Phoenix at the Eurockéennes of 2007
Phoenix are a rock band from Versailles, France, consisting of Thomas Mars, Deck d'Arcy, Christian Mazzalai and Laurent Brancowitz.
Vocalist Thomas Mars, bassist Deck d'Arcy, and guitarist Chris Mazzalai started playing together as a "garage band" based out of Mars's house in the suburbs of Paris. In 1995, Laurent Brancowitz, Mazzalai's older brother, permanently joined the band on guitar after the end of Darlin', a short-lived band that Brancowitz had formed with Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo (Bangalter and de Homem-Christo later formed Daft Punk). Two years later the band took on the name Phoenix and pressed 500 copies of a single on their own label, Ghettoblaster. Shortly after, they were signed to the Paris-based Source Records. Phoenix became well acquainted with labelmates Air when they acted as their backing band on several UK TV appearances.
Following their two singles "Too Young" and "If I Ever Feel Better", United was released in 2000. Their track "Too Young" was included on the soundtrack for the movie Lost in Translation (which was directed by Mars' future wife, Sofia Coppola). "Too Young" was also played in the movie Shallow Hal. The band's second album, Alphabetical, was released in 2004 and saw the band reach more mainstream success, with the singles "Everything Is Everything" and "Run Run Run" reaching some alternative rock airplay charts. Hedi Slimane commissioned a special mix of their song "Victim of the Crime" as the soundtrack to one of his runway shows for Dior Homme.
Following Alphabetical, the band toured three continents, playing 150 dates. This tour was followed up with a live album, Live! Thirty Days Ago, released only 30 days after the end of the tour. Phoenix then spent time in Berlin during the summer of 2005, making use of Planet Roc studios to produce their third album, It's Never Been Like That. To promote the release of It's Never Been Like That, Phoenix toured the United States and Europe in 2006. American band Paramore performed a cover of the song "Long Distance Call" live on Taratata, a French TV show.
The band curated a compilation album for French electronic music record and fashion label Kitsuné. It was released on March 23, 2009, just two months short of the release of Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix. The mixtape includes music by Elvis Costello, Roxy Music, Kiss, Lou Reed and others.
In early 2009, it was announced that the band was returning with a new album titled Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, which was released on 25 May 2009. The album was recorded in Paris, and was co-produced and mixed by Philippe Zdar of Cassius. "1901", a tribute to early Paris, was released on 23 February 2009, as a free download prior to the release of the first single and aired for the first time on Australian radio station Triple J. In June 2009, Phoenix first appeared on the cover of the 62nd issue of The FADER publication.
"1901" was also featured in the US during Super Bowl XLV in a Green Bay Packers montage. Phoenix also performed "Lisztomania", "1901", and "Too Young" on Saturday Night Live on April 4. They also performed "Lisztomania" on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, "Girlfriend" on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, and "1901" on the Late Show with David Letterman, Jimmy Kimmel Live! and The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien.
Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix won Best Alternative Music Album at the 2009 Grammy Awards on 31 January 2010. Shortly afterwards, "1901" hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Alternative Songs chart. The album was the first Phoenix album to be certified gold and appeared on numerous "Best of" lists at the end of 2010, including Rolling Stone magazine.
Following the album's release, Phoenix appeared at various major music festivals, including the Austin City Limits Music Festival in 2009, Coachella Music Festival in Indio, California in 2010, the 2010 Bonnaroo Music Festival, the Southside Festival and Hurricane Festival in Germany, the 2010 Lollapalooza Music Festival, the Mile High Music Festival, Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival in San Francisco, California, Rock Werchter 2010 in Belgium, and the 2010 Reading and Leeds Festivals. On 20 October 2010, Daft Punk made a special appearance for their show in Madison Square Garden.
AllMusic, a review website, commented favourably on the release of the album. "Beyond containing the band's best, most efficient songwriting, the album also stands apart from the first three studio albums by projecting a cool punch that is unforced", a reviewer commented. Vocalist Thomas Mars, described as "more bright-eyed and youthful than ever", is more prominent in these songs, harmonising with the instruments. "Maybe they've just hit their stride", the reviewer said.
Phoenix are the subject of a documentary From a Mess to the Masses that documents their 2009–10 tour in support of Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix. The film was directed by Antoine Wagner and Francisco Soriano—Wagner was also responsible for directing the "Lisztomania" music video. The title of the documentary is a lyrical excerpt from "Lisztomania" and the total running time is 52 minutes. From a Mess to the Masses premiered in Germany and France on the Arte television network on 13 October 2011.
On 5 April 2011, the band posted a blog update on their website entitled "Songwriting..." that revealed CCTV stills of a studio in which the band was working. The band stated in interviews that the album would be a departure from the pop sounds of Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, and they were trying to create something more experimental.
On 16 January 2012, the band revealed that they had completed four songs for the fifth album and it was scheduled for a late summer 2012 release, with a fall (autumn) tour. Daniel Glass, the founder of Glassnote Records, stated in relation to the material, "It's very hard to beat Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, but this could be revolutionary."
The band then updated its webpage to display the cryptic words Pluviôse (until the end of March 2012), Thermidor (from April 2012) and Vendémiaire (from September 2012)—the words replaced the CCTV still that was published in October 2011. Pluviôse, Thermidor and Vendémiaire are three of the months of the French Republican Calendar (also known as the Revolutionary Calendar).
On 16 January 2013, exactly one year after the announcement that the band had completed four songs for the album, Bankrupt! was revealed as the title of the fifth album and a teaser was released on the Phoenix website.
