Interview Phantom Elite – “It’s always good to share that feeling that none of us is alone in hard times”

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In a revamped line-up and with new wind in their collective sails following a deal with Italian label Frontiers Music, Dutch/Brazilian metal combo PHANTOM ELITE released its sophomore effort, “Titanium,” in January. Reason enough to ask the lovely and talented front lady Marina La Torraca a few questions related to the new album, the band, and of course dealing with the new reality imposed by COVID-19. Read the entire interview below…

photo credit: Nat Enemede Photography

Hello! How are you doing?

Hey, there! Doing good. Trying to stay sane and as productive as possible. 🙂

Before diving into the music, can you give us a little background on who is PHANTOM ELITE and how was the band formed?

PHANTOM ELITE is now (after a big line-up change) me, Max van Esch (guitars), Joeri Warmerdam (drums). Sander Gommans is definitely part of the team, so is bass player Siebe Sol Sijpkens. Everyone is Dutch, except for me! [laughs] We came to be an actual band in 2016, if I’m not mistaken, when Sander and I decided to chase some musicians to start playing his HDK studio project live. After a couple rehearsals we already started wanting to write our own stuff, and that’s how PHANTOM ELITE was officially born.

In between “Wasteland” and “Titanium,” the band’s line-up changed. Can you tell us more about these changes and what prompted them?

Yep, it changed! [laughs] Well, it’s a funny thing… because people started leaving one by one (for personal reasons mostly), and we started replacing them one by one. It was never like “let’s change things up!” It ends up that now we find ourselves with a bombastically creative, driven, and respectful constellation, which we had never thought to be possible!

In November 2019 PHANTOM ELITE signed a multi-album deal with Frontiers Music, with “Titanium” being the label debut. How did it come to be and how has the collaboration been so far?

Frontiers reached out to Sander (since they also already worked together for TRILLIUM and such, it made sense) with this offer on the table. We were absolutely thrilled because we were psychologically and financially super beaten. So this was the push we needed to have the strength for going on!

Obviously, we’re here to talk about your new album, “Titanium.” How are you feeling about the release?

We are SUPER hyped about the reaction of the audience and reviewers! We’ve been hearing so many really good things and reaching way more people than before (even with a strictly online promotion), it’s really a happy moment for us. All the insecurities and fears of releasing an album can rest in peace for now [laughs].

Would you say there are any surprises or major stylistic changes for the new album, or will “Titanium” continue roughly in line with “Wasteland”?

By now you can hear it for yourselves. It’s a way more modern sound, and the songs are somehow catchier, less proggy. I consider it to be a major step forward from “Wasteland” in terms of production and musical identity.

You have again worked with Sander Gommans (AFTER FOREVER) for the songwriting and production of “Titanium.” What was his input in creating this album? How much did he shape the sound?

Sander had a bigger songwriting and production role in “Wasteland.” The songs on “Titanium” were written by the 3 of us main band members (especially Max), and Sander kept us on track with music theory, structure review, things like that. So basically a co-production.

Can you tell us how was the album writing process carried out, considering the COVID situation in Europe?

Well, we were quite lucky to have finished things up before COVID really hit hard. The only set back is that I had to record some last minute vocals at home with a blanket over my head [laughs].

As a follow-up question, what were the challenges you faced when it came time to record the album, if any?

We live, we learn. There were many things in the workflow that we won’t repeat in the future, since it was a learning-about-each-other process as well. We did have to record separately, which is a pretty standard situation, but not the most fun.

Select two songs from “Titanium” and tell us what inspired the lyrics.

The title track, just like basically the whole album, is all about empowerment and resilience. In this case and in the case of “Bravado,” it was even more specifically inspired by the situation we found ourselves in as a band and as musicians a little before we got that “incentive” from Frontiers (what I mentioned in a few questions above). And I mean, it’s always good to share that feeling that none of us is alone in hard times.

There’s a certain modern vibe to the sound throughout the whole album, not just on specific songs. Are there any bands that you find particularly influential towards the band’s sound?

Yes, many! But they are so different [laughs]. But I guess sound-wise there’s a lot of influence from more modern bands like GOJIRA, PERIPHERY, DEFTONES, etc.

Amanda Somerville is also involved in the creation of this album. How was it to work with her and what did she bring to the music?

Working with her is always amazing! I feel quite comfortable with her as she also coached me and we produced the whole vocal arrangements in the studio. She also contributed to additional co-writing of lyrics. I’m super positive that her input brought the whole voice/text department to the next level.

You chose to preview the record with videos/lyrical videos for “Diamond and Dark,” “The Race,” and “Deliverance.” How much of a challenge is it to decide what songs should give the fans insight and a preview of the new material?

And now also a video for “Glass Crown” is out! 🙂

Choosing singles is always hard when you have such a… varied material. It should definitely showcase the spectrum of the album, and at the same time attract as many people as possible towards it. “Diamonds and Dark” was a pretty easy choice for us as the first single because of those reasons. The rest was harder [laughs].

What do you hope fans will take away from the album?

I really hope people feel like a fresh breeze of new air is blowing on their faces [laughs]. We really strive for authenticity and relevance above all, so that’s a good take away. Also I really meant for it to be a safe haven of community and strength for everybody out there, just like the title implies.

A lot of bands have opted for live streams, since touring is not a viable option. What do you think about this situation and is this something you’re also interested in doing as a band?

We’re honestly not too keen on investing in live streams, but we’re definitely SO eager to go back on the road. And of course, until then, we’ll do our best to serve some sort of live experiences as well.

How would you continue the sentence “Music is…”?

Powerful!

Do you have any last thoughts you want to share with your fans and our readers?

I really appreciate the opportunity of being interviewed here, and I wanna thank everybody who has been supporting me and PHANTOM ELITE on our musical endeavors! If you don’t know us, that’s fine as well: make sure to check our videos and our socials. Stay safe, stay metal, and stay tuned for way more music! We hope to be in Finland for the first time as soon as things go back to normal.

Interview by Andrea Crow

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