Interview: Phantoms On How Morning Headlocks Keep Them A Productive Duo

Fun-loving duo Phantoms is always a good time. The two artists, Vinnie Pergola and Kyle Kaplan, met when they were teenagers and have been best friends and career partners ever since.

You may recognize the LA natives from their stint as child actors on shows like That’s So Raven or Hannah Montana, but nowadays they are known for their cheeky sets and seriously good music skills. Their sound can be described as melodic house with a touch of indie and pop, but they also play plenty of house, disco, and funk during their performances.

Their latest album This Can’t Be Everything leans into the indie-house influence that makes their productions so unique while the just-released deluxe LP showcases their ability to still bring the feel-good energy.

We sat down with Phantoms after their set at Spring CRSSD Festival 2023 to talk about their music, how they maintain their relationship as a duo, and what’s next in 2023. Read below:

EDM Maniac: First off, you two have been friends since you were kids, how did you meet?

Kaplan: We were at an acting kid event because we both were child actors. We went to some weird acting event and I was like, this is really dumb and Vinny was also like, this is really dumb. And we became friends pretty much after that at 15.

Pergola: Yeah we were 15, so it’s been a long time since we’ve known each other.

EDM Maniac: Given you have known each other forever, how do you keep your relationship professional and productive when it comes to music?

Kaplan: We fight every day. Physically, emotionally. [laughs]

Pergola: We do morning headlocks. So I give Kyle a headlock and I tell him what I don’t like about him and he does the same thing.

Kaplan: So a lot of times they say, “Say something you like about the person that you work with.” We do the opposite. We just say, what’s the biggest thing is that we don’t like about each other. That’s what we do, daily.

No, it’s actually very easy. We just respect each other’s choices and what we both like. And if it means a lot we say let’s go for it.

EDM Maniac: How did you make the move from young actors to DJs?

Pergola: I think we just got super into electronic music when we were teenagers and that sort of took over. We became obsessed with it. We had no real plans of doing this as a career, but it was fun for us.

And then over the years just being like, “Wow, you know, we still love this music.” We thought we should just follow this and see what happens. And so here we are still doing it.

Kaplan: We would get these guest spots at a club called Heist and Club Dance, and it was electronic music but everybody just knew early Tiësto trance. Even big-room, club-banger stuff hadn’t quite gone around, so that was like our first foot forward in that world.

EDM Maniac: Who or what have been some of your inspirations?

Pergola: Justice, Soulwax, and Nicholas Jaar. LCD Sound System is a big one. I love Patrick Topping on the DJ side. I just love his sound. They’re all very good.

EDM Maniac: In 2018 you made “Lay With Me” with Vanessa Hudgens where the music video recreated a scene from the classic movie High School Musical. How did you come up with the idea and how did the collaboration come about?

Kaplan: We just talked about it and thought it would be funny given all of our pasts of being child actors. So we reached out to her and she was super down for it, which I was surprised about.

We had to pull back a bit. We wanted to go even further with it but there was copyright and everything. It still made waves though. It was crazy. We saw E Network posting about it. Still love that song. Love Vanessa. She’s great.

EDM Maniac: Your latest album This Can’t Be Everything has a much more indie tone to it as opposed to the deeper melodic sounds of Phantoms or Disconnect. What influenced this shift?

Pergola: I think it came naturally from what we were listening to. In the last few years and when the pandemic hit, we were like, let’s just make music that’s different and see what happens. And that’s sort of how that album came to be and getting away from pure dance and going more indie dance for an album.

Kaplan: Joining Foreign Family has also influenced our sound because they’re so open to whatever we want to do. Sometimes on a major label, the feedback is how they think audiences will react to it. Whereas with Foreign Family it’s just more like, “are you guys stoked on this? Cause we’re stoked on it.” It’s really validating.

EDM Maniac: What do you want fans to take away from your new sound?

Kaplan: I just think we want them to just feel like it’s real. We put our hearts on our sleeves a bit. It was a weird time. A lot of that was written during the pandemic and we were like “This can’t be everything.” So hopefully people can identify with it and hopefully feel good from it.

EDM Maniac: The deluxe version of This Can’t Be Everything recently came out with two new tracks “Crash My Car” and “The Way You Groove” plus some incredible remixes. What made you want to do a deluxe album versus some singles and a remix compilation?

Pergola: It was a good opportunity to push the album again and put some of the ideas out that we had going that we couldn’t fit on the album, like some demo ideas. And then the remixes we wanted to put into a complete package. It was a cool way to re-approach the record six or seven months later.

EDM Maniac: You seem to be having a big year already, but what do you have coming up for the rest of 2023?

Kaplan: We have a lot of new songs. We’ve been obsessed with making club records right now. So we have a playlist of like, probably 12 different tracks that we’ll be playing tonight at the after party that’s very new stuff. It’s literally just for the dance floor and we’re really excited about it.

Pergola: Yeah they’re more disco-leaning in a weird way. We also have a bunch of festivals in the summer, some unannounced.

Featured image credit Juliana Bernstein, second and third image from Phantoms

Written by
Danielle Levy

Danielle Levy is an MBA with a concentration in Corporate Social Responsibility. Danielle has several years of experience in the sustainability education world and has held various positions in human resources and intern management. Danielle is passionate about the ties between sustainability and social impact.

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