I love the new single ‘Apparatus’ it feels like a less acoustic style than your previous releases, is this a conscious change?
Thank you! The shift to a heavier, punkier sound is a conscious change, but only in our recordings as it’s always been how we’ve played live. The acoustic stuff was always a bit of a stop-gap as we didn’t really have the resources to record properly during lockdown. The singles we’ve got coming up are definitely more in this style.
Ironically though, Apparatus was very much written on sofas with acoustic guitars, but we decided to make it more gritty and punky because we thought that was the best way to reflect its message.
You have collaborated with other musicians locally, tell us about that?
Yes – although we split our time now between London and Reading, the first time we collaborated with anyone was with Dan and Adam from Air Circus in 2020, who we knew through friends while growing up in Reading. They invited us to Adam’s makeshift studio in the back garden where we worked on tracks from their collaborative album. Then, once things had opened up we put on a gig at The Facebar where we debuted the album live. Several gigs later myself and Olly find ourselves happily entangled with them as part of their live band and recording collective.
In addition to that, we collaborate a lot when we record. I was lucky enough to meet a load of talented people last year when I studied music production and sound engineering at Abbey Road Institute. That meant we’ve been able to bring in people like Francesco Pedrinoni from Blue Wit to mix Blind Emotion, and Dan from Air Circus mixed Apparatus. There’s a string quartet on one of our upcoming singles, we’ve had a choir in to do 4-part harmonies, so these collaborations have really expanded our sound.
You previously had a different band name, how did you pick Phantom Booth?
To be honest, we’ve gone through a lot of names because we started playing together 7 years ago. We finished school and played a few gigs around Reading, but in the time that has elapsed we’ve become a very different band, we lost a few members, and naturally the project changed a bit. Phantom Booth has more connotations of what I write songs about: witches, midnight gatherings, moonlight, and so on. But the phrase itself comes from a few years ago when we took some film photos out in the countryside – we like recording on analogue equipment and I like taking pictures on film. One photo looked really ghostly and we jokingly named it the Phantom Booth.
In lockdown you managed to record at home, how did you find that process compared to when you took the track into the studio?
Weirdly, the process wasn’t actually that different. Recording at home, it was completely DIY – with me producing and engineering and all the band making arrangement decisions together. We didn’t work with anyone outside the band. Now, although we have the odd friend coming in to help us, I still produce and engineer our tracks. The big difference was being able to record at Abbey Road Institute and having access to loads of microphones and expensive equipment and guitars – at home we had a mic and a laptop. But we’re still self-producing.
You played in Saint Laurence Church Reading for Are You Listening Festival, how was that experience?
Funnily enough, we went to a Catholic school, so we’re very used to playing in churches. After we left school, we had this weird period of playing venues around Reading trying to gain some momentum, and more recently getting back in the swing of things after not playing a gig for nearly 2 years. So, things really came full circle with our biggest gig so far being in a church – our first gig was in front of an altar at school!
It was almost nostalgic because we’ve been playing in London a lot for the last year, often to audiences who don’t really know us individually or musically – it was a welcome return, and really amazing to be on a bill with the likes of Jockstrap as well as lots of cool local artists.
I noticed you were playing with a string section at Are You Listening – how did that come about?
Individually, we are all classically trained, so we’re very familiar with violins and cellos as it’s what we’ve been brought up on before guitars. So we’ve always had an interest in trying to incorporate it into our music, looking towards bands like The Beatles and The Last Shadow Puppets as inspiration. We like that baroque rock style. Because we’ve finally been able to record with choirs and string sections, we also wanted to bring it into our live set to add a level of depth people aren’t really used to with small indie bands. At no point in the near future are we going to be going down the road of synthesisers – this is our secret ingredient, using strings and orchestras.
What’s next for Phantom Booth?!
We’re going to keep releasing singles and playing as much as we possibly can – it’s a process that we are enjoying and we are building up momentum. We’re not going to sit into one style and we’re always looking to be creative and throw new things into the mix. Our recordings are going to keep changing – one of our next singles coming out is entirely piano and a string quartet. We don’t want to conform to one style as we’ve never really been like that as musicians.
You can next catch us live in Reading at South Street Arts Centre on Saturday 10th September when we perform alongside Air Circus, the day after their single ‘Better Weather’ featuring Phantom Booth is out. It’ll be the first time we’ve played there and we’re super excited!
New single 'Apparatus' is out now!
Photo by Adam Adrian