Progress Report: Phoenix

Progress Report: Phoenix

NAME: Phoenix
PROGRESS REPORT: Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, out in Spring 2009. Recorded at Philippe Zdar’s studio in Montmartre, Paris.

“Fast and intense” is how Phoenix’s lead singer Thomas Mars describes the band’s next record. The Paris-based foursome are men of few words, or maybe few English words and more French ones. Either way, though they’ve just completed their followup to 2006’s It’s Never Been Like That, they’re not giving away details in any language. But if the record is “fast and intense,” then it sounds like it travels further down the same path as It’s Never Been Like That, a rougher LP for a band whose discography was all rounded edges and glossy textures. Or perhaps the new record will fuse both. “Our production on It’s Never Been Like That was pretty raw, this time we wanted to get back to something more sophisticated,” guitarist Laurent Brancowitz explains. “Looking back I realize that this new album shares many similarities with United, our first one.” Mars has a slightly different take on Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix. “I feel like we started this record without any specific goal in mind, which wasn’t the case with our last one,” Mars says. “The last record was about our present, this one is about our future.”

Maybe not having any specific goals was what left the album open to movement and change. In 2006, Mars’ “present” was both extensive touring in the U.S. and overseas, and the birth of his daughter with partner Sofia Coppola. While It’s Never Been Like That was completed in an old East German radio station, their current LP was written on the move — a boat on the Seine, the former studio of 19th century painter Théodore Géricault. “We spent all our money on inspiration,” Mars admits. Phoenix finally settled at Philippe Zdar’s studio in Montemarte from May 2007 until December 2008, working from 11 a.m.-9 p.m. weekdays. Zdar, who is part of electronic duo Cassius, mixed Phoenix’s 2000 album, United. “As we were writing the songs in his studio in Paris, Philippe would drop by and always have something very useful to say about the songs,” he says. The band always produced their own records, but Zdar’s input led to a co-production credit here.

Mars says he’d listened to Lou Reed’s Street Hassle for some inspiration, but it’s clear from some of the Phoenix’s other new projects that the band has many influences. The band are planning an audio mixtape for Paris label Kitsuné’s Tabloid series in March. It will feature “rarities” both recent and from previous decades. Still, classical influences seem to outweigh these more modern ones on the new record. Mars says he’s most looking forward to playing “Lisztomania” when the band start playing the songs live (“When we play them live first, we never record them after. It seems to be against nature.”). Next to the album title and its capital-R Romantic birth, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix may be about the past as well as the future.

Some pics from the studio by Shoichi Kajino:

You can hear a very short (40 seconds!) preview of Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix at


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