anything this band can’t do?
Phantom Phunk, a Tampa-based indie rock band, is set to release their debut album on November 19, 2016 . Arboles Ossific was recorded and produced at Harmonic Factory, in Tampa, Florida and mastered at Abbey Road Studios in London, England.
The band spent the last the last year and a half concentrating on composing music, writing lyrics, recording their music and purposely taking the time to form a cohesive group. Since they produced the album in their own studio, they were able pursue their ideas, satisfy their curiosities in the studio, learn about each other musically and form a professional bond based on mutual respect and trust. This has led to a band that has faced challenges head on and come out stronger. They believe that taking this year to focus on recording and developing the band will be a big advantage when they face the stresses of being on the road for long lengths of time, performing in unfamiliar venues and being away from home.
Choosing a Title
When Phantom Phunk was working on their album they broke a lot of drumsticks. Every time a drumstick broke, they planted it in the yard outside their studio. They dubbed the area Drumstick Graveyard and took a picture to memorialize the completion of the album. Behind Drumstick Graveyard is a vast expanse of green grass and behind that is the beginning of the forest. If you look closely, the drumsticks have the effect of fossilized tree trunks – thus Arboles Ossific.
The much anticipated results of the cover art contest were announced on July 23 and with the band’s spooky yet elusive persona, it was anyone’s guess which direction the art would take. The band received amazing feedback and a lot of wonderful submissions. The cover they chose can be seen here and was created by Jamie Williams:
Filling the Park
The official debut of Arboles Ossific will be at a live concert performance in Downtown Tampa at Water Works Park, located on the Hillsborough River and part of Tampa’s now famous Riverwalk. The park itself has a new band shell, expansive lawns and great views of downtown Tampa. There will be a simultaneous release on CD Baby, I Tunes Store, Amazon, Band Camp and in local music stores. Details about the concert are available on their website at www.phantomphunk.com.
Arboles Ossific will be released on CD’s and LP Vinyl and will be available for download. For those who buy the download version, Phantom Phunk will be offering fans bonus tracks not otherwise available to the general public.
Meanwhile, Phantom Phunk invites you to explore their music before the official release date. On the tracks available here, you will discover a collection of songs that represent the spirit of Phantom Phunk. Musically, the album covers a lot of ground. From the appealing ballad of Sip of Wine to the punk circus of Snowy in Floridato the fast paced rock of The Unheard Spirit Symphony to the symbiotic relay between electronic and acoustic rhythm elements in Jungle Crunchwith special guest rapper Wayne Price, the music of Phantom Phunk provides plenty to get psyched about. Be assured, every track on Arboles Ossific will capitalize on the groove you can hear right now.
The full tracklisting
Snowy in Florida – lyrics by Juan Gonzalez
Sip of Wine – lyrics by Alex Cheine
The Unheard Spirit Symphony – lyrics by Erica Goldman and Alex Cheine
Gateways – lyrics by Alex Cheine
Hey There – lyrics by Hector Alexander
Looping – lyrics by Hector Alexander
Brother’s Keeper – lyrics by Alex Cheine
Distant Kaleidoscopes – Instrumental by Phantom Phunk
With their newest release, Snowy in Florida, Phantom Phunk is changing up the standard playlist. This is their version of a punk circus.
While the lyrics are almost nonexistent, there is a coherent musical narrative. The song’s structure and tone recreate the agitation of our everyday existence without jamming the obvious down our throats. The riveting guitar licks, pumping bass and hammering drums are the house of mirrors. The constant bombardment of soundbites offers a stereophonic substitution for the fun house. So ladies and gentleman, step right up, and prepare to be amazed…
You’re driving down the road, listening to the radio. A song comes on. Do you keep listening or do you change the station? Take a chance, roll down the windows, turn up the volume and allow yourself to remember. Music does that. Phantom Phunk has done that. They brought back a moment in time with their newest release, Distant Kaleidoscopes. Vintage without even trying, classic yet brand new, this music is right out of their playbook. This new song will “inhabit your thoughts and meddle with your soul.”
Music is your own experience, your thoughts, your wisdom. If you don’t live it, it won’t come out of your horn. ~Charlie Parker
Walk into the room and take out your favorite vintage record album. Spread the dry leaves across the top of the cover and hold it out in front of you. Tap the cover from underneath, gently. Look around the room, are you still alone? Watch the seeds come to the top and roll off the album cover and drop to the green shag carpet below your feet. Don’t spill the pot, that wouldn’t be right.
The lonely piano starts playing, the drums kick in. By the time the guitar hints at its presence, you are ready to open the door. Slowly people start showing up; another night, another party. The trumpets sing. There they are, your crazy friends, in various states of dress and sobriety, ready to go again. Bongs get lit, the beer gets passed around and before you know it, crash! A bottle breaks and pills of all colors fall to the carpet. Someone spins them into a complex pattern of colors and shapes. The music continues to get more complicated. The pills and the pot get passed around and you are off.
