Musical taste has become quite the political matter. Music snobbery is often viewed with disdain, but many still pass judgment on the listening of others. People often fret to find bands still mired in obscurity, to discover genres on the upswing and musical pioneers and, of course, to have staple local bands.
This can all be a taxing ordeal. Bands often become famous because their music is universally liked; they often shed their “local” label when they gain enough notoriety. The hunt is endless, and with so many performing hopefuls, often quite difficult. But with enough digging, gems can be found. Such is the case with Phantom Vibration. Primarily based out of St. Paul, Minn., the band has a connection to Madison through member Henry Mackaman, a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin.
Mackaman formed the band with Dan Clinton-McCausland in their senior year of high school, “as a means to pass time in our econ class,” Mackaman recounted. The pair would “listen to Nico and talk about music in the back row.” While this may not be the most conventional way to kill time, the end result was the formation of Phantom Vibration, and the pair has been playing together ever since.
Recently, Gunnar Kauth became the group’s newest member, adding depth to their sound. Though Mackaman is a UW student, his two counterparts are in school in Minnesota. This distance proves the largest obstacle for the three. Regardless, they aren’t swayed and have continued to push forward. Their first EP was released before the band played with Kauth, and they spent last summer working on their live performance as trio.
Even so, Mackaman admitted that “mixing and mastering our EPs has been a huge pain,” and the band relies on eails to get the process done. Especially for new bands with little funds or experience, producing quality recordings is often a huge obstacle. Still, the members of Phantom Vibration have managed to produce two professional-sounding EPs.
Booking shows has been another issue due to distance. While they have played together since the summer, some portion of the band has to make the journey from one state to the other. “I’m getting pretty familiar with the Megabus,” Mackaman said.
The band has a sort of musical equivalent to a long distance relationship, and they face similar issues to one. But it’s clear, through their recordings, that they’re making it work.
Phantom Vibration released their first EP, Kids, in March, and recently released their second, Growing. Their final EP, Aged, will complete the set. Mackaman reinforced what the titles suggest, saying that “each EP is a snapshot of a different stage of life.”
To be sure, the band aimed for a different sound in their second EP than their first, showing off the breadth of their ability. Also, perhaps less intentionally, the band has matured musically, just as their EPs have thematically. All of the musical promise to be heard in Kids is fulfilled in Growing.
All of Phantom Vibration’s songs are still musically unified, and the band has a distinct and consistent sound, something Mackaman dubbed “a dreamy aesthetic.” To be sure, their tracks are rife with high sounds like organs and bells, along with a certain low-fi sound that matches the band’s musical sound well.
This style compliments the motif of their EP concept perfectly, creating a dream-like haze over the tracks, like the memories of childhood they try to capture.
Mackaman cites his own influences as bands like The Black Keys and Television, and McCausland’s cites The Decemberists and Fleet Foxes. More of the latter can be heard in Phantom Vibration’s sound. “We are big fans of warm glowy vibes,” Mackaman explained, something that has to be heard to be fully understood.
Currently, Mackaman and the rest of Phantom Vibration currently have their sights set on finishing their EP concept with Aged. Beyond that, they’re both unsure and excited. On the topic, Mackaman remarked simply, “We’ll see where it goes.”
More information about Phantom Vibration can be found at http://phantomvibration.bandcamp.com.