Day 50: Phantasmagoria

Photo courtesy of Phantasmagoria.
Haunting. Inspirational. Beautiful; three words that describe Detroit’s latest talented and unique band Phantasmagoria. The duo, Chris Jarvis and Lianna Vanicelli, creates short symphonies of electronic sound effects, animal noises, samples, keyboards, tribal drums, and vocals. Sure, this genre of music has been done before, but nothing has ever sounded the way their music does. Lianna’s beautifully haunting vocals will slowly warm your heart and mind as Phantasmagoria draws you in and makes you see their world. Whether you catch them live or only listen to their recordings, Phantasmagoria never disappoints and will leave you with something to think about. I was fortunate to talk with Chris and Lianna about how they started out, their inspiration, shows, music videos, and what’s to come.

Jon: When and how did Phantasmagoria come to be?
Chris: We began working on our first album, Spirit, in the fall of 2009 after both experiencing one of the best summers of our lives. That summer really inspired the lyrical content of the album. We started it as a side project while we were in another band and after that band broke up we decided to make Phantasmagoria our main project.

Jon: You really seem to have found your niche in the Detroit music scene with your laptops,
boards, vocals, drums, and noise samples. Where does the inspiration come from to produce
such a unique sound?

Chris: The inspiration comes from a lot of different places really. Sometimes when I sit down to make a song, I don’t have any ideas in mind, I just try to be completely present and clear headed and let it come from a place inside me. Making music can be spiritual in that way. Hours will go by without me even being aware of it. Sometimes I know specifically what kind of feeling or song I want to create. That being said, we are both very influenced by nature, traveling, camping, campfires, hiking, northern Michigan, our friends, as well as Detroit and all the positive people involved in that community.
Lianna: My inspiration for vocals/lyrics comes from many different things as well. A lot of times I write when I’m really frustrated, other times after a great experience, and sometimes from whatever is on my mind at the moment. But obviously the nature of the song creates a vibe that influences melodies and lyrics as well.

Jon: You both seem very young and leading very busy lives, all while being in Phantasmagoria. What are your guys’ day jobs?
Chris: I work at my family’s shop. We get government contracts. For instance, right now we are wiring and configuring the camera relay systems that the army uses in training.
Lianna: I work in retail at a children’s clothing store and I make and sell headbands on the side as well.

Phantasmagoria - Photo by Jon Miller

Jon: Earlier this year you went on your first tour with The Kodaks, who are also from Detroit. How extensive was the tour?
Chris: I wouldn’t even call it a “tour.” It was more of a road trip. We did play a show to about 250 people at this outdoor venue on St. Patrick’s Day in Jacksonville, Florida though, which was incredible.
Lianna: Yeah, not very much of a tour, but it was great experiencing being on the road and we met a lot of awesome people.

Jon: I understand that your latest music video for “Empty Houses” came from the tour?
Chris: Yeah, we crashed on the floor of our friends place who just so happened to be a part of an awesome video production crew and they did the whole thing for free. Seriously some of the nicest and most talented guys I’ve ever met. It was a pleasure living with them.

Jon: It’s a pretty interesting and creative video. Was this planned on Phantasmagoria’s part, or
was it the director’s idea?

Chris: It was a spur of the moment thing. Our show in Atlanta fell through and they felt bad so they were like “Well…we have one day left to do something productive, lets shoot a video!” We came up with the concept around 2 or 3AM and shot it the next day.
Lianna: The director, Ray, is a genius. He came up with most of the concept after listening to the song over and over the night before and while we were shooting it.

Jon: Speaking of music videos, your video for “Bats” was shot in Detroit, all in one take?
Chris: It was actually shot in front of our friend’s house in Royal Oak. Yes, all in one take.

Jon: Any problems come from shooting the video at night and in the middle of the street?
Chris: The neighbors complained and the cops showed up seconds after we stopped shooting, so even if we messed up and wanted to do another take —which we sort of did— we wouldn’t have been able to. On the other hand, we had a couple of neighbors come out and tell us how beautiful Lianna’s voice sounded.

Jon: Do you have a favorite place to play in Detroit?
Lianna: Definitely The Magic Stick. Every time we play there it has sounded great and they treat us really well. I’d also say The Belmont, where we had our 7″ Release Party, but it has since closed, unfortunately. That place was awesome —great sound.

Jon: What’s on Phantasmagoria’s plate for the rest of summer? Tours, shows, music, videos, etc.?
Chris: We’re super excited! We just played the last two dates on Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.’s tour. They are one of our favorite bands right now, and not just locally. They are just incredible! We have a few other shows in the works this summer with some big headliners that we’re really excited about. We’re also gonna try to have our next album out by the end of summer.

Jon: List five albums you guys have been listening to lately:
Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues
Oh Land – S/T
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. – It’s A Corporate World
Aphex Twin – I Care Because You Do
Bjork – Post

~Jon Miller, Music Director

Photo by Jon Miller
Photo by Jon Miller

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