Wed Dec 18 2019
8:30 PM (Doors 7:30 PM)
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August Hall Presents
The hiatus is over. And while celebrating its 25th year of existence, Phantom Planet’s Alex Greenwald, Sam Farrar, Darren Robinson and Jeff Conrad are in the midst of making new music with Raise The Dead producer Tony Berg at the fabled Sound City Studio.
“We feel like we’re returning home,” says Greenwald, singer, rhythm guitarist and chief songwriter. “The boys in Phantom Planet are my brothers, and we figured it was time for a full fledged family reunion”
For the record, the Los Angeles band responsible for four albums of energetic and diversified alt rock; and are known for writing anthemic hits like “California,” – the infectious theme of the popular four-season TV series The O.C; the vibrant fan favorite, “Do The Panic” and the gritty, punk-propelled “Big Brat”.
A band known for their wildly exciting shows with deep fan engagement – many found Greenwald literally hanging from the rafters of the venue to entertain the masses on more than one occasion. Having toured with No Doubt, Incubus and many others, Phantom Planet quickly earned the fans’ staunch loyalty through a combination of stellar musicianship and their compelling material.
Forming in 1994, they released the prophetically titled Phantom Planet Is Missing. Four years later, followed 2002’s The Guest – which featured the evergreen “California,” their biggest hit. The self-titled Phantom Planet and 2008’s Raise The Dead followed before the first breather ensued. But they never officially broke up.
At this point, each Phantom Planet member pursued satellite interests before they briefly reunited in 2012: Bassist Sam Farrar, who had been collaborating with Maroon 5 since 2001, became more immersed in the band, touring and recording with them before being asked to be a full-fledged member in 2016. He also signed a solo publishing deal with Warner Chappell Music, moving on to write & produce with artists as diverse as Sara Bareilles, Fitz & The Tantrums and Santigold.
Alex Greenwald began working on his solo album Yo!, (eventually released in 2014) and put on his production cap for projects by The Like and The Young Veins, followed by a high profile turn as musical director for Mark Ronson and The Business Intl. He also formed another band, JJAMZ , in 2009, released an album called Suicide Pact and later rechristened them as Phases, which released a self-titled album on Warner Music in 2016.
Guitarist Darren Robinson divided his time between a number of projects – touring with Miniature Tigers, The Californian and creating Twin Terrors and Dead Honcho.
And drummer Jeff Conrad, who replaced founding member Jason Schwartzman (who left the band to pursue acting in 2004), built a stellar reputation as a go-to video editor and documentary music composer, working with such clients as Google and ESPN. He also anchored popular Ska band Siren Six, who held a recent 20th anniversary gig of their own to commemorate the occasion.
Phantom Planet briefly reunited for a few gigs in 2012 and flirted with the idea of a more permanent reconsolidation, but the timing wasn’t right.
“If I saw Sam at a party, we’d ask if each other was free, but we both had other obligations,” Greenwald recalls. “We had been talking about it for two years. Since Sam also plays in Maroon 5 and they tour a lot, it’s been an interesting scheduling dilemma. Suddenly a lot of things just clicked into place last year.”
Now, it’s time to pick up the reins and see how all of these collective experiences are going to forge a new Phantom Planet sound. The band has already tested its live chops during a secret show at No Name (in Los Angeles) on January 19, and the musical chemistry was potent as ever.
“We’ve all gone on these various treks and I guess we’ve decided the time is right,” notes Greenwald. “It certainly feels right. We’ve always been friends – it’s not like we got tired of each other or that anyone was mad at each other. And now that we’ve come together, it’s as if no time has elapsed. It’s been a lot of fun!”
As Phantom Planet experiments with new songs and sonics, Greenwald insists Tony Berg was the only outsider considered to produce the sessions as their sounding board.
“I’ve known him since I was 18 and he was A&R of Geffen Records in the ‘90s,” Greenwald explains. “He’s always been a big proponent of my song-writing and he’s probably one of the only people whose opinion I trust.”
As Phantom Planet prepares to unleash its latest adventurous refrains in the very near future, Greenwald suggests that “it’s not off the table that we will go on tour at least within the next year.”
Now that Phantom Planet is fully reinstated and ready to go, Alex Greenwald says he can’t wait to reconnect with the fans and showcase the band’s new music this summer.
