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ACL Music Fest Friday Interviews

The French quartet proves timing isn't everything

By Raoul Hernandez, Fri., Oct. 2, 2009

ACL Music Fest Friday Interviews

Phoenix

4:30pm, AMD stage

Global economic meltdown might not constitute the best timing to disengage from the Astralwerks space station and, in part, release your new disc.

"We thought it was a strange twist of fate – that we [were] releasing an album maybe in the worst period ever in the recording industry, plus the [global] financial crisis," readily acknowledges Phoenix guitarist Laurent Brancowitz from his home in Versailles. "We took it as a challenge."

Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, the French quartet's fourth studio album, tousles its bangs as if the Strokes' Is This It never happened. That "Lisztomania" kicks off the Mentos good time with a melody the 19th century Hungarian composer would have killed for spikes Wolfie with a historical Euro perspective.

"It wasn't a planned move but more the result of us trying to be really true to what we are. And what we are is French guys, European guys, who are a living in a very popular culture, but we've always been surrounded by European history, all these dead people, all these statues of dead people. When we were younger, we tried to explore a more heroic vision of what we are. This album, we were just confident enough to tell the truth. And the truth is exactly that, something futuristic and something very old, and dead.

"Versailles is where we were raised, and Versailles is very beautiful but very boring and very dead."

In Paris' Père-Lachaise Cemetery, one of the aforementioned statues crowns the tomb of Théodore Géricault, the French painter best known for The Raft of the Medusa and who lent his studio to Phoenix almost 200 years after his death.

"There was something very profound there, the vibe. It was very ... calm. It's a painter's studio: The light is always very beautiful and very sad because of the northern lights."

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