Phantoms reveal a new direction and how their pasts are shaping their future [Interview]
There is no conventional path to becoming a DJ, but LA-bred Kyle Kaplan and Vinnie Pergola have unique backgrounds — even as far as DJs go. Now better known as producer duo Phantoms, the once child stars appeared in series like Hannah Montana, Zoey 101, and That’s So Raven, among many others. Kaplan and Pergola grew up in Hollywood, navigating the joys of childhood, alongside booking their next TV gigs.
Fortunately for their now-fans, the grind of TV auditions became less appealing, and their interest in becoming actors started to wane. Simultaneously, Pergola and Kaplan found themselves at a Justice concert, which they cite as the beginning of their love of electronic music.
“We had been living in a music bubble of lame classic rock, and that show opened us up to the world of electronic music. It was a really exciting time for both of us. Once we saw all that world had to offer, auditioning for guest star roles on Hannah Montana or CSI seemed a bit silly.”
Even though they moved on from their child acting careers, their entry into electronic music remained unconventional. Kids of the Hollywood Hills through and through, the two started attending different house parties around LA, and DJing with a full light rig they bought for $700 at Guitar Center. After that, they learned how to produce their own music. Although they no longer act, Pergola and Kaplan are the first to point out the similarities between the two worlds, despite their now 10-year departure from acting.
“There are a lot of similarities – mostly with the people fresh to either acting or music. A lot of the younger DJs we meet remind us of kids who just booked their first job on a Disney or Nick show. There is an earnest excitement because it’s cool to feel your dreams coming true – but on the other end, there can be an ego – ‘Im the fucking best, and this is gonna last forever.’”
The duo has learned more than a few important lessons throughout their time as entertainers, two of which include that nothing lasts forever and to never take themselves too seriously. One Tito’s sponsorship later and a career that’s years in the making, the duo are doing something right. Their music can hardly be confined to a box, even though they most closely associate as electronic musicians.
Moving forward, they plan on producing outside that box even further, this time in the form of pop-infused productions. This means working with more pop-leaning vocalists, and they have recently drawn inspiration from vocalists such as Alessia Cara, Ella Mai, and SZA. The duo even has a new release in the pipeline featuring Vanessa Hudgens to kick start this new direction.
“They [pop songs] are fucking hard as hell to make, so it’s a good challenge for us. And yes, we do have some surprises that should be surfacing soon.”
Phantoms will be performing at Breakaway Music Festival later this month, where fans will be able to see them showcase their new sound and upcoming releases live.
Read our full Q&A with the duo below.
What artists started to inspire you to shift from acting to producing music?
The biggest shift happened for us around 10 years ago when we went to go see Justice live at the Fonda Theater in Los Angeles. We had been living in a music bubble of lame classic rock, and that show opened us up to the world of electronic music. It was a really exciting time for both of us. Once we saw all that world had to offer, auditioning for guest star roles on Hannah Montana or CSI seemed a bit silly.
How did you all decide to start Phantoms and produce together as a group?
We wanted to start playing electronic music around LA so we named ourselves “Phantom” and would DJ house parties with a full light rig we bought for $700 at Guitar Center. Unfortunately, this was a few years before EDM blew up in America so people would get upset and beg us to play hip-hop. We kept DJing, but it got sort of old not playing our own music. That was when we switched to focusing on our own music and the live show.
Some say entertainers are entertainers. What are some of the biggest differences between people who were in your acting scene versus the music scene?
It’s funny, we actually talk about this a lot. There are a lot of similarities – mostly with the people fresh to either acting or music. A lot of the younger DJs we meet remind us of kids who just booked their first job on a Disney or Nick show. There is an earnest excitement because it’s cool to feel your dreams coming true – but on the other end there can be an ego – “Im the fucking best, and this is gonna last forever.” If we have seen one thing in both industries, it’s that nothing last forever, and you have to be really smart to give something longevity.
You all have crafted a really unique sound that has broken through the electronic music scene, and you’ve really made a name for yourselves. Do you think you may experiment genres in a major way moving forward? Do you have any surprises up your sleeves?
First of all, thank you! I know what we do can sometimes be hard to put into genre boxes, so it’s always nice when people get it. The only thing we’re going to be experimenting with moving forward is probably some more pop leaning vocals. We’ve crafted our project to be able to move between genres as long is it still sounds like us – so we want to try making pop music that sounds like us. We definitely did that a little bit on our first record, but it’s something we’re really experimenting with now because we truly love great pop songs. They are fucking hard as hell to make, so it’s a good challenge for us. And yes, we do have some surprises that should be surfacing soon.
Do you have any dream collaborations/vocalists you are dying to work with?
Right now there’s a couple singers we would love to work with. That song Boo’d Up by Ella Mai is just incredible, and her voice is amazing. Alessia Cara. SZA. All would be amazing vocalists to work with because I think we could make something really interesting mixing R&B vocals with our sound. We’ve also been dying to do something with bülow. She’s making some of the most exciting pop music right now, and if you haven’t heard it go fucking listen.
What would you say the hardest thing about this job is?
We love the travel and the business side of things, which I think a lot of other artists might find to be the hardest. For us the hardest part is probably finishing music and saying “ok this is done now.” You spend so long working on something that by the time you are in the final phases of mixing, you can start to hate what you’re working on, which in turn makes you second guess and over analyze everything about it. And then you add label notes on top of that – it can get a bit overwhelming. However, once a song is done, it’s nice to step away from it for a while. When you go back to it a couple of weeks later, you remember why you liked it so much in the first place. If you still hate it – then yeah that’s a problem.
We know you recently released a new single with Nicole Millar. Can we expect another album coming anytime soon?
Yeah we have a couple more singles in the pipeline and we’re working on the album right now. The next single is featuring Vanessa Hudgens, and that’s coming soon. We’ve been teasing it for so long I think her fans hate us now. But it’ll be worth the wait.
Your socials indicate you guys spend a good portion of your time intoxicated. What are each of your drink’s of choice?
Hahahah. Yeah we’re simple guys – we both drink Tito’s and soda. We drank enough Tito’s and talked about it enough to make them finally reach out and sponsor us. It’s become this weird part of the Phantoms world. At every show on our last tour people would scream “TITOS BOYS!” in between songs and pass little airplane sized bottles to us on stage. And yes we did chug them on stage because we love our fans, even though our livers might hate them.
Do you all think you would ever pivot back to acting? Or is that truly a thing of the past?
Acting is probably a thing of the past for us. Unless it will be something we make or whatever weird stuff we do on our socials, I think those days are over. The thought of going back to commercial castings or auditioning for three lines on Young Sheldon doesn’t sound very enticing anymore.
Featured photo by Caleb Donato