Interview: Phantasmagoria 

Overcast, dark, and cool

click to enlarge Rochester Goth band Phantasmagoria (left to right: Jeremiah Richards, Nyk Radar, Fayebriel Barrette, Maurene Vanderwall, and Chris Theisen) makes music that's as sinister as it is fun. - PHOTO BY CHLOE KUNES
  • PHOTO BY CHLOE KUNES
  • Rochester Goth band Phantasmagoria (left to right: Jeremiah Richards, Nyk Radar, Fayebriel Barrette, Maurene Vanderwall, and Chris Theisen) makes music that's as sinister as it is fun.
Phantasmagoria plays music that shrieks mysteriously with Gothic pathos, but without the genre’s typically morbid predilections. It’s not quite The Cramps, nor is it Alien Sex Fiend or Bauhaus, but Phantasmagoria draws from the same well as those icons, and drinks from the same bloody cup.

For nigh on two years, this Rochester band has strutted onstage and strolled this city’s streets, filling the local need for music found in darkness. Made up of vocalist Nyk Radar, bassist Maurene Vanderwall, Fayebriel Barrette on keyboards, drummer Chris Theisen, and Jeremiah Richards on guitar, Phantasmagoria makes music that’s as sinister as it is fun. There’s plenty of camp, but not enough to take away from the band’s overcast feel. It’s both dark and cool. We caught up with Phantasmagoria ahead of its performance in the Roky Erickson Tribute Show at the Bug Jar on Saturday, August 31. An edited transcript of our interview with the group follows.

CITY: Who? What? Why? Where? When?

Nyk Radar: We started out in Chris’s basement. Now it’s Maurene’s kitchen. It’s smaller, but now our beer is cold.

Maurene Vanderwall: This is my first band with multiple shows, where we didn’t just practice once. I wanted to melt faces and make people feel lots of things — as many things as possible. When you have a lot of creative energy and nowhere to really put it, you find your fellow freaks and you conglomerate into one big, chaotic energy that can’t be contained. I just wanted to explode with all that.

Did you sense a void in the scene here?

Fayebriel Barrette: Yes. Me and Nyk discussed putting together a gothy shoegaze band. We thought that was missing around here.

How important is the band’s look to its overall scheme?

Barrette: Fashion is a huge part of our mission as artists. The smoke and mirrors, and just transporting people into that dark, upside-down world that you can really feel the music in.

Does your look resonate with your fan base?

Vanderwall: It’s a lot of PVC and leather. A lot of people are into it and we try to bring it to the street. People don’t necessarily take into consideration getting dressed up when they're going out. With Phantasmagoria, when people show up and really do it up, they know they’ll be amongst people wearing their weirdo best.

How do you know when the audience is feeling it?

Vanderwall: It’s cool when people dance at our shows, moving together in the darkness. We get terribly excited.

Radar: People get into the show. They don’t just stand there.

Barrette: But it’s hard to get them to break that back wall. That’s something I’ve always hated even before I started playing music: Why is nobody near the stage? If you like this, let them know. It’s nice when they do.

So you’re not hiding anything.

Barrette: No, we’re trying to show you more. It’s a huge performance on both sides. We want to entertain you visually as well as musically. So we try not to be statues on stage. We try to move around. Nyk has a skeleton he likes to shake in people’s faces.

Are you going to put this show on the road?

Radar: Well, I’m currently on probation.

Vanderwall: He has to be a good boy for now.

Radar: So once that’s over, definitely.

Vanderwall: We’ll hit all the New York hotspots.

Any chance of ever catching Phantasmagoria in the daylight? Or does it burn?

Radar: We’re not up for playing in the daylight. I don’t think we could ever play in the daylight.

Barrette: I don’t know. I can picture people watching Phantasmagoria while sitting there, sipping a margarita.

Maybe if it’s raining.

Radar: We’ll only go on after the sun sets.

Barrette: That’s when our batteries go on.

Phantasmagoria will play along with Pink Elephant, Rotten UK, Dyno Boys, Paul Morabito, Ben Morey, NOD, The Hearts Club, and The Evil Ones as part of the Roky Erickson Tribute Show, on Saturday, August 31, 9 p.m.  at Bug Jar, 219 Monroe Avenue. $6. Ages 21 and over. 454-2966. bugjar.com; facebook.com/phantasmagoria666band.
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