Phoenix was responsible for the biggest viral moment to come out of the Coachella Arts & Music Festival over the weekend when they brought surprise guest R. Kelly out to sing a truly glorious mashup of “Ignition (Remix)” and “1901” (which you can watch below). The indie band’s highly anticipated new album, Bankrupt!, hits shelves next week, but is currently streaming in full for free in the iTunes store. We sat down with the French speaking group recently and asked them, among other things, about their wholly unique approach to writing lyrics in a language other than their native tongue.
“I don’t know, it’s a big mess, but sometimes the planets are all aligned, and these are the moments when it becomes a song,” lead singer Thomas Mars confessed. “What we like is the distance we have being French. We never really chose to sing in English, it just happened like that. We still think of the lyrics in a French way. We love that it gives it extra poetic value and [turns it into] something very abstract and cryptic.”
What he said about Phoenix’s lyrics and the way they feel more poetic than narrative-driven is one of the key reasons why people have connected so much with the band. Rather than writing strictly autobiographical songs, the band’s dreamlike verses and choruses allow listeners to form their own, highly personal attachments to the group’s material. As you might expect, Mars’ unique approach to his craft is inextricably tied to his nationality.
“The path that leads to that place is very unique and very French,” Mars continued. “A lot of detours, you know, like Paris. Paris is a maze. When we came [to the interview] today, we took 7th Avenue straight. In Paris, we could have 200 different routes. I would have been late, probably (laughs).”
We should note here that not only was the band NOT late, they were perfect gentlemen to boot. You should be sure their lead and don’t be late to pick up Bankrupt! when it comes out next Tuesday, April 23.