Interview: Electro-Post-Punk band ‘Phantom Radio’ to release new single.

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.

 

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From Left to right: Lee (bass), Mike (guitar and vocals), Tom (synth). Image taken by: Mark Cartwright.

 

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.”

 

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Phantom Radio’s logo

 

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!”

 

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Mike (lead vocals and guitar). Photo taken by Mark Cartwright.

 

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…”

L: “AC/DC”

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.”

 

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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. 

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Interview With Eric Sparkwood of Foghorn Lonesome

“I have a video of myself crying!”

I was in the middle of one of my usual YouTube binges, when in the background of a Gothic makeup tutorial, I heard some music that really appealed to me. It had a kind of dark wave, electro Goth  vibe to it. Immediately, I thought “I need to know who this band is!” A quick look in the description revealed to me that the song was ‘Svea’ by Foghorn Lonesome, something I later found out is that ‘Svea’ is the name of Eric Sparkwood’s grandmother.

Eric Sparkwood is the face behind Foghorn Lonesome. He started in 2011 as a one-man band in Stockholm, Sweden. In 2016, he played his first show with Jessica Isaksson on vocals and Nikita Smirnov on bass. In 2017, Krzystof Rozwadowski and, long-time producer, Tomas Rosenberg joined the band.

After speaking to Eric Sparkwood I could understand how the music came to be. It was clear he uses his life experiences as influence in his music. Even as someone with such talent to produce this music, Eric revealed to me that he does have his struggles. He came across to me as someone very kind, thoughtful and dedicated to his music and fans.

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From left to right: Krzystof Rozwadowski (Bass), Eric Sparkwood (Lead Vocals/Bass), Jessica Isaksson (Vocals), Tomas Rosenberg (Drums). Photograph by Bo Reinerdahl.

How did you come up with the name Foghorn Lonesome?

“I never reveal that actually. But with a quick Google search I’m sure people can figure that out.”

What made you want to start creating music? Is it something you would like to pursue full-time?

“I started playing bass when I was 16 and joined my first band. I guess it felt like the natural thing to do at the time, since I’d been constantly listening to music as a kid. I have mixed feelings about having this as a full-time thing since the music industry is in bad shape these days.”

I’m curious to know more about how you feel about the music industry. What do you think the main issue is nowadays?

“I think the main issue is that artists don’t get paid. We’re not signed to a label, but usually they tend to make most of the profits. I grew up before the internet and the MP3, so we had to pay for all of the music we wanted. Most people today don’t. But I’ve let go of all that. Sometimes I offer free downloads on the music on SoundCloud. I’m very grateful if someone purchases the music off Bandcamp or iTunes, but it’s fine if people don’t. The most important thing is that people have access to the music. Today’s mainstream music isn’t for me. But I do wish I could write three-minute pop songs. Then maybe I’d be summering in the Hamptons.”

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Foghorn Lonesome’s logo

How did you meet the other members?

“Jessica and Krzystof answered an ad I had online for new band members and I already knew Tomas since he produced all my music. The debut album was done and recorded by the time the band was put together.”

How would you describe your music?

“Melodic, varied and dark I suppose.”

What are the current projects you are working on?

“At the moment, we’re rehearsing for a show in March. I’m also off and on working of two new songs: ‘Strawberry Moon’ and ‘Stockholm, You Have Let Me Down’. There are demo samples of them on SoundCloud. I’m also working on another song, which at the is titled ‘Dumb Boy’, but the song isn’t the priority right now. I’ve also been putting tigether an acoustic rendition of a previous song. But I’m in no rush to finish them. I’m rarely in the mood to work on them.”

Do you have a favourite song you have produced or that you recommend people listen to first?

“No, I don’t have a favourite song. If someone was going to be introduced to Foghorn Lonesome, I would recommend songs like ‘Svea’, ‘Uliecry’, ‘All I Want Is Some Love’, ‘Night & Gale’, ‘Winter Blue’ and ‘Like A Storm’. Choosing just one is difficult.”

Where do you get your influences from?

