Barthel and Carter were friends since junior high school, but Phantogram didn't officially form until 2007. That summer, Barthel returned home dissatisfied with pursuing a visual arts degree and Carter returned home after a brief stint in New York City with Grand Habit, an experimental band formed with his older brother, John. The two friends reunited and then worked on finishing some beat ideas Carter made earlier. They then finally formed the band.
The duo was originally called Charlie Everywhere when performing around the Saratoga Springs area on the local label Sub-Bombin Records. The band was soon dubbed the label's, "first big success" by the Albany Times Union after their energetic live performances and recorded tracks had the band searching for a larger record label to release their first EP .
The band signed with the BBE record label on January 26, 2009 . Upon signing with BBE, the band changed their name to Phantogram to avoid any potential trademark issues . Their self-titled debut EP was released on May 12, 2009.
Phantogram's unique dance-friendly sound has helped them play as opening acts for more established bands such as Minus The Bear, Zero 7, Ra Ra Riot, Yeasayer, Brazilian Girls and The Slip. They've also performed at the SXSW festival in 2009 and are scheduled to play at Camp Bisco in July 2009. Barthel has said of their sound, "We wanted to incorporate all our own influences and created our own sound that's a combination of Serge Gainsbourg, sampling and Detroit hip-hop. In interviews, the band has described their sound concisely under the genre of "street beat, psych pop." The genre comes from a blog post written by fellow Saratoga Spring musician Matthew Loiacano, who described Phantogram's sound as "street beat, psych pop" after seeing them perform with Yeasayer at Skidmore College .
On October 13, 2009, Phantogram announced via their Twitter account that they had signed with Barsuk Records. Barsuk has been home to bands such as Death Cab for Cutie, Rilo Kiley and Mates of State .