Phoenix

Silent Uproar: Not a lot is known about you here in the US, so we will start with some basic questions: How long have you been a band and how did you all come together?

Branco: It has been such a long time I can't remember exactly. There are two brothers in the band, me and Chris, and Chris met Deck at the age of 5, Deck met Thomas at the age of 10, and we were all united at the age of 16 or something like that. So it is a long friendship that has been evolving.

SU: So how long have you been making music together as a band?

Branco: I would say 10 years…because I like the number (laughs). I'm not sure if that's perfectly true, but it is something like that.

SU: When forming the band, what made you decide not to include a drummer in the band?

Branco: Actually Thomas the singer is a really good drummer, but for obvious reasons he doesn't play drums on stage. So, we have a drummer, but...

SU: So in the studio you did some of the songs with live drums?

Branco: Yeah, yeah, like a combination of live and programmed stuff.

SU: It seems like the new album has more of a song-based sound to it, in that the song structures seem a bit more straightforward. Was this a conscious decision?

Branco: Yeah, it was maybe the only conscious decision. We knew we wanted to do something that was more structured than the first album, and to express something more personal. The first album was just really us playing around and like a big orgy of everything we learned. So we wanted this one to be more straightforward and we didn't want it to have clear references. So yeah, more personal too.

SU: Do you think it may be due in part to the fact that you had more experience together as a band, and like you said, on the first album you were just feeling stuff out?

Branco: Yes, but the first album was a very conscious decision to marry things that weren't suppose to be married, you know. So it was more like a punk attitude, or the rules of clever music, it was more about breaking the boundaries. So with this one, we had done that before, so we wanted something different. We wanted to surprise ourselves and find new ways to express rebellion.

SU: You seem to put a lot of effort into the production and arrangement of the tracks on the album. Why do you think this is so important?

Branco: Because we believe that music sound waves are just moving, so the way you make sound and the overall texture affects your inner chemistry. We really believe in that and the physical aspect of music. To control the production and the texture of the final product is the way you control the chemistry of the listener, you know. So that is a thing that is important and that we like.

I think that a good song should be great recorded on a bedroom microphone, so it is more about the physical experience. That is what we wanted for this album; maybe the next one will be a little more straightforward, I don't know.

SU: Well then how do you view bands that turn over the production to someone not in the band, most bands these days hire a producer.

Branco: What's fascinating is to control that and we wouldn't leave it to another guy.

SU: Changing gears, did you grow up speaking English?

Branco: No, not really.

SU: I have always wondered what makes bands decide to write songs in English when it isn't their native language.

Branco: Well you know during the 13th century when you were writing a book it was in Latin, and then when you were writing an opera it was in Italian, I think that popular music of the 21st century is in English.

SU: Does it make it hard to do things like press or interviews here in the US? Are you pretty comfortable with your English?

Branco: I am, but I don't know that you are (laughs). No, the thing is that we all have parents that are not French. My mother is German, my father is Italian, and I was born in France, but my brain was constructed in a way that I knew other languages exist and was open to them. It's not like facing a wall and only having one language in your side booth. So yeah, we feel that we have something in common with the US (laughs).

SU: What brings you to the US? Is the goal total global domination?

Branco: It is very simple. You know when you are doing something or making music, you want to reach people. I think the world has changed, it isn't the 40s anymore and we have a network of people that like our music all over the world, which is really cool. The globalization has good things about it.

SU: Are there plans to our in the US?

Branco: Yeah, we are going to tour in the fall, September or October I think. I don't know exactly when, but people are working hard to make it happen.

SU: Speaking of which, this is your first trip to the US to do press.

Branco: Yeah, we have been to LA a lot, we did the album there and have done a couple of videos there.

SU: Have you found the types of questions you are asked to be pretty much the same on both sides of the pond?

Branco: Yeah, actually yes…there are slight differences. France is probably the toughest country for us, because…I don't know why (laughs).

SU: Is there much of a scene in France for music like yours.

