2016 Artist Survey: Sarah Barthel of Phantogram | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Monday, November 30th, 2020  

2016 Artist Survey: Sarah Barthel of Phantogram

Barthel on 2016's Best Albums, Trump and the Election, First Kisses, Stranger Things, and Scary Movies

Jan 25, 2017 Issue # 59 - 15th Anniversary Photography by Timothy Saccenti Bookmark and Share

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For Under the Radar's 14th annual Artist Survey we emailed some of our favorite artists a few questions relating to 2016. We asked them about their favorite albums of the year and their thoughts on various notable 2016 news stories involving either the music industry or world events, as well as some quirkier personal questions. Here are some answers from Sarah Barthel of Phantogram (the duo also features Josh Carter). In 2016 they released their third album, the appropriately titled Three, via Republic.

For our annual Artist Surveys we emailed the same set of questions to musicians about Trump and the election, 2016's deaths, self-driving cars, Stranger Things, first kisses, scary movies they shouldn't have seen as a child, which Friends character they are most like, and much more.

Pick up or download Under the Radar's Best of 2016 / 15th Anniversary Issue for Artist Survey interviews with Amber Arcades, Austra, Faris Badwan of Cat's Eyes and The Horrors, Boxed In, Caveman, The Charlatans, Cursive, Lucy Dacus, The Dears, C Duncan, Sadie Dupuis of Sad13 and Speedy Ortiz, Dutch Uncles, Ezra Furman, Robyn Hitchcock, The Invisible, Justin Lockey of Editors and Minor Victories, Lost Under Heaven (LUH), Lush, Midlake, Phantogram, The Range, Springtime Carnivore, Sunflower Bean, Surfer Blood, TEEN, The Thermals, Nick Valensi of CRX and The Strokes, Jenn Wasner of Flock of Dimes and Wye Oak, and Yuck.

A shorter version of Phantogram's survey appeared in the print version of Under the Radar's Best of 2016 / 15th Anniversary Issue, this is the full unedited version.

Top 7 Albums of 2016

1. Vince Staples: Prima Donna
2. Miike Snow: iii
3. Beyoncé: Lemonade
4. A$AP Ferg: Always Strive and Prosper
5. Angel Olsen: MY WOMAN
6. David Bowie: Blackstar 
7. Schoolboy Q: Blank Face LP

2016 was regarded by many as a fairly tough and negative year. Was it also a hard year for you personally? If so, how? And also what were the high points for you?

The hardest year of my life. Bowie died, my sister committed suicide the week after. And then, Prince. Three of my heroes are gone. Then I got dumped and then Trump won. 2016 can go fuck itself. On a good note, we released a dope record and are selling out all over the world. 

What are your thoughts on how the U.S. presidential election played out?


What reality TV star would you have rather been elected president? 

Justin Bieber probably has a good chance at this point.

If you were president, what would you try to accomplish in your first 100 days in office? 

Free education for all.

We lost three highly influential music icons in 2016. What are your thoughts on the passing of David Bowie, Prince, and Leonard Cohen? And what are your favorite albums by each artist?

Bowie was one of my all time heroes. All of our music is influenced by him. He will always be a huge icon to me for as long as I live. Same with Prince. He was the first artist I ever looked up to growing up. 

What do you think Prince and Bowie's afterlife project sounds like?

Purple Diamond Dogs.

Which Friends character are you most like?

Hahaha wow. Best question ever. I'm definitely that gay dude who worked at the coffee shop just making snarky comments to everyone.

What scary movie did you see way too young as a child, how'd you end up seeing it, and does it still scare you now?

My mom made me watch The Shinning one night when I was home sick from school. Scared the living shit out of me but I'll never forget it because Stanley Kubrick is now one of my favorite directors.

Are you ready for self-driving cars and a more automated future?


Tell us about the most memorable fan encounter you had this year.

Shit...when the guys from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia told us they were big fans. Epic.

Tell us about your first kiss.

Jesse Lee circa seventh grade. He had braces and so did I and I was terrified. We are still friends.

Under the Radar has been around for 15 years now, since December 2001. How do you feel the music industry has most changed in that time, both for the better and the worst?

It's always a bummer when people keep listening to music for free but that's life. Artists work really hard and invest a lot for their music and deserved to get paid for it. We can't complain though because we wouldn't have gotten discovered if it wasn't for the Internet. There's so much good music out there and I love how many festivals there are now that we can play. 

Which Stranger Things character do you most relate with? Why?

The chick! All the way. Sorry, I don't know her name. Cute little girl with the nosebleed. I've got special powers and will destroy anyone who will get in my way.

What advice do you have to the leaders of the Democratic Party in terms of how to rebound from this election?

Start a reality TV show then maybe people will listen to them.

If you have kids or plan to have kids one day, will you encourage them to be a musician or artist or would you prefer they get a more stable job?

Fuck stability. Donald Trump is our president. We are fucked no matter what. Do what you love, whatever that is, and be happy. That's what life is all about. 
What celebrity, musician, or historical figure, living or dead, would you most want to be stuck in an elevator with?

Philip Seymour Hoffman.

What band, besides your own, has the best name?

The Nervous Virgins.

What VHS tape or DVD did you wear out growing up?

Nirvana: Unplugged.

What song, past or present, best sums up 2016?

"Cruel World" by Phantogram.







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