Longtime friends turned
bandmates Aaron Harris and Yos Munro have had rock music pulsing through their
veins since their awkward teen years. Yet, after studying the arts and
experimenting with different genres from jazz to punk, the pair decided to
start a band of their own. Putting a refreshing twist on what has recently
become Brooklyn’s trademark sound, their group, Steel Phantoms, replaces hazy
reverb laced tunes with infectious pop choruses and punk-driven melodies.
Growing up in Pittsburg and
joining forces at 14, Harris and Munro set their sites on Montreal, attending
McGill University, where influential musical connections were made. “We went to
school for music and we went to [a] performing arts high school. We’ve been
doing it our whole lives,” Harris says. It was also in Montreal that Harris got
his first big break: as a drummer for lush Canadian indie-rock group Islands.
After original Islands
drummer Jamie Thompson quit (he has subsequently floated in and out of the
band), Harris landed the once-in-a-lifetime gig. “I introduced [frontman Nick
Diamonds] to his then girlfriend ‘cause she and I were good friends, and she
went to McGill, also,” Harris recalls. “And when Jamie quit, she recommended I
try out, so I did.” Shortly after, he was whisked away to be a percussionist on
tour and played his first Islands show “in front of, like, 10,000 people,” an
experience Harris likens to a happy whirlwind.
With their visas no longer
applicable in Montreal, Harris and Munro separately made their ways back to the
States during the summers of 2007 and 2008. The two took up residency in Brooklyn, a decision fueled not
only by the guys’ friends and family in the area, but also by the borough’s
reputation. “If you want to play music, especially indie-rock, there’s not a
lot of places on the Eastern seaboard you could go,” Harris explains. “You know
it’s like Brooklyn and New York City will always be the epicenter of music.”
Having their feet planted
on the heavily trafficked streets of Greenpoint and Bed-Stuy, Munro and Harris
recruited guitarist Jesse Newkirk and bassist Alex Mallett to join them in
Steel Phantoms. Playing their first gig at Glasslands in 2009, the band has
since played at neighborhood haunts including Secret Project Robot, Europa and
A collaborative effort from
the start, Steel Phantom’s self-titled debut’s nine punk-laced tracks were
created in rehearsal, with each member putting his creative two cents in. “It’s
very much a band album,” Harris says. Sharing singing duties, Munro and Harris
are on the forefronts of songwriting, focusing on real life events and
occurrences for inspiration. And while both have been known to create the
unavoidable relationship-related track, Munro mainly focuses on family, while a
lot of Harris’ songs deal with insomnia.
Swayed by Wolf Parade and
“’80s college-rock” vets like Elvis Costello and R.E.M., Steel Phantoms set out
to fuse the “really punky, and also melodic style of music from those times.”
Alternating between Munro’s deep, smoky baritone and Harris’ angsty boyish
vocals, the four-piece’s tunes embody exactly that, supplying infectious hooks
and jump-worthy melodies to the masses. “Fast Stop,” for instance, which was
recently picked up for a Pepsi ad, combines driving, yet mellow choruses with a
background of infectious guitar riffs and a thrashing percussion. While, the
whimsically played keys on “Palm Sugar,” references New York’s current sound,
but with that desired punk spin courtesy of anthemic, duel-vocal harmonies.
With a “fire under our
asses” to gain more exposure and obtain label support, the future looks like it
will shine brightly for Steel Phantoms.The boys aren’t wasting any time, as
plans for new songs are already underway with a 12-hour recording session lined
up, which the band won from a contest. The four-piece also just returned home
from its first real tour with Islands, during which Harris shared his skills
behind the drum kit with Nick Diamonds and company, as well. And after allowing music to be a
driving force in their lives for so long, it looks like best friends Munro and
Harris are starting to see their dreams come true.
July 24, Roberta’s Outdoor Garden Space, 261 Moore St.
(betw. Bogart & White Sts.), 718-417-1118; 4, $10.