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  THE BLACK TABLE ROVER EXPLORES THE PHANTOM PLANET.  
   
   
  Phantom Planet is one of those star-crossed bands who keep making great music and always seem to be known for something else.

Initially, this Los Angeles-based quintet were best known for their
drummer, Jason Schwartzman, who played the lead in Rushmore and is part of the second wave of Coppolas to take over Hollywood. Then,

 
     

their bizarro Al Jolson cover of "California" was given second life as the theme song of the hot teen soap "The OC," exposing the band to high schoolers who can't see the band play live without a fake ID. Now, they're somewhere down south, touring their faces off, answering lame questions about teen soap operas and members who aren't even in the band.

The Black Table, which has been playing their newly-released, self-titled third record since we got a

 
 

pre-release copy before Christmas, interviewed guitarist Darren Robinson about The OC, the recent departure of Schwartzman and whether or not they'll play our next party.

Okay, now we go.

BT: In March, the first volume of music featured on The OC will be released in stores and you guys will be on it, along with two unsigned L.A. bands, and acts like Turin Brakes and South and Arthur. While the show itself caters to a mainstream teenage audience, the music is decidedly indie and, well, cool. How do you guys deal with the disconnect? Are you concerned about being painted with a teeny bopper brush, when your music has more depth than that tag would imply?

PP: We're not worried about being "painted with a teeny bopper brush" as you so elegantly phrased it. People these days are so quick

 
 

to label music, and it's lame. Anyone that has any questions about our music should do but one thing- see us play live. We love playing music together, and we've been doing it for over a decade now. Anyone that doesn't take the time to see that can suck a fat one!

BT: Do you even watch The OC? I do. And, um, I really love it. That Seth kid, played by Adam Brody, totally rules. Do you think he should be with Summer or Anna?

PP: I don't watch the show. I think all the girls in it are gorgeous though. I personally like "Summer" the best. I'd date her if she was single. Maybe not actually. I am not big into actresses. She's still hot though.

BT: On the last record, you worked with Mitchell Froom, known for a slicker, poppier sound. But you switched. David Fridmann, who produced the Flaming Lips, Mercury Rev and Mogwai, did your new record, which has a harder edge and evokes a myriad of musical tastes and tempos, something of a Fridmann trademark. How was working with Fridmann different?

PP: Mithcell Froom and Dave Fridmann are both wonderful people and it was a pleasure working with both of them. When we recorded "The Guest" we were much more inspired by musicians and bands like Elvis Costello and The Beach Boys. That was before we went on tour to promote that record... After 18 solid months of touring, we became noticeably more aggressive and just kind of grew up naturally. (I can only imagine this would happen to any rock band.) While we still love Elvis Costello and the Beach Boys, we have expanded our musical tastes a bit. We have been listening to a lot of Fugazi, Lightning Bolt, Hella, and Pink and Brown lately, but we're essentially the same band we've always been. I think Dave just managed to help us capture our live energy for our new album, and that's all that's really changed. I guarantee our next record will sound different too, and I will be asked this very question in a future interview...

BT: Was this record an intentional departure?

PP: An intentional departure from what? A more "poppy" sound? Not really. We just wanted to make the record we felt best suited us. Our live show is perhaps our strongest asset, and our goal was to capture that live energy for our third record. We are extremely pleased with the outcome.

BT: What do you think it is with bands coming out with a self-titled record later in their careers? Did you do it to re-establish the band, or did you just run out of titles?

PP: I think it gets to a point where bands would rather people focus on the music. A self-titled album, at least to me, has always signified a confident tone from any band. Almost like saying, "Screw it. Just listen to the music. We're not fucking around."

BT: Some critics have savaged Alexander Greenwald, saying that his vocals sound too much like The Strokes' Julian Casablancas. What do you say to those who say you're just ripping off a popular band?

PP: I think it's fine if people think that. Julian knows what's up, musically speaking, especially compared to 99.9% of the bands on the radio today. (If you can even call those bands.) However, if we were ripping anyone off, it surely is not the Strokes. It would be far more intelligible for one to claim that we are borrowing from bands that have had a big influence on us, like Fugazi, Gang of Four, The Pixies, Iggy Pop, or My Bloody Valentine. Most bands that I am familiar with borrow from their idols, and mold their sounds with their idols in mind. The Strokes are no exception. Listen to an Iggy Pop record and then listen to the Strokes. Coincidence? I think not. I am able to listen to their records though and appreciate them fully, especially knowing who their influences are. They are like a breath of fresh air in the midst of all the Nu-Metal gener-rock. I think there is something that the Strokes and Phantom Planet do in fact have in common though: it's called credibility.