Branco: No, we are like renegades so people throw stones at us and stuff like that (laughs). No, it's more about the music and when you are far away from your home people hear only the music and they don't freak out about popular context.

SU: You seem to have gotten praise for your last album from some pretty notable people, including Air among others. Is it more rewarding to get appreciation from other musicians and taste makers?

Branco: I think that the ultimate goal is to please everyone, and that is what we are trying to do. Good music pleases the specialist and the guy who only buys one record a year…I think, I hope. But it's cool when your peers hear that you are doing something coherent and good. It is very rewarding.

SU: Speaking of Air, I think you are often compared to them when people are attempting to describe the band. Is it just because you are both French and share the same record label, or do you think there are valid musical similarities as well?

Branco: I think that…I don't know actually. I suppose because we are French.

SU: It just seems like a cop-out to me to say 'oh yeah they sound like Air.'

Branco: Yeah, obviously we don't sound like Air. But I think there are some little things in common, like we love the same records. We don't produce the same kind of music, but we have a similar background. Maybe people can hear that a little bit, but a lot of them don't hear that, they just know we come from the same geographic area.

SU: How did you manage to get a track featured on the Lost in Translation soundtrack?

Branco: It happened really naturally. We knew Sophia Copula because we had worked with her brother. So she told us one day that she was working on a new movie and she had written a scene with one of our songs in mind. She asked if she could use, and we said of course.

SU: Cool, so she wrote the scene with the song already in mind?

Branco: Yeah, maybe that is just what she told us, but… (laughs) No, yeah that is what happened.

SU: Are soundtracks something you would like to do more of?

Branco: Yeah, you know when the movie is good, it's great, but you never know if the movie is going to be good. For this particular movie she just picked up a song we had already recorded. But working on a soundtrack with original material would be cool too.

SU: What about scoring films? I could see your music fitting very well into a film.

Branco: Yeah yeah, I would love to do that.

SU: What was the idea behind the 'making of' feature included on the album's US release?

Branco: It was an idea we had. We love the song that is all these demos because they are like a promise. To us the demos have a lot of possibility to them and we just wanted to share that. Did you hear it?

SU: The video?

Branco: Yeah, it is a video with a bunch of demo songs to it. The video is like a making of and just a peek into our world.

SU: Do you think it is important for bands to include extra content on CDs beyond the music? Or is it just kind of an added bonus?

Branco: Yeah it is more like that, just an added bonus. But it's cool you know, a couple years ago we were really reluctant of putting these kind of novelties on the record. But now we love the idea of doing a record that is included in it's time.

With the first one, the idea of even the barcode, I didn't like it. But now I am happy with the idea of making a record that is old fashioned. So I am really into these things like extra computer stuff that will be unreadable in 2 years.

SU: Did the band have any input into the artwork for the album?

Branco: Actually, the guy who shot the picture was a friend of ours and he was writing a book about the behind the scenes studio stuff, like the cable and all that. So he was hanging out in the studio with us and when we had to think about a cover it was already there. We really believe in that way of doing things as they happened.

SU: Since it is a very important political time in the US we like to hear the opinions of the musicians we talk to. What is your view on Bush and the current US political environment?

Branco: Uh, do you really want to know that?

SU: Absolutely. Don't worry, I probably agree with you on about anything you would say. The music community here is pretty intent on doing what they can to get Bush out. Well do you feel at all that artists or people in the public spotlight have the responsibility to make people aware of political issues, or do you think they should not get involved?

Branco: (The first portion of this answer is missing due to a tape malfunction) Um, we are pretty careful about saying things about that. I am not very comfortable with the idea of Bono. I'm not sure if he is a saint or if maybe he is thinking it is working or maybe, I don't know. I just don't know about him.

SU: To wrap things up, who would you consider to be some of your influences?

Branco: Bob Dylan, The Fugees, and De La Soul.

SU: So you have some R&B and…

Branco: Yeah yeah, I think the 80s are maybe the most important cultural movement, we really like it. The Neptunes are cool, they're doing good music for bad artists (laughs) and it's intriguing.

Jun 8 2004