INTERVIEW: Phantoms go from the big screen to the big stage

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Phantoms, Vinnie Pergola, Kyle Kaplan

Phantoms perform at the 2019 Life is Beautiful festival in Las Vegas. Photo courtesy of the artist.

As multicolored lights illuminate the Fremont Stage in the heart of Las Vegas, a dynamic duo takes the stage, thousands wildly cheer and sing along to favorite jams, and folks unfamiliar with the music equally enjoying the electrifying energy.

Phantoms
Georgia

9 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 5
The Independent
Tickets: $18-$20.

It’s a night that EDM duo Vinnie Pergola and Kyle Kaplan, better known as Phantoms, have permanently engraved in their minds as they think back in grateful disbelief. Though they’ve played a multitude of festivals, their most recent experience captivated them.

“It was pretty crazy to see the crowd at Life Is Beautiful,” Kaplan said. “It’s great to have people out there, just all over the country, who know your stuff. And it still surprises us every time.”



Growing up in Los Angeles, Kaplan and Pergola had started early careers in the acting business, landing television roles from childhood onward. Both had a background in Disney. Pergola had roles on shows like “That’s So Raven” and Kaplan on “10 Things I Hate About You” and “Hannah Montana.” The duo met when they were 15, hanging out in the city’s “actor kids scene,” usually strolling through the popular CityWalk outdoor mall.

“Kyle and I became friends pretty fast,” Pergola said. “We had a pretty similar outlook on the whole acting world.”

Of course, somewhere in the insane mix of an actor’s busy world, they shared an essential commonality: music flowed in their blood.

After testing the waters by playing classic rock in what they describe as a “horrible” garage band, Kaplan says a pivotal moment transformed himself and Pergola to fall in love with EDM.

“I had a big audition for some movie,” Kaplan said. “Vinnie’s car broke down; we decided to go Justice. I’m glad we did because from that moment, we knew we wanted to make electronic music.”

Kaplan said that it took a while for the two to really find their own sound, but once they did, there was no going back.

“For a while, there I was just auditioning and was so unhappy and just hated it,” he said. “The artistic control of making music, as opposed to renting lines for some horrible commercial, [was worth it].”



Though there were twists and turns along the way, the puzzle pieces began falling into place. In 2018, Phantoms marked some of their most treasured milestones.

Among multiple chart-toppers lay hit single “Lay With Me,” featuring singer-actress Vanessa Hudgens. The song pulled in more than 11 million streams and 5.6 million YouTube views for its video. But for Kaplan and Pergola, the story behind the song and video is a memory they’ll not forget.

“We always knew Vanessa and had acting class together a long, long time ago. We happened to run into each other at JFK airport about a year before we recorded that song,” Pergola said. “She knew some of our stuff, so we’re just like ‘let’s get in the studio.’” And that’s exactly what they did.

“A year later we finally recorded that song and we were just thinking it would be really cool if, because we all had Disney pasts, if we did a little throwback; a little fun thing for the fans,” Pergola said.

With the help of past Disney colleagues, Hudgens and Phantoms recreated one of the last scenes of “High School Musical”—which had been Hudgens’s debut into stardom—as the video. The video highlights the innocence of the movie while adding in a spicy touch that flashes the song’s sensual vibe.

“I’m really happy with how it came out,” Pergola said. “It definitely froze the internet for a week or so.”

In July, Phantoms released their newest EP, Disconnect. According to Kaplan and Pergola, the new release reflects not only their musical growth, but their personal maturity.



“With the more experiences we have as people, there’s definitely more to write about,” Pergola said. “I feel like it’s pretty honest about what we were feeling at the time.”

Now Phantoms are taking the EP on a nationwide tour as they continue to take in the awe-inspiring effects of success.

“There are so many of these weird moments,” Pergola said. “We always try to stay humble, [but] we get very excited.”

Follow writer Amelia Parreira at Twitter.com/AmeliaParreira.

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