Today, Phantogram releases their highly anticipated fourth studio album, Ceremony. The 11-track album features the band’s lead single, Dear God, which they debuted with an explosive performance on ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live! last night.
‘Ceremony’ marks a rebirth and embodies a dark, but hopeful, chapter for the band, which is comprised of lifelong friends Josh Carter and Sarah Barthel. In advance of the release, the band posted a revealing letter to fans unveiling how the tragic loss of Barthel’s sister, Becky, to suicide, and peers like Mac Miller, Chris Cornell, Prince, Avicii, Chester Bennington, and more, impacted their lives and influenced the album.
The process for ‘Ceremony’ began in summer of 2018, after several years of touring the world in support of their most commercially successful album, Three. The album hit Top 10 on the Billboard Top 200 chart, Top 3 on Billboard’s Rock Albums chart and Top 5 on Billboard’s Top Albums Sales chart.
The lead single, You Don’t Get Me High Anymore, also peaked at #6 on the alternative radio chart. In the midst of what was their most successful chapter—one that they had been building towards for nearly a decade—the pair were still reeling from the tragic passing of Becky. After returning from tour, both Barthel and Carter were finally forced to come to terms with Becky’s unfortunate death.
Barthel says, “When ‘Three’ was finished, I thought the weight of sadness and anger would release after finishing recording. Boy, I was wrong. Performing those songs every night was like reliving the feelings over and over again. After that tour, I was completely drained and spent. After 10 years of being in this band and pouring my heart into everything that is Phantogram, I felt like I didn’t have anything else. I think life was put on hold for a long time for Phantogram. Going through the loss of my sister from suicide was the icing on the cake.”
She continues, “After ‘Three,’ it was a time to reflect in a way we never had before. Life after losing someone from suicide is very confusing. Performing those songs every night kept us stuck in that one moment. It didn’t allow us to move forward and grow as people. When tour was over, we had to step outside of the Phantogram bubble and face real life. It almost felt like we were in survival mode. ‘Ceremony’ was inspired by self-care and seeing how common of a struggle everyday life had become.”
‘Ceremony’ features the band’s previously released singles, Pedestal, In A Spiral, Mister Impossible, and Into Happiness, which have received praise from Rolling Stone, Billboard, Pitchfork, The New York Times, SPIN, Stereogum, Consequence of Sound, PAPER Magazine and more.
It marks the first project the band made entirely around Los Angeles, recording the bulk of the album at Barthel’s new home studio, dubbed ‘Harmony West,’ (previous albums were made at Harmony Lodge in Upstate New York).
Of creating Ceremony, Carter says, “When the cycle for ‘Three’ wound down, we took some much-needed time to focus on our personal life, friendships and mental health. Going into the creation process of ‘Ceremony’ was a more refreshing approach to making music than how we normally create. We went back to our roots in a lot of ways—making art, listening to records and writing in our own secluded studio in the hills of Laurel Canyon. It was liberating and inspiring to just make music as it flowed, while also having fun doing it. This allowed us to still push our boundaries and create new ideas that we hadn’t explored yet.”
Stream ‘Ceremony’ here