Written by Nick Hopton
Alright. I have to admit something right off the bat.
I’m in love with this band. There…I said it.
A few months ago, I had the distinct pleasure of walking into a show (remember those?) at The Fillmore in Philadelphia, and witnessing an opening act that I can’t describe as anything less than breathtaking. It was one of those moments where you go “holy shit….wow.”. They don’t happen too often anymore. It’s a rare moment in life that sticks with you. (I wrote an article about the entire show which is also on That Mag, also featuring fellow Philly acts Foxtrot & The Get Down and Saint Slumber).
In the time since that show took place, PHNTMS has released, in my opinion, one of the best songs that I have heard in quite some time. The song is called “Back Burner.” Suffice to say, I have it on repeat constantly. I have turned countless friends onto PHNTMS via this song, most of which share my exact sentiments and thoughts about it. A brilliant landscape of guitar work. Drums that signal a call to arms. And vocals that can flat out tear a hole through the heavens. It’s a song that you’d hear constantly on the radio. It’s catchy. It’s fresh. It’s real.
I had a chance to briefly speak with PHNTMS about this song and a few other topics…
First and foremost, for those that don’t know…who are PHNTMS? What is this band truly about? And who are they trying to reach with the message?
PHNTMS is a four-piece rock band from Philadelphia PA,” Gene Murphy begins. “Alyssa Gambino, Adam Jessamine, Mikal Smith, and Gene Murphy. The band is all about creating music we are emotionally connected to. We are inspired by everyday situations, relationships, and growing up, as songwriters, we try to capture these moments and make them as detailed as possible. We’ll always be fascinated by the fact we can freeze these moments in a song.”
Half of the band identifies as queer, so they hope to reach out to and support the LGBTQA+ community. “We openly talk about lesbian relationships in our music and we want to bring hope to anyone who is in the closet and doesn’t feel safe coming out. Whether you are out as queer or not, your identity is valid and if our music helps you escape heteronormativity for a brief moment.”
The sound that PHNTMS has achieved is something unique and special. This massive wall of sound that, at least from what I can hear, has such a wide array of influences.
“We really appreciate you saying that and it means a lot to us,” Adam Jessamine replied. “We are pretty influenced by a lot of bands. Biffy Clyro, Kings of Leon, Catfish and the Bottlemen, Bring Me The Horizon, Deaf Havana, as well as vocalists like Amy Winehouse. We also draw a lot of inspiration from moves and directors like Nicholas Winding Refn, who directed ‘Drive’ and ‘The Neon Demon’.”
The lyrics. The melody. I mean goddamn…that’s…for a lack of a better term…fucking huge. Many times artists like to keep them open-ended for interpretation so the listener can use the song for connection to their own lives, but I’m interested to see if there was a specific moment in life that created these? It’s so powerful and caked in emotion that I can’t imagine something big didn’t spark them into being. Care to share as to what that might have been?
Haha! That’s awesome, big fan of huge sounding bands so again, thank you!” Alyssa Gambino exclaimed. “‘Back Burner’ is about two people dealing with bad timing and not being ready to take the next step into a relationship, despite there being a strong attraction.
“I’ve always kept a safe distance when having feelings for someone new and the ‘flame’ represents just that. For me, being placed on the back burner is a lingering reminder that I will be here waiting.”
The music video for “Back Burner” is also brilliantly done. It perfectly encompasses the feel of the song, and even better is that Adam was the director.
The band chose to keep everything in-house, but sometimes that can pose be prove easier or more difficult on film. Musicians are perfectionists so I can imagine that you nitpicked through every little piece of footage to get this right by your standards.
“Thanks, man. It’s the first video I directed and I didn’t want to settle at all in terms of the making of it. I wanted it to look like it was shot by my favorite directors Nicholas Winding Refn, David Fincher, and Denis Villeneuve,” Jessamine explained. “Not that it compares to any of their work. They are masters, but I wanted to ‘make them proud’ haha. My buddy Tom Flynn filmed it with us, who is awesome and a fantastic cinematographer. He actually owns the same camera that the movie, ‘Drive,’ was filmed with, so that was great for me. I was extremely specific on location, lighting, how it was shot and edited as well. If you think musicians are perfectionists I’m on a whole different level, I get OCD about things. It’s pretty intense sometimes, I go over every tiny little detail. Mikal always tells me I ‘Bring out the electron microscope..’ Which I get a kick out of.
The future is obviously bright for PHNTMS.
Is there more music already recorded that we will be seeing soon as an encore to Back Burner? And where do you see this band in 5 years?
“We have a 6-song self-titled EP that is coming out. It’s all finished and ready to go,” Jessamine reveals. “The next single is coming out on May 8th (you heard it here first!) We are super excited about it. We were supposed to do another video for it, but with the state of things going on in the world right now, that’s on hold, for the time being. There will definitely be more music videos in the future. And after the EP, we already have other songs recorded and ready to go, very excited with the people we are working with for that stuff. Honestly, we just want to keep making music and just have people enjoy the music we make while reaching as many people as possible. Also, we can’t wait to just play shows again after all this.”