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Laurel-based Phantom Scimitar stays COVID-safe while recording newest album

Despite the coronavirus pandemic, psychedelic rock band Phantom Scimitar was still able to release its second album, “Electric Nemeton,” on Feb. 2. Members of the Laurel-based band, from left, are Zinoosh Farbod, Francios Smith, Derek Falzoi and Ryan Matchett.
Despite the coronavirus pandemic, psychedelic rock band Phantom Scimitar was still able to release its second album, “Electric Nemeton,” on Feb. 2. Members of the Laurel-based band, from left, are Zinoosh Farbod, Francios Smith, Derek Falzoi and Ryan Matchett. (Janet Brake and RahulMukerji / HANDOUT)

In February 2020, Laurel-based Phantom Scimitar celebrated the release of its first album, “Circusverse,” with a live gig at the New Deal Cafe in Greenbelt.

Though it would be the last time the psychedelic rock band would perform together in person because of the pandemic, the group was still able to release its second album, “Electric Nemeton,” on Feb. 2.

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“We spent the past year recording, mixing and mastering this album out of our house in Laurel, in compliance with [U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] regulations,” said Zinoosh Farbod, the bass and keyboard player with the band. “File sharing, virtual band practices, masks and 6 feet of social distance at all times was how this album came together in the midst of a pandemic.”

Most of the material on the new album was written before the pandemic, according to Francios Smith, the lead singer, guitarist and songwriter with the band, and Farbod’s partner.

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The pandemic, Francois said, gave the band “an opportunity to concentrate more on the recording.”

“I bought all the required software needed and a tabletop drum set,” Smith said. “We recorded here, one by one. We followed all the rules.”

Farbod and Smith, along with drummer Derek Falzoi and guitarist Ryan Matchett, formed Phantom Scimitar in 2017.

“Zinosh and I were playing in two different bands. We met at a gig and started dating,” Smith said. “Drummer Derek was in her band.”

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Both North Laurel natives, Farbod and Falzoi met in second grade. After attending different middle schools, they reconnected at Althoton High School.

“Both he and I have always been into music,” Farbod said. “He started playing in bands in high school. I started in my late 20s.”

“I was a band nerd,” said Falzoi, who played not only in his middle and high school bands, but with various groups at live gigs.

“Everybody seems to need a drummer,” Falzoi said. “It was always a fun way to play and network with different types of people. It was always a dream to be a rock star.”

Matchett joined the band after meeting Farbod at Sonoma’s, a venue in Columbia, where he was in charge of sound.

“She had formed this band with Francois, and they didn’t have a guitarist” said Matchett, who was not part of the band’s first album. “They were doing some complicated stuff. Their sound needed two guitars.”

The new album, Farbod said, is “not your run-of-the-mill rock.”

“We all brought in elements from our own niche genres into this project: progressive, psychedelic, grunge, jazz, reggae, doom, cheesy French ’60s romance pop and a healthy sense of philosophical humor,” Farbod said.

While the group’s first album should be listened to from beginning to end “to get it,” Smith said, the group’s latest release features songs that “can stand” on their own.

“I can’t speak for the others, but I do this to be creative, to please myself,” Smith said. “It sounds arrogant, but my assumption is there are a lot of people like me and this will strike a chord with them. I just want to put it out there.”

Farbod credits Smith for having the patience and dedication to put the new album together.

“Francois did the brunt of the work — the mixing, muting, recording. He was involved in all the stages,” Farbod said. “He has great focus. I doubt it would have happened without him.”

Smith is thankful that all the band members have other jobs and have been able to continue working during the pandemic. Smith works with satellite imaging, Farbod works for the government, Flazoi is an industrial hygienist and Matchett is a pharmacy technician.

“As a kid, my dad suggested I not become a musician. The life of a musician is difficult,” Smith said. “Music is best the hobby in the world.”

The band is anxious to come together again to rehearse and perform. Its live shows create an aura, Falzoi said, by combining the live music with a visual show.

“We been compared to the late ’60s and ’70s,” Flazoi said. “We bring our unique influences to that. The last time I played live was the first album’s release party. I am looking forward to the day we’re playing an actual show.”

“We used to do a gig once a month,” Smith said. “I like to be part of the creative process, but there is nothing like playing a gig and having people enjoy it.”

And while doing a live gig can be draining — hauling and setting up equipment, performing and then packing everything up — the experience is worth it, Farbod said.

“I appreciate it, being in the moment,” Farbod said, who admitted to having a shy stage presence. “I’m learning. When things do open up, it will be good to go back to performing.”

Phantom Scimitar’s albums can be found online at phantomscimitar.bandcamp.com.

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