Steven Rosplock of Phantasm discusses the band’s new single “Spirit Box”, talks inspiration, and delves into the metaphysical.
When Philly’s toweringly progressive Phantasm (think Tool, think Muse) start talking about the otherworldly and the metaphorical on their new single, “Spirit Box (Tuned to You),” from its due-soon album, “Shadow Work”, I say, listen.
Phantasm’s lyricist, vocalist and guitarist Steven Rosplock doesn’t sound like a conspiracy theory-guessing crank when talking about “spiritual entities woven through a musical pattern, emitting rhythmic bursts with distinct chopping and fragmented AM radio signals.” And the fact that Phantasm’s drummer, Jay Yachetta, is the visionary behind directing the fresh single’s spooky video means that the Philly band has its business game plan as well thought out as its aesthetics.
Here’s a quick conversation with Rosplock, held after Phantasm’s gig at Dobbs, in anticipation of its Milk Boy July showcase, and with the command of powerful past albums such as Graph the Pulse (2010), Impossible Machines (2012), and Three Men Make a Tiger (2017) behind them.
Amorosi: Give me a little history of why and how this particular configuration came together. Is Phantasm friends with similar interests or musicians who happened to come together around a solid concept?
Rosplock: I’d say friends with a few similar interests at the time we got together. Being close to these two guys for so long, at this point we have a lot of shared interests, music wise.
Amorosi: Is connecting to the metaphysical, or the metaphysical realm this band’s thing?
Rosplock: It is a current running through this new record, for sure. I always liked lyrics and songs that made me want to look into other realms, other worlds. Songs can be little portals to new ideas.
Amorosi: Let’s go for the belief system that connects Phantasm to all things metaphysical. Discuss fully the real-life experience that inspired you to write “Spirit Box”.
Rosplock: This one’s got a lot to unpack. A Spirit Box is basically a radio with a scan button but the scan is always pressed. You’ll hear pieces of broadcasts and blasts of static. Now, if you’re an enterprising and adventurous type, you can use this to receive communications. Ghosts, extra-and-ultra terrestrials, fairies, gods and goblins are willing to chat if you’re willing to listen. I’ve done several of these Spirit Box sessions now. In all instances we used the Estes methodology pioneered by Conor Randall and Karl Pfeiffer through their work at Estes Park, Colorado and shown in great detail in Hellier, on YouTube and Amazon Prime. In every instance we would get coherent responses to questions through this methodology… some of which was verifiable or corroborated. So how does that work or make sense? Well, I don’t think anyone knows for sure but there are lots of theories. The theory that made this song is this: The action of whatever is coming through the spirit box is only using the radio signals and noise as a medium to interface with your subconscious. The mysterious ‘whatever’, maybe even yourself or the person asking questions, is essentially lighting up the neurons in our brains to hear significant patterns in the medium. It’s a truly fascinating idea that only someone locked in their house due to a pandemic would take the time to contemplate. I also had my phone in my hand more than ever during that time. A lot, a lot. There were parallels to be made.
Amorosi: Speaking of spooky, what was playing Dobbs like the week after all of the shooting mess down there?
Rosplock: There was a cloud over everything. I know it was on everyone’s minds. My heart aches for everyone that was shot that night, and I definitely carried that on stage.
Amorosi: What would Phantasm say is its’ musical and lyrical influences and why, wherefore?
Rosplock: Musically we started out being into groups like Incubus, RATM, Tool, NIN, RHCP, Mr, Bungle, Soundgarden… You know all the late 90s, early 2000s stuff. After a few albums of doing our best impression of those bands we kind of settled into a version of ourselves that looked different than what we started out doing and we’ve been refining that ever since.
Amorosi: Let’s talk about drummer and director Jay Yachetta as the band’s videographer. That’s handy.
Rosplock: Somebody has to make the doughnuts and I already bake the bread… recording and mixing duties. I think he’s doing some really wonderful things and not just for us, although I’d like to think he gives us a baker’s dozen when working on a Phantasm project.
Amorosi: So what’s next for Phantasm, and what’s your big motto?
Rosplock: We’re playing with The Dead Flowers, Andorra and Fossils from the Future on July 23 at MilkBoy. I’d like to do another video or two for these songs. Maybe have a nice little outing with some other bands. As for my motto, always bring your shark repellent.