BT: If Phantom Planet were never allowed to play originals ever again and were forced to play as a cover tribute band for all eternity: What band would you cover? What songs would you

   

 

Phantom Planet Fights The Strokes!

A little-known East Coast/West Coast war between Phantom Planet and The Strokes exploded into bloom not long ago, but The Black Table's paparazzi were there to document what went down. We bring you the inside story of this sizzling feud.


The trouble all started at a Hollywood party, when former drummer Jason Schwartzman told Drew Barrymore that his old band was better than The Strokes. Way better!


Drew told her boyfriend, Strokes drummer Fabrizio Moretti, who was not amused, to say the very least.

The word spread, insults were exchanged and the two bands agreed to meet on the high school football field, in the blinding rain, to settle things like real rock and rollers would. By punching each other in the face numerous times.


Alex Greenwald, Phantom Planet's frontman, drew first blood, socking Julian Casablancas, lead singer of the Strokes, right in his pretty, pretty mouth.


But the tide turned, the older and wiser Strokes began handing out a New York style beatdown, stabbing Phantom Planet's new drummer, Jeff Conrad, and bringing the battle to a halt.


At the hospital, Alex and Darren of Phantom Planet threaten to knife the doctor, unnerved by the loss of another drummer. The doctor reassures the band that Jeff will be just fine and has a long-term prescription for Vicodin.

The mood lightens considerably.


Maybe it's the prescription meds talking, but after the incident, both bands reflect on how disruptive garage band violence has been on their lives and careers. Alex and Julian go for a walk in the park and mend fences, sparking rumors that Phantom Planet and the Strokes will form a giant-sized, 10 person band designed to show The Polyphonic Spree who's the real boss of giant-sized bands.

The End.

 

   
 

perform? And more importantly, what would call your band?

PP: We'd be a five piece "Lighting Bolt" cover band. We'd just cover their songs and call ourselves Thunder Clap" or some shit.

BT: I know you're all from L.A. and stuff and we're in N.Y., but next time you're in town, will you play our next party? We'll buy you beers and stuff.

PP: Fuck yeah we will. We'll each need our own twelve packs of beer though. Heineken for me, please. We love NY. Invite us over, for the love of humanity.

BT: You played Last Call with Carson Daly. Did being in the same room with him trigger an uncontrollable urge to kick his ass?

PP: Holy fucking shit that's funny. He's actually a really nice guy. I hated TRL, but Carson has always seemed to remain the same, regardless of his success. He's apparently done well for himself and he's remained a decent guy as well. I kind of still wanted to sock him in the head once or twice though. That's just fucked up on my part.

BT: Robert Carmine, lead singer/songwriter of the band Rooney, is also Jason Schwartzman's little brother. How would a fistfight between you and Rooney end up? Maybe it's because you use a bit more distortion, but the current Vegas line seems to favor you guys.

PP: Oh my. Increase the peace. Fuck it, we'd destroy their souls. We win again, motherfucker! Did you know our new album is also known as, "We win again." I'm actually dead serious. If you own our new CD, look closely at the CD itself... It's all white, but there's some writing on it somewhere...

BT: And speaking of Schwartzman, he left halfway through the recording of the record. Do you consider his tenure in the band a blessing, because of all the attention he brought to the band, or do you think that it was a curse, because of all the attention he took away from the music? Feel free to not answer this question, but you know we had to ask.

PP: Actually, Jason left more toward the end, after most of our album was recorded. I think it was in our best interest for him to leave the band, as well as his best interest to do so. He's a talented dude though, and he'll do great with acting. He's actually one dude I personally wouldn't fist fight, by the way. He doesn't fuck around. Maybe Jason and Robert should have a brotherly fist fight... I'd pay big bucks to watch that.

Anyway, we're thrilled to have Jeff Conrad as our new drummer. He's a fucking stud and we love him. Not too bad on those drums either... Oh, I would like to point out that Jason did, in fact, play the drum fill that opens our new record, despite what some moronic writer in some big magazine thought.

I'm gonna go listen to Britney Spears now and laugh and eat bubble gum with my buddies.

Word.