Teesside’s electro-post-punk pioneers, Phantom Radio, have been showcasing their unique take on alternative music in gigs around the North East for a while now. They might not be a band on your musical radar yet, but they’re definitely one to check out as they get set to release their newest single ‘Kings of the Town’ this month. The band consists of Mike (guitar and vocals), Harry (guitarist), Lee (bass and backing vocals), and Tom (synths and production). I caught up with the band to chat about their upcoming projects.
How would you describe your music?
Mike (M): “We call it electro post punk, it’s basically post punk but we haven’t got a drummer!”
Tom (T): “Yeah, we haven’t got a drummer but we do have a synth! That’s what makes our sound different to normal post-punk.”
How did you get into this?
M: “I’ve been in bands for ages. I’ve always played in rock bands, but I just got sick of it. There’s only so much heavy guitar you can do and then you just start to feel like you’ve done it all.”
Lee (L): “There’s only so many copyright Led Zeppelin riffs that you can do!”
M: “So I’m doing something else now and I’ve roped these two into it. They’ve never played in a band before.”
L: “I was just playing music in my room for about 6 years. I had no mates that would play in bands and I saw Mike was in a band. None of my friends wanted to play with me but Mike did, so I thanked him for that and now we’re in a band!”
T: “You sound like a 6 year old!”
L: “ I only knew about 3 songs but I was so eager to play! When I joined Mike he didn’t know how good or bad I was, so I just played it off like I knew everything.”
You played at Middlesbrough Theatre (Toft House) a few months ago, how was that?
L: “It was like a bunch of parents had come to support their teenage son at his first gig.”
M: “It was all acoustic artists but we were this one loud rock band that was on first. It was mental! Everyone there was definitely older than 40 and probably didn’t want us on! My favourite thing about this band is we fuck shit up and annoy everyone. The secret to all great art is that half the people have to love it and half the people have to hate it, and that’s definitely what we are!”
T: “It’s true, you get this sort of mixed bag.”
M: “If everyone likes it then you’re not pushing the boundaries.”
L: “Yeah, I like Iggy Pop but that sort of music is just too common. We’re something different.”
Do you have any artists that inspire you?
T: “The Beatle Barkers.”
L: “Oh god!”
M: “Go on Tom, explain what this is! You’ve been waiting to talk about this since the start!”
T: “The Beetle Barkers are a dog cover band of The Beatles and they just bark all the music!”
There’s a parrot metal band that exists too!
M: “There is! I remember them.”
T: “Is there? See, it’s not so silly now!”
M: “I like Smashing Pumpkins, and Peter Murphy from the band Bauhaus.”
I noticed your Bauhaus T-shirt when you walked in! Great choice!
M: “Thanks, I like those sort of goth bands.”
L: “My inspiration is probably Tool, and maybe…I dunno…Scissor Sisters!”
M: “Lee has never mentioned them until now!”
L: “Well I’ve liked them for about 5 years and I don’t know why I’ve said this now but it’s out there for the world to know.”
M: “So the past 5 years have been a waste, now we’re just going to become a Scissor Sisters tribute band!”
Is there anybody you’d love to perform with?
T: “Michael Jackson…post-death…”
L: “I have a few friends in bands, so I’d like to make a super-group and go on tour.”
M: “I’m not making a super-group with any of them! It would be the worst band ever…electro, metal, 70’s, punk music.”
T: “Yeah, there’d end up being emo stuff in there as well!”
M: “Yeah, sorry to crush your dream Lee but that’s not going to happen.
The problem is everyone I like I’ve probably already ripped them off, so if I played with them then they’d know! It’d be a disaster! I think we’ve got to be unrealistic and just pick the biggest possible band…”
M: “I think I’ll just agree with Michael Jackson. Final answer.”
T: “Final Answer? Are you locking that in?”
Is there anything you hope the audience takes away from your music?
T: “I just hope they enjoy it really.”
M: “I hope people see us and think that they don’t have to go and see rubbish indie bands all the time. There’s other bands they can see.”
L: “Yes, let’s just antagonise more people!”
M: “I hope they’ll go to smaller gigs where there’s more interesting stuff on.”
L: “Raw talent!”
M: “Yeah, people need to go see some original stuff rather than all these Oasis and Arctic Monkey tribute bands that play all the big gigs round here.”
What are your upcoming projects?
M: “We have a single coming out!”
T: “Yes, lets get a massive hype train going for this!”
M: “Well then, it’s going to be the best song ever! Keep an eye on our Facebook page. We’re making this ridiculously ambitious music video. We thought it was going to be doable but it turns out we don’t have as much free time as we planned, but we’ll get it done! These things just take time.
We have this upcoming Goth City Festival this October in Leeds too. It’ll just be a load of gigs in a row and I think we’re playing on the first day. There’s a lot of industrial type bands playing there.”
What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced?
L: “Working with Tom!”
M: “Organising everything! The music is the fun part, but then it’s trying to find time for everyone to practice together and getting everyone to the gigs. Also, you get constant rejection from promoters. I’ll be sending out about 40 messages and only 20 people will reply. You kind of pay the price being a niche band because promoters don’t know what to do with you.”
Is there anything you want to change about the music industry?
T: “Make us huge!”
M: “You have to be making pop music to get anywhere in this industry really. Promoters used to sign people just for liking their music, but now you have to already have an established following.”
L: “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”
M: “You pretty much have to do everything yourself now.”
Do you have any plans or hopes for the future?
T: “I think we’ll be recording more.”
M: “The traditional way of being in a band was to play a ton of gigs and then eventually you’d get noticed, but it doesn’t work like that anymore. People just stay inside, so you need to have more recordings, music videos and work on promoting your social media. Then you’ll get better gigs off the back of that.
So we’ll be working on more music videos and then if that works out we should hopefully get bigger and better gigs.”
Phantom Radio’s single ‘Kings of the Town’ is set to release this month (23rd August). To keep up to date with their music and find out more about their upcoming gigs, you can follow their Facebook at Facebook.com/PhantomRadio.