He promises it’s worth the wait.
“We’ve become better musicians and better listeners. Every Phantom Planet record has been an experiment. I’m sure this one will be no different.”
"It was just circumstance," Tony Scalzo says of the eight-year recording gap that preceded the new Fastball album, Step Into Light. "We've always been active, and we've never really gone a year without doing a bunch of Fastball shows. But things are really picking up now, and things are rolling like crazy."
The 12-song Step Into Light, on the band's own 33 1/3 label, embodies all of the qualities that have endeared Fastball to listeners during the trio's twenty-year-plus career. Such catchy, compelling new tunes as "We're On Our Way," "Behind The Sun," "Best Friend," "Love Comes In Waves" and "I Will Never Let You Down" continue the band's longstanding legacy of infectious songcraft and pointed lyrics, as well as playfully inventive arrangements that lend additional depth and resonance to Scalzo and Miles Zuniga's distinctive songwriting.
"My favorite kind of songs," Zuniga says, "are the ones that have hope in the face of hopelessness. Songs that say 'Life sucks and everything's against me, but I'm gonna smile and survive anyway.' That's the essence of rock 'n' roll music for me, and I think there's a fair amount of that on this album."
Fastball recorded Step Into Light in its hometown of Austin, Texas, with the three bandmates co-producing with longtime friend Chris "Frenchie" Smith (Slayer, Meat Puppets, ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead) at Smith's studio, The Bubble. The album was mixed by legendary engineer Bob Clearmountain, who also handled mixing duties on two prior Fastball albums.
"We consciously decided to make this record in a short period of time, so we just went in and knocked it out," Zuniga explains. "I really liked working that way, and I think the fact that we recorded it in under two weeks made it a better record. We didn't have the luxury of getting too precious about
things, so we gave ourselves a hard deadline and pretended it was the 1950s—the record light's on, let's do it! It also helped that we've grown a lot as musicians, so we have the ability now to get things right pretty quickly."
"We had a great time making this record," asserts Shuffield. "Working fast was really positive for us, because we had a lot of adrenaline going and there was no wasted time. A lot of the stuff we did was one or two takes of all three of us playing together in the same room. You can't really do that as a new band, but the fact that we've been together so long creates a certain unspoken communication that saves a lot of time."
The resulting album extends and expands Fastball's widely-loved body of work, which encompasses such acclaimed albums as the band's 1996 debut Make Your Mama Proud, their 1998 platinum breakthrough All the Pain Money Can Buy (which spawned the Grammy-nominated Top Five hit "The Way"), 2000's The Harsh Light of Day, 2004's Keep Your Wig On and 2009's Little White Lies.
While it's a natural musical successor to the band's prior work, the self- financed, self-released Step Into Light—the first Fastball album to get a vinyl LP release—also continues Fastball's seamless evolution into a resourceful, self-contained D.I.Y. combo.
"We were one of the last bands who got to go into a big studio with a major-label budget, with runners and assistant engineers and cool rented gear," Scalzo notes. "We were fortunate to have that, because it was a great learning experience and it taught us to be producers. There's a time when you're the big new thing and everyone loves you, and then there's a time when nobody's returning your phone calls. We're lucky that we survived that and came out on the other end, and we're a stronger and better band because of that."
Step Into Light demonstrates that Fastball's collective creative rapport, forged over two decades of writing, recording and touring, remains as potent as ever. "There's nothing more satisfying than being in a room with those guys and making it sound like a Fastball song," Shuffield says. "That chemistry has always been there, from the very first time we played together. Our history, and the musical journey that we've been on together—all that stuff comes out when we play together."
"The three of us all have our own individual preferences and baggage and whatnot, but there's a certain sound that comes out when the three of us play together that we can't get anywhere else," Zuniga adds. "We never have to worry about it, it's just always there, and it's been there from the beginning."
"We never really blew it," Scalzo says. "We've had plenty of chances to embarrass ourselves and do some of the stupid things that bands do, but I don't think we ever have. Considering how long we've been together, that's a real achievement."
Another continuing thread in Fastball's musical life is the band's loyal fan base, which has continued to support the band through thick and thin.
"I'm continually amazed," Shuffield says, "that we'll play
Phantom Planet, Fastball
Wed Dec 18 2019 8:30 PM
(Doors 7:30 PM)