Kyle Kaplan and Vinnie Pergola of EDM duo Phantoms were living the teen actor life — balancing high school with TV gigs and industry kid parties — when their paths crossed. Kaplan had appeared in Hannah Montana, CSI: Miami and other assorted shows and pilots. Pergola had done commercials and an episode of That's So Raven.
They met at an awards event for young actors. While they have long since abandoned acting in favor of music, that part of their life rates more than a brief mention in their respective histories.
Inside the downtown studios for artist development firm Family, Kaplan and Pergola explain the party scene for those who grew up in front of cameras. Valley teens would hop from house to house for parties that had potential to make one lucky young actor the popular kid, at least for a few months.
"The floors would be sticky," says Kaplan. "You would just see so many random people there, some that were working all the time, some that weren't. Every time there was somebody that was working or semi-popular, they would be hooking up the most with people."
By the time they were 17, Kaplan and Pergola were developing a new interest — dance music. In 2007, Los Angeles was getting deep into the dance floor sounds championed by French record label Ed Banger and acts like Justice, whose song "D.A.N.C.E." was popping up in DJ sets across the city. Despite a last minute audition and a broken-down car, the two teens managed to catch Justice live that year.
"We were used to rock shows," says Kaplan. Dance music was something different. They combed Melrose Avenue to find leather jackets similar to the ones worn by the guys in Justice. They snuck into a party for the group at Les Deux. For Kaplan and Pergola, this was a new scene.
Meanwhile, both grew weary of acting. "I just lost the spark for it," says Kaplan. Their passion for music, though, increased. Combing music blogs for new MP3s and using fake IDs to get into clubs wasn't enough. They started DJing at parties like Club Dance and The Heist.
After a few years behind the decks, they stepped out of the DJ booth and into the recording studio. "We really wanted to develop a sound that was unique to us," says Pergola. Phantoms' sound is the intersection of their interests. While Pergola is into house and techno ("more underground stuff), Kaplan leans towards pop styles.
"We have a pretty good working relationship," says Pergola. "We've been working together for a long time, so we know when something is important to [the other], we don't fight over it or anything, just work on it."
Phantoms have busted out interesting remixes of songs from rock-minded artists, like Phoenix and Arcade Fire. But their strongest effort thus far is their own recent cut, "Broken Halo." Featuring actor Nicholas Braun on vocals, the tune is as melancholy as it is danceable. "Not everything is happy," Kaplan says of their music.
Kaplan and Pergola are only 24 and 25, respectively, but they're nightlife veterans now. They've gone from Valley house parties to Hollywood clubs and, in between, have hit up everything from neighborhood bars to warehouse bashes. They have seen enough in their time on the scene to inspire a whole album: a full-length due out later this year, intended to encompass one night out and the different people one might meet.
In the meantime, Kaplan and Pergola have been taking the new music on the road. On March 6, they'll hit the Roxy. In a live setting, Phantoms work out their material equally. Both have synths and drum pads. Kaplan also uses a laptop to sequence the show. They take turns playing lead on tracks and try to keep the shows as active as possible.
"That's our one release," says Kaplan. "That's the place where we get to connect with everybody." It's also where the two can connect with their past. "We're actors," he adds. "We like the attention."
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Phantoms open for Viceroy at the Roxy on Friday, March 6. Tickets and more info available here.