The music demands your concentration, but you on turn the TV, sound all the way down. The black and white flashes from the screen illuminate the room. The drums command attention, the trumpet fills your head. The vintage guitar work satisfies your expectations, but you are waiting for that voice. You are expecting to hear Alex sing, but then you realize, you are singing in your head. You are all alone, watching amazing colors spin right in front of you. That Distant Kaleidoscope is so close that you can almost touch it, yet it is too far to grab. Suddenly you hear a knock at the door. Hurry, flush the evidence. The music stops abruptly and the night is over. The memory fades into the background of your existence.
This song has it all. It has that middle of the night beer run kind of groove, that vintage 7-Up can with the flickering light bulb kind of feel, with a fabulous display of Afro hair, dark sunglasses and The Mod Squad all wrapped up into a well-honed digital masterpiece. Yet, it is new and it is fresh and it is modern. Distant Kaleidoscopes is all instrumental and beckons to the listener in no uncertain terms, “take a walk with me down memory lane and right into your future.” Go ahead and listen, see where this song takes you. Drop me a line and let me know. I’d love to hear your story.
An invisible red thread connects those who are destined to meet, regardless of time, place or circumstance. The thread may stretch or tangle, but never break.
I got to talk to the members of Phantom Phunk over several weeks, speaking to them in their studio and in my office. They are nearly finished with their first full length LP and are about to embark on their first music video. Not too shabby for a band that has been playing together for less than a year. Yet, their paths have been crossing since early childhood. Hector and Alex were childhood friends and drifted apart when they went to schools in different parts of town. Nick and Juan went to the same elementary school, but were in different classes and lost touch after that. Alex and Nick met in middle school and got together occasionally to jam, but went to different high-schools. Hector and Juan met at a sandwich shop where they were both working. Alex and Hector re-acquainted when Hector helped Alex record a song for a musical theatre audition. The rest, as they say, is history.
Marushka: So how did Phantom Phunk come together? Hector: Alex and I were working on a project and realized that our love for music and our complimentary skills melded well together. From there we started a partnership and moved towards song writing. We quickly realized that it was becoming more challenging without a full band. Nick: Alex and I ran into each other one day and he took me to check out the studio where he was working. I met Hector and we started jamming together. Juan: Yeah, I walked into an open mike one night and there was Nick. Of all the places we could have ended up, we all ended up here. Hector: It just clicked.
Marushka: What instrument did you start on? Nick: When I was in fourth or fifth grade my parents bought me a First Act Guitar for my birthday and I taught myself to play. Alex: I started playing the violin in fourth grade. Hector: I started out playing the flute when I was a kid. Juan: I started playing guitar.
Marushka: Each of your play more than one instrument; which one is your main focus? Hector: I usually play lead guitar and keyboards, but also sometimes the bass or the drums. Juan: I like playing guitar, but mainly I get some grooviness going on the bass. Nick: The drums are my main focus, but sometimes I play guitar. Alex: I usually play rhythm guitar and the electronic drums.
Marushka: Alex, clearly you enjoy playing instruments. When did you find your voice? Alex: When we started recording. No, I’m only kidding. I joined the chorus when I was in middle school so I could meet girls. My singing became more important to me when I attended a Performing Arts High School and majored in musical theatre.
Marushka: Talk to me about how you guys collaborate on your music.
Juan: There are no egos here. We collaborate. When we come together it’s for the same mission – to create kick ass music. Nick: Someone comes up with an idea and then we start experimenting and the song progresses from there. Alex: We are really similar in our styles and we really bounce off of each other, I think. We are honest with each other . . . it’s like musician language we are able to understand. Hector: The early stages of our collaborations are very undisciplined and comes at our own pace, but when it comes to production we assign ourselves a timetable and we are quite structured.
Marushka: Speaking of being disciplined or undisciplined, you guys are the resident artists at Harmonic Factory and Hector, you are also the Executive Producer at the studio. Is there a difference in the pressure you feel to create a finished product for other bands as opposed to your own? Hector: Definitely I have an easier time stamping a project complete when it is someone else’s project. For me you know, I want to chase down things that don’t know are there but I want to discover, and I am also much more critical when it comes to my own music, so it postpones the process.
Marushka: Can you tell me a little about the differences between recording for other musicians and recording your own band? Hector: Yeah, recording with other people is in some ways a little; well it’s more their project and I am trying to assist them in achieving what they want, so it doesn’t require the same investment of thought and criticism as with my own music. But also, the other side of the coin is constantly having to remind myself of my role so when I record for other bands, I have to remind myself not to intervene too much ‘cause working with different people sparks different ideas and I always want to chase those things down different avenues; [ where] the other guys might be more straightforward…so it’s mostly just helping them get what they want and keeping myself from kidnapping their music.
Marushka: Do you think recording in your own studio allows you more freedom or less freedom? Hector: That’s a good question. It’s a bit of both really. Working sort of on your own gives you the autonomy to pursue ideas that, you know, may not have the most prospect, sort of satisfy your curiosity without having to waste other people’s time. The disadvantage though of doing it that way is that a lot of times you are in the dark. Where if you work with someone with more experience in that domain, they can expedite the process and help you make decisions and come to your destination more quickly. Nick: I love recording in our own studio, we get to do things the way we want to.