On 12 February 2013, a redesigned Phoenix website further promoted the Bankrupt! album, with an official release date of 22 April 2013, published on the website's opening page that features an animated writing sequence. A message from the band is written by an invisible hand, while music plays and states, mostly in English, with some French: "Dear all, our new album, Bankrupt!, will be released the week of April 22nd. Here [the word "Here" is a link to the website page that reveals both the album cover art and the track listing] is the track listing as well as the album cover. Much love et à bientôt ["and see you soon"]. Thomas Branco Mazzalai Deck." The cover depicts a color drawing of a peach next to a peach slice, with a pink flower and two green leaves; the track listing included song titles such as the title track, "S.O.S. in Bel Air", "Bourgeois", and "Oblique City".
Consistent updates in relation to the fifth album appeared on the band's Facebook page and, from 12 February 2013, the page reflected the aesthetic of Bankrupt!. On 21 January 2013, the page's cover photo was changed to a straightforward pink and black image in which the words "Phoenix Bankrupt!" were written in large, bold and black capital letters against a plain pink background. This cover photo was then replaced on 12 February 2013 with an image of the word "Phoenix" written in large, bold and white capital letters against a light grey background.
A schedule of the major music festivals that Phoenix would perform at in support of the new album was announced and headline positions were confirmed for Germany's Rock am Ring and Rock im Park Festivals, Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, Primavera Sound, and Lollapalooza. The band also appeared at the Beale Street Music Festival in Memphis, Tennessee, and appeared alongside acts such as Beyonce and Nine Inch Nails at the "Made in America" festival during Labor Day weekend in Philadelphia, US.
On 18 February 2013, the band released "Entertainment", the first single from the album. On March 7, 2013, a music video for the song, directed by Patrick Daughters, was released. On March 28, 2013, Phoenix started their 2013 tour in Vancouver, Canada, at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre and performed their first concert in two years—the show's set list included "Sunskrupt!", a song that combines "Bankrupt!" and "Love Like a Sunset". Phoenix performed on American television during the next month—on April 6, Phoenix was the musical guest on Saturday Night Live and performed "Entertainment" and "Trying to Be Cool/Drakkar Noir"; on April 18, 2013, the band repeated the two-song set list on Jimmy Kimmel Live!.
On 22 April 2013, Phoenix played a rare London show at Shepherd's Bush Empire on the day that Bankrupt! was released. Mars entered the crowd and sang while immersed in the audience for a large portion of the show; he then climbed up cables to the first-level balcony and "crowd-surfed" his way back to the stage. In a review of the performance, music writer Josh Holliday declared: "And along with peace, love and understanding, what the world needs now is a band we can all believe in as one. That band is Phoenix."
On 6 May 2013, Phoenix were taped for the thirty-ninth season of live music television series Austin City Limits (ACL) at Moody Theatre in Austin, Texas, US. Mars again sang from the audience and, at the end, walked onto the mezzanine while singing and thanked the audience along the way. Terry Likona, executive producer of the show, announced that Phoenix would co-headline the two-weekend Austin City Limits Music Festival in October 2013, alongside other acts such as Kings of Leon, Wilco, and Depeche Mode.
In media articles on Bankrupt! after the album's release, Mars provided insight into the circumstances that influenced the creation of the band's fifth album: "At that time, we started talking about success and not music. I guess it was time to protect ourselves and focus on music again." Mars made reference to the period of intensive public attention that occurred in the wake of the Grammy Award-winning Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, Phoenix's first record to achieve gold certification. Mars also reflected on the benefits of the band's belated success: "We're lucky that we didn't have a hit single for a while, so when we play live, people are not expecting just one song, and we don't tour as a greatest hits band, which can be sad, I'm sure." In a more general sense, Mars also emphasized the importance of the live setting for Phoenix and its relationship to studio work: "I guess we're perfectionists in the way that when we make an album, we know it's going to last. It's important that it's exactly how we want it to be. But when the record is done, it's all about imperfection. It's all about playing live." Phoenix also used the Harrison 4032 solid-state recording console, the same console used on Michael Jackson's Thriller, to mix Bankrupt!. The console was purchased on eBay and shipped to Paris. Bankrupt! debuted at number 4 on the American Billboard 200 albums chart and a Phoenix world tour was completed over a large part of 2013.
The band also appeared in A Very Murray Christmas, performing a cover of The Beach Boys' "Alone on Christmas" with Bill Murray doing backing vocals.
|Year||Details||Peak chart positions||Certifications|
|2006||It's Never Been Like That||34||81||74||86||—||41||—||14||18||66||108||—|
|2009||Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix||14||13||66||27||19||18||64||39||34||23||54||37|
|2004||Live! Thirty Days Ago|
|2010||iTunes Live from SoHo EP|
|Title||Year||Peak chart positions||Certifications|
|"If I Ever Feel Better"||2001||12||—||—||4||67||23||65||—||—||—|
|"Everything Is Everything"||2004||—||—||—||40||91||—||74||—||—||—||Alphabetical|
|"Run Run Run"||—||—||—||—||—||—||66||—||—||—|
|"Long Distance Call"||2006||—||—||—||49||—||—||—||—||—||—||It's Never Been Like That|
|"1901"||2009||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||84||3||1||Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix|
|"Trying to Be Cool"||—||70||—||—||—||—||—||—||31||10|
|"S.O.S. in Bel Air"||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||—|
|"Alone on Christmas Day"|
(with Bill Murray)
|"(You Can't Blame It On) Anybody"||2004||Alphabetical|
|"Rally"||2007||It's Never Been Like That|
|"Fences"||2009||Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix|