“We met each other in the future,” says Fritz Helder. “After the great collapse we were separated and excommunicated to live here in this time. Our common love for all things ‘future’ led us to rediscover each other.” From the moment I ask Helder how his band Fritz Helder and the Phantoms came together, I know I am dealing with no ordinary group of people.
Helder is the keytar-wielding, contralto vocalist and leader of the Phantoms, with gorgeous Pastel Supernova adding sultry vocals and sensuous moves, Diego Superstar on funky beats and melodic keyboards and bad boy Silk Helder adding a touch of glam rock with his electric guitar. Combining influences from fellow risqué performers like David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust, Grace Jones and Andy Warhol with a fashion-forward flavour, it’s clear Fritz Helder and the Phantoms aren’t about fitting in at all.
Celebrating all things artistic, with a special interest in the intersection of music and fashion, the band is not a new phenomenon on the scene, but always an eye-popping delight no matter when in time and space it takes to the stage. Coming from the future gives you a certain sense of self-assurance so when longtime friend pop queen Nelly Furtado signed the group as her first band on her newly established label, Nelstar, everything just seemed to fall into place.
“A few years ago Nelly got word about us and showed up at one of our first big shows at Fly,” says Pastel. “We were in our ‘church Sunday best’ with Fritz as a priest, Diego and I as faithfuls and Silk as an angel…. Nelly kept tabs ever since.”
“She employed Pastel and I as her dancers/choreographers for her Get Loose world tour,” adds Fritz. “She always wanted to help us get out there so she signed us. It was like three years in the making though.”
Celebrating that mentorship, Furtado has helped the group engineer its first album, the cheekily titled Greatest Hits: Platinum Edition, due out the beginning of July. Blending funk, disco, hip hop, punk and ska, the group members’ varied strengths come together effortlessly, but putting together their first album wasn’t without its learning curve.
“Learning how to be a band by its definition was challenging,” says Pastel. “We have only ever been ourselves and more like a collective for a while now. But music is a powerful thing. We’ve been seduced by it and for the past two years we’ve been fitting our booties into that world.”
“The four of us are so different that it’s hard for people to associate a group like ours with something they’ve seen before,” Diego adds. “Are we gay? Straight? Black? Asian? Pop? Electro? It’s everything put together, but sometimes that puts walls in front of us.”
“We hold ourselves up to a very high standard,” says Silk. “Having it all come together in the end looks effortless to the general public, but we know the true story. When you are working this close with time and space, things will always be outrageous. It’s a delicate mission.”
“We make it look easy, but the limited resources and technology of this age make things very difficult,” says Fritz.
It’s that self-possessed attitude that really works for the band, proving to the world once again that our country’s talented artists are impossible to ignore. Wherever Fritz Helder and the Phantoms materialize, the band members’ avant-garde sense of style is always in full force, making it impossible to separate out from their music. Huge supporters of Fashion Cares, you saw them last year alongside Dame Shirley Bassey. This year they’ve teamed up with 10 of Toronto’s hottest fashion designers to create special edition one-of-a-kind concert merchandise to be sold online to celebrate the release of the upcoming album.
Always forward-thinking, they are content to bask in their present accomplishments — but only for the moment. “We’re getting shit done without compromising who we are,” says Pastel.
“While being able to inspire others to do the same,” says Silk.
Arriving through an interstellar dimensional time warp, Fritz Helder and the Phantoms will be ready to stun you with a flawless fashion sense and flip your groove into hyper-drive.