New York City band ‘Theophobia’ talks new music and lead singer’s directorial roots

Matt Ellin (left) and Dylan Greenberg (right) on set of Theophobia’s PBS special. (Photo by Kasia Vincent)

A New York City-based band is not letting quarantine stop them from releasing their art.

Theophobia is made up of Dylan Greenberg, who sings lead, and Matt Ellin, who sings and plays guitar. While they have been friends for years, the pair didn’t start to seriously pursue making music together until 2019.

“I grew up in Brooklyn and Matt lived in Baltimore. I would take a bus on the weekends to go see them and hang out,” said Greenberg. “Matt would also make music for the films I was making.”

“We sort of took buses back and forth to see each other,” said Ellin. “We did various music collaborations together, but didn’t really take it seriously until 2019. It was listening to bands like Sparks and Meat Loaf that helped us find our sound.”

“We were listening to Sparks, Meat Loaf and Jim Steinman and thought, ‘What if we made a band that sounds like that?'” said Greenberg.

And then Theophobia was born. According to Greenberg, the name comes from Greenberg and Ellin’s mutual fear of a higher power.

Prior to the pandemic, Theophobia was performing live around New York City at local clubs and shows. For Greenberg and Ellin, the live show plays an integral part of Theophobia’s music.

“For the first year of the band we really tried to keep it a live act,” said Ellin.

Theophobia was later able to showcase their music on an online PBS special. However, things took an interesting turn when Theophobia decided to enter the Miss Subways in 2019, and ultimately won the crown.

“I had actually competed two years prior. For me it wasn’t about winning, it was about fun,” said Greenberg. “Then last year I thought, “We have this band, why not do it as a band?” I thought it would be interesting to compete as one entity that’s made out of multiple people. We didn’t expect to win, we were hoping to have fun and perform for a new type of audience.”

It was during Miss Subways that the duo was able to showcase some of the comedy that they like us in their live shows.

“We think it’s funny to kind of be annoying,” said Ellin. “But people realize that there is a serious side to our show. People can tell we put a lot of time and care into our songs.”

At the moment, Greenberg has been quarantining in Bushwick while Ellin is in Baltimore, but that hasn’t stopped them from creating more music together.

“We’ve been taking time to work on music through email and on the phone,” said Ellin.

“For obvious reasons our line-up has been canceled,” said Greenberg, referring to the pandemic.

However, Theophobia is dropping their new EP, “It Means Fear of God,” as well as two new music videos that were shot pre-quarantine: “Will You Love Me When I’m Dead” and “God of War.” Both videos were directed by Greenberg herself, with assistance from their cinematographer Adam Ninyo.

The song “Will You Love Me When I’m Dead” was mostly written by Ellin and explores themes surrounding love.

“Lyrically, the song is about being anxiously in love and wanting another person to show you this impossible love that they aren’t able to show you,” said Ellin.

The video depicts Greenberg and Ellin clad in animal faces (put together by make-up artist @glitter_macabre and prosthetic artist Sy Bedrick).

“I wanted the video to deal with reincarnation,” said Greenberg. “I depicted us as characters in three different phases. I saw animals as our highest form of evolution that we chose to take, and we go back and forth between different levels of spiritual evolutions.”

“God of War,” on the other hand, stars horror actress Amanda Flowers and has a darker approach with elements of “Rocky Horror Picture Show,” a flick that holds a special place in both Greenberg’s and Ellin’s hearts.

These two music videos are not Greenberg’s first time directing – she has been producing and directing films from the time she was a teenager, most notably for “Dark Prism,” which was released in 2015. Between the ages of 9 and 15 years old, Greenberg took classes at the New York Film Academy.

“Normally, NYFA lets you start taking classes when you’re ten, but I made a movie inspired by David Lynch when I was nine and they decided that if a kid is going to make a David Lynch-inspired film at this age, we can make an exception,” said Greenberg.

It was during her time at NYFA that Greenberg learned “the rules” for directing, and what she needed to do to break those rules.

“They taught me the rules of directing, but I had to learn how to break those rules,” said Greenberg. “Basically breaking every rule in the director’s handbook helped me develop my directing style.”

For those who want to dip their toes into directing, Greenberg has one piece of advice: just make a movie.

“Just make a movie. You don’t need a huge budget or a crew to make a movie,” said Greenberg. “All you need is a camera, even if it’s a phone camera, and some friends.”

For updates about Theophobia, follow the band on Instagram or Facebook @theophobia, or you can call Greenberg at 347-776-0946 or Ellin at 443-401-9570.

“If you want to talk Theophobia or just want to talk shop, give us a call,” said Ellin.

Theophobia’s EP “It Means Fear of God” is available on Bandcamp

EP art by @elias_and_his_hair