OKEECHOBEE — For Los Angeles natives Kyle Kaplan and Vinnie Pergola, the electronic music scene offers more than mega raves and glowsticks. It’s an opportunity to take their audience on an elaborate journey into the night. They constantly strive to instill a sense of class back into dance music. More than just DJing, electronic dance music (EDM) means crafting a performance and actually making a show.
The duo come from a musical background — Pergola’s father is an accomplished rhythm guitarist in numerous outfits and Kaplan’s uncle handled keyboards for Michael Jackson during the Bad era. Pergola and Kaplan met in their teens, both of them burning out on the acting scene. Now in their mid-twenties, the duo began DJing at spots in Los Angeles before gravitating back towards producing their own music. Embracing synthesizers and drum machines, the duo took on the name The Phantoms and dropped their self-titled full length debut album in 2017. A previous EP had been released in 2013 on Skrillex’s OWSLA label.
Aside from the family connections to music, Pergola and Kaplan were inspired to become musicians when they were 16, after seeing Blue Oyster Cult at the Canyon Club in Agoura Hills, CA. “Growing up on classic rock and seeing it live was such a crazy thing,” Kaplan said. “Then seeing Justice live at the Fonda in LA, right after their album Cross came out, really sealed the deal for us. It was one of those things we knew we had to do even if it was just for fun. So awesome that it’s now our job.”
The name Phantoms actually comes from Justice’s song Phantom Part 2, an homage to the fact that the duo was the artist that really got Kaplan and Pergola into electronic music. “We originally called ourselves Phantom,” Pergola explained, “and as we DJed more all over LA, people would start referring to us as ‘the phantoms,’ so it just kind of stuck.”
The duo hope their music inspires people to do what they love and not try to fit into a box. “People love to compare musicians and people,” the duo stated. “Just do you and make stuff you love.”
When asked what songs written by someone else they wished they’d written themselves, the duo offered Time For Us by Nicholas Jaar, suggesting the song’s insane production and many risks as the reason. "Boy oh boy, if I could crawl into that boy’s brain,” one of the duo enthused. They also mentioned All My Friends by LCD Soundsystem. “You can listen to it in any mood and it brings you to a place you can only get to with that song. If you hear that song in a club as the night is ending, everyone just dances and cries together. We love it.”
For the EDM uninitiated, Phantoms offers a list of their top five “Must Listen” tracks: DVNO - Justice; Da Funk - Daft Punk; Survive - Kidnap; Krack - Soulwax, and I Remember - Deadmau5 Kaskade. Tame Impala’s new album The Slow Rush and a whole bunch of random Brazilian Disco are currently dominating the duo’s playlist.
Pergola and Kaplan would love to collaborate with Robyn and Tove Lo, both Swedish singer/songwriters. “We love vocalists from Sweden and the UK — there’s such an amazing energy in Europe that’s sometimes hard to find in the states,” mused the duo.
Okeechobee Music & Art Festival’s "Be Here Now" mantra is embraced by the band as well. “We live by this mantra to an extent - sometimes almost to a disadvantage. Whenever we travel we like to experience as much as we can because who knows when we will have that moment again. We only have one life so we try to live it to the fullest.”
The Phantoms will take the stage at Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival on Thursday, March 5. To listen to their music online, check out their YouTube channel at youtube.com/phantoms.