Marushka: Which brings up the point that you guys have quite an eclectic sound. Can you talk about that for a minute? Hector: We don’t formulate sounds or styles for the sake of doing so. . . We pursue the quality of the songs that should be embellished. We paint the song in the light we see it. All the elements and sounds are done to do each song justice…even with having a diverse repertoire there are still threads of consistency I am finding in our songs [ kind of scrappy and rough around the edges]. In some ways, I think that it’s comforting, and in some ways, it gives us the incentive to keep exploring. Nick: We record, we experiment. Alex: Yeah, we make spooky music for ghosts and ghouls. Juan: I like that all of our songs are unique. With us calling our genre Graveyard Pop, there are no constraints. . .
Marushka: OK, So Graveyard Pop. . . What exactly is it? Hector: That has sparked much debate. I don’t think I can speak for everyone else, but I guess my interpretation is. . . for me it’s both chilling or kind of provokes the senses and brings the hair up on the back of your neck but also something that’s cool and appealing and relatable to. The kind of strange oxymoronic character of it is that . . . it’s not necessarily safe, but it’s something you want to listen to. Juan: We’ve tried talking about this a lot. It’s almost a hidden nightmare . . .and I don’t mean nightmare in a bad way, it’s something in the back of everyone’s head and it’s only discovered when they dream about it. Graveyard Pop is our dream. It is a lot of different elements combined, rock. . . well, it’s very difficult to describe…everyone can interpret it in their own way. Nick: We sort of have that Halloween sense, ghostly and spooky and some of our music is just funky. Alex: I’d say it’s like a pet cemetery (laughs). The whole project is just eerie, spooky music not just for October, but for all year round. It’s something we thought about for a while because it is a little different but graspable.
Marushka: So any other bands you think would fit into the category of Graveyard Pop? Hector: Yeah, I think a lot of our inspiration is drawn from guys like Interpol who capture that sort of eerie but urban sound.
Marushka: So if you were on tour and could choose any band to tour with, who would it be? Hector: There are some bands you would want to tour with because you think there would be a lot of fun or you idolize them. If I had to take stab at it, Of Montreal‘cause I think those guys really know how to get wild but remain philosophically sane, so I think they would be able to provide a stimulating experience. Juan: Two right off the top of my head would have to be Thirty Seconds to Mars and Metric. Those are my favorite bands. Nick: Probably Presidents of the United States of America or Mac DeMarco. I think they have both had a big influence in our music. Alex: The two first bands are Dead Man’s Bones and Of Montreal. Because I feel like we really relate to Dead Man’s Bones because they are spooky, too, they are Spooky Do-Wop according to Ryan Gosling himself and Of Montreal is my favorite band and it is something I’d like to do someday, that would be amazing.
Marushka: Favorite song so far? Juan: Would that be a song we have already completed or one we are working on now? (laughs). I’d say Spacey, and it’s not even over yet . . . over time it will change as we grow. Hector: You sort of go through favorite phases . . . I don’t know, when we are [working on] a song, that [one] becomes my favorite at that time. Nick:Snowy in Florida. Alex:Tommy’s Brother, that’s one you haven’t heard yet.
Marushka: What was the most challenging song to record? Hector:Looping had its own set of challenges. We were trying to explore its pallet of sounds and it was a process of trial and error, really. Alex: Definitely Snowy in Florida.
Marushka: Well, you guys are almost finished with your first LP and about to start filming your first full-length video. What’s the next direction for the band? Hector: Sometimes our direction is a game of play it by ear. (smiles) We usually try to have a game plan but when we round off one of our objectives we sort of hit a pocket of what it is we want to do and what we need to do. Right now we are juggling with the idea of playing more live shows and getting in that experience but at the same time we have the yearning to keep recording. Probably it will be a little bit of both. Alex: I see our direction as moving forward. Nick: Finish our album. I’d like to go on a small Florida tour, get a tour bus with the band; that would be fun. Juan: We are finishing up two songs right now, then finishing our LP and sending it out into the universe. . . I see Phantom Phunk as becoming a part of people’s lives. . . I want to have someone see what we see. Marushka: Thank you. That was really awesome.
Phantom Phunk hangin in their Home Town – Downtown Tampa on the River
As the interview came to a close I could not help but think about Graveyard Pop. Each of these guys describes it as something slightly different, from literal to figurative, but none of them compared Graveyard Pop to the music and theatrics of one of my favorite shows, “Rocky Horror Picture Show.” Perhaps it’s a generation gap thing and that this interview has nearly coincided with the 40th Anniversary of the show but Rocky Horror is spooky, eerie, funky, and definitely “not only for Halloween.” It sure hasn’t escaped this writer’s notice that Phantom Phunk epitomizes the idea, “Don’t Dream it, Be It.” There’s a light over at the Frankenstein place, and Phantom Phunk is providing the flame for the candles.