Phantasmagoria’s “Currents” CD release show.
In anticipation for their CD release show this Friday at The Loving Touch in Ferndale Christopher Jarvis answered some of our fun questions. Here is our extensive interview with one half of the power-duo that is Phantasmagoria. We began by asking Mr. Jarvis about his partner in life and music Lianna Vanicelli…
MCR: I’m assuming Lianna writes a lot of the lyrics, do you ever wonder if certain lines are specifically referring to you?
Christopher Jarvis: I know that some of the lyrics are about me. We discuss what all the songs are about and what they mean while we’re making them. I don’t really let it affect the way I interpret the song and it ends up meaning a lot to both of us.
MCR: Does Lianna write the vocal melodies as well as the lyrics?
Christopher Jarvis: On the “Spirit” EP I wrote some of the lyrics and vocal melodies but on “Currents” Lianna wrote all of the lyrics and vocal melodies
MCR: Does Lianna write songs/musical parts for Phantasmagoria?
Christopher Jarvis: I write all the music for Phantasmagoria, Lianna writes some of the percussion parts.
MCR: What inspired you to start playing music? How old were you? Was there a specific moment/song/band that made you want to get into music?
Christopher Jarvis: This is going to sound really stupid but I remember the first time I really wanted to play music (besides just fiddling around on my acoustic guitar my Dad got me for my birthday) was when I saw Blink 182 live at DTE when I was 12. I remember thinking how amazing it would be if that was my job. I wish I had realized it at a more dignified time, but there you have it. After that I was in a few bands, everything from punk and hardcore, to indie and psychedelic rock. When I was 14 my dad bought me a Korg synthesizer and I started recording with it using Cubase, a program he used to record with and taught me a little about. From then on I just taught myself.
MCR: Were you ever a metalhead?
Christopher Jarvis: I wouldn’t say I was ever a metalhead. I remember I was really into Korn at one point in my life.
MCR: Do you write on guitar, or just with electronic equipment?
Christopher Jarvis: I’ve only written two Phantasmagoria songs on guitar; “Atavist Snow Fall” (a bonus track on the Spirit EP) and “Empty Houses”. But I’ve played guitar and sampled my guitar on several songs. I mostly write with electronic equipment (a keyboard, my MPC, and a computer).
MCR: Why did you start Ancient Language, and does it do something for you that Phantasmagoria doesn’t?
Christopher Jarvis: I started Ancient Language simply because I make so much different music I needed another outlet to release stuff. I’m a huge fan of instrumental electronic music, of almost all genres. I prefer to make music alone, more than I do with people. I love jamming with people but when it comes down to focusing and hammering out a well crafted, detailed song, I prefer to work by myself. I’m kind of a control freak when it comes to that.
MCR: Between this album and “Spirit” was your approach different? How do you feel you went about it in a fresh way?
Christopher Jarvis: I don’t know if we necessarily went at it a fresh way, we recorded it exactly the same as we recorded the last album, the only difference was I am way more knowledgeable about the software, the recording process, producing, and mixing than I was last time. I used some better equipment this time around as well. “Spirit” was the first project I executed completely on my own, so it was definitely a learning process. This time I used everything I learned from that experience plus everything I’ve learned about the software.
MCR: I’m hearing some vocal samples and different sounds in these tracks. Do you go out and do any field recording to get sounds?
Christopher Jarvis: Yes I do field recordings, but I mostly just record around the house, strange sounds and such. Sometimes I’ll go out and record sounds of nature. I take sounds from films and videos, and sounds I find on the internet too.
MCR: It seems like the album has a clear progression, to me the last two songs are the most somber on the album, like you’re ending the album on a sadder note…Can you talk a bit about the order of the songs and how they flow as a whole piece?
Christopher Jarvis: Really? To me “Empty Houses” is a hopeful song, it’s like coming to terms with your life and accepting it and being at peace. The end sounds like the end of a long journey, which is what making this album was. At least that’s what it sounds like to me. The order of the songs on an album is very important to me. I tend to obsess over it a little. I made various different track lists. Finally, when I thought I had the right one I played it for some friends, but I felt anxious about it when they were listening, so I knew the flow wasn’t right. After that I knew exactly how the order should go. For me it really has nothing to do with what the song is about, but how it sounds; how it flows, from one song to the next. The transition has to be smooth, and the whole thing has to feel complete when it’s finished.
MCR: I noticed that one song is called “Melancholia”…anything to do with the film? If so, how does it relate?
Christopher Jarvis: Actually we made the song Melancholia right after we’d seen the film. That was the only song Lianna and I really worked on together. It was the last song we wrote. We knew we wanted a slower, minimal piano song. We started calling the song “Melancholia” and it kind of just stuck. It really has nothing to do with the film other than the name.
MCR: “Empty Houses” sounds different from the single you released last year. How did you go about reworking/re-approaching it and what’s different about it?
Christopher Jarvis: At first, I just remade “Empty Houses” so we could play it live, since the first one was mostly all guitar. We thought it came out so good that we decided to include it on this album. So we re-recorded all the drums and vocals.
MCR: Any plans to go on a tour outside of Michigan to promote the album?
Christopher Jarvis: We’ve been talking about it, but no definite plans yet.
MCR: What goals/hopes do you have, and what is the next thing you would like to accomplish with Phantasmagoria?
Christopher Jarvis: My goal is to just release this album and go with whatever comes from that. To be honest, I’m pretty happy with how far we’ve come and I get excited to play every show, and I have so much fun with all our friends and fans. The energy is usually so positive. Obviously it would be great on tour and see the country, or even other parts of the world, and expose our music to a larger audience. I know a lot of other baggage comes with that, so right now it’s just really fun and I’m really happy with where I’m at.
Five Three Dial Tone Records are putting out the new album by Phantasmagoria. There will be a release party at The Loving Touch in Ferndale on July 13th. “Currents” will be available on CD and 12″ vinyl. This will be the first time the label has released anything on CD. The good people who run the label say: “there will be 50 Super Special Awesomely Different copies of the vinyl; 25 to be sold through the Five Three Dial Tone records mailing list (subscribe at fivethreedialtone.com) and 25 to be sold at the Loving Touch on July 13”. This will be the fourth release the label has put out by Phantasmagoria, and the first full-length LP.
-interview and article by Jason Revoir