“I would say my personal experiences are where I draw most of my influences. I think all of the music I’ve been listening to in my life has gone into my musical DNA. But when I discovered Diary of Dreams back in 2003 I was introduced to a new genre that kind of combined electronic music with gothic music. So when I started Foghorn Lonesome I knew that these genres would come together in my music too”.

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Eric Sparkwood (Lead Vocalist). Photograph by Darklark.

Foghorn Lonesome seemed to disappear for a while, but you are back with new social media pages and working on a new gig and some songs, was there a reason you took a break from your music? 

“My girlfriend left me and I hit rock bottom. Then I hit a level lower than rock bottom and did some things I’m not proud of. Eventually, I started working on new music.”

Do you find that writing helps you deal with that? 

“I’m not sure, but usually I would say no. The problem doesn’t go away just because you express it. Sometimes it can make you feel worse. You just get reminded of it when working on the song. Especially when writing the lyrics.”

I’ve listened to your song ‘Like A Storm’, and something that always fascinated me was at the end of it you have a monologue with you crying in it. I wondered if you were crying for real during that recording. Could you talk a bit about that?

“The crying is real. It was the first thing I wrote and recorded for the song. It’s a very personal song, but in that part I took things one step further and let it all out in the moment there. When I recorded that part my sound card wasn’t working because it was old. So the only way for me to record it at the time was through the microphone in my laptop. But the only way to activate the microphone is if you record a video. Then I removed the video part and just kept the audio to use in the song. I still have the video of me sitting in front of the computer crying recording that part which I won’t be showing to anyone.”

What is the song writing process like for you?

“I always start working on the music first. Then the lyrics. Sometimes I have to put some more effort into it. Maybe I’ll go sit at the cafe and listen to the song and try to come up with lyrics and vocal melodies in my head. When I’m really into working on a song I will listen to it a lot. I’ll listen to it when I’m out for a run or on the subway and at the same time be thinking about the lyrics. Usually you reach a point where things just feel done. Then you know it’s time to stop. You can rework things forever if you wanted to.”

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Eric Sparkwood (Lead Vocalist). Photograph by Darklark.

You seem very interactive with fans through social media and I noticed on your Instagram page that you have some fans who got tattoos of your lyrics, how does it make you feel to know that your music creatively inspires and also connects so strongly with people?

“It means I must be doing something right. It’s a great honour of course. James Hetfield of Metallica said it well when he said: “It means a lot to me when my darkness can connect with your darkness and make it ok.” So if my shit can help someone else cope with their shit better then that’s a good thing.”

Do you have other hobbies outside of music that would help rejuvenate your creativity?

“I try and run often. I go running for an hour. I get energy from that. Sleeping is probably the best thing I know. It’s the closest to death I can get.”

You recently became a grandfather, how that make you feel?

“Old.”

What is your ultimate goal as a band?

“I don’t think there is a goal. We’re lucky if we can get a gig somewhere. It’s difficult for all bands to get anywhere. Originally my goal was mainly to release an album and hope some people would enjoy the music. Both of which I have achieved.”

Where has been your favourite place to perform?

“We’ve only had three gigs so far. The first one was the best. It was at Klubb Död here in Stockholm. We might be doing a festival in August.”

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Eric Sparkwood (Lead vocalist). Photograph by Jonas Fransson.

Would you like to travel and perform in other countries?

“We’ve looked into it. Unsuccessfully so far. Again, it’s hard to get gigs.”

How do you think your music has evolved?

“That’s hard to say. Two songs have been released since the debut album, ‘Like A Storm’ and ‘Neon Thighs’. I think they sound like they could’ve been on the album in the sense that they’re similar in style. Now I’m working on some new music. I don’t know. It sounds similar I suppose. I guess I haven’t really evolved. Hah.”

What has been your greatest challenge?

“Finishing the debut album was a long and tiring ordeal. It demanded a lot of patience. Something I don’t usually have.”

More of a fun question: What would you do if you had £10 million?

“Pay off my debts and buy a house far away from everything and everyone.”

Any hopes for 2018?

“A fatal heart attack.”

You can find Foghorn Lonesome’s tracks on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Bandcamp, SoundCloud and Spotify.

You can also follow them through their social media on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

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