Phantom Planet Play Ball

California rockers swing by "Bears," get medieval on new album

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Phantom Planet, best known for their OC theme song "California," have made the leap to the big screen. The Los Angeles four-piece appear in their first feature film, the remake of the off-color little-league classic Bad News Bears.

Director Richard Linklater cast Phantom Planet as a punk combo called the Blood Farts, who perform an aggressive cover of the surf ditty "Wipe Out." "The scene we're in is a date between the pitcher girl and some other dude, chaperoned by Billy Bob Thornton's character," Phantom Planet singer Alex Greenwald recounts. "Somehow [Thornton] gets pushed in the mosh pit, and it's cataclysmic."

Despite the actor getting roughed up during filming, Thornton proved he had no ill will toward the band, later joining Phantom Planet for a handful of songs on the set. "Billy Bob came onstage right in the middle of shooting, and we actually jammed -- he played drums," Greenwald remembers. "We played for the extras. It was pretty special, to say the least."

Phantom Planet will follow their onscreen role with a new album, the band's fourth -- due on Epic Records next year. Greenwald, the band's main songwriter, says he already has thirty-six songs for the new album, which takes inspiration from another movie. "If the last record [2004's dark Phantom Planet] was zombie movies, this one is totally Lord of the Rings," he explains. "I found there's just a wealth of metaphor in medieval practices, and [it related to] the way I felt the last year and a half. There are lots of monsters and forked tongues."

Song titles like "Ivory Daggers," "Torture Me," "Victory Is Ours" and "I'm Your Sacrifice" evoke the forces of the Old World. "Lyrically and conceptually, I took great lengths to make this record be about medieval practices: torture, battles, broadswords and daggers," Greenwald says. "Don't expect any harpsichord and lute, but I wouldn't rule it out. Lute may make a huge comeback this year, and we'll have to jump on the bandwagon."

Fans of the rockers' pop sensibility shouldn't be concerned that the new record will be all doom and gloom, as Greenwald characterizes the sound as "Deee-Lite run headfirst into Slayer." He adds, "No person on this earth will be able to help bobbing their heads or shaking their asses to this new stuff."

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