In an interview done through — fittingly — long distance call.
I’ve always wanted to meet the members of the band Phoenix, but never got to the part of actually imagining how it would happen. They just seem to be too cool for a meet-and-greet session before or after a show, you know? Instead, I got to introduce myself to Deck D’arcy, the band’s bassist, through a long-distance phone call between Manila and the south of France. And IDK if you’ll believe me, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way—choppy phone reception included.
Listening to Deck talk over the phone reminded me of the first time I heard a song by Phoenix. I was in a busy coffee shop when their then-hit 1901 played over the speakers. I couldn’t understand most of what Thomas Mars (vocalist) was singing (until now, TBH). But it was less about the accent, and more about all the layers of sound put together — the glossy beats, the electric chords, the suave way he sang the lyrics. Let’s not forget the noise in the coffee shop. But even then, it all still felt so effortless and romantic. Must be a French thing?
Soon enough, we start talking about their new album “Ti Amo.” Deck mentions that they wanted to call the previous one (now known as “Bankrupt!”) Je t’aime. It means “I love you” in French. But since it had “music (that) was too negative and cynical,” they put the title aside with hopes of using it for more appropriate music. Fast forward to four years later and we get the Italian translation of their beloved phrase. “This album is more positive so it was a better match,” he says. And with a quick glimpse at the track list, song titles like Tuttifrutti and Role Model make the good vibes quite obvious. So much so that it invites to give it a listen, even if only out of curiosity.
Italy through the eyes and ears of our beloved French quartet. Allow it to transport you to that endless Italian summer we once only dreamed of playing Phoenix songs to. With themes that range from gelato to disco, the 10-track album is a sonic journey that is warm and embracing. Tracks like J-Boy (it’s short for “just because of you”) stand out with lines like “kamikazes in a hopeless world” and “Is it so bad? Is it so true? Is it still you?” that echoes after a first listen, and then almost haunts.
Another fave is Fior Di Latte — and yes, it’s named after the famous Italian ice cream flavor. “I like that it is fun. There’s no exact reason for that, it’s just… something new and fresh enough to make it the title,” Deck says. Being used in a Calvin Klein underwear campaign before the official release raised anticipation for the new album. And if that’s not cool enough, the video was directed by Sofia Coppola, famed director and wife of Phoenix frontman Thomas Mars.
Via Veneto is about a main avenue in Rome. “We had to recreate (the sound from that place) in the studio because we can’t (record it) in real life,” Deck says. “It symbolizes the way we work as well. We recreate a lot in the studio to make something more vivid.”
“Ti Amo” is the band’s sixth album (and third after the breakout “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix”). You’d think they know for sure how to make music they’ll all love by now, but Deck says most songs aren’t really planned. “We don’t really know where it comes from, we just know if it’s good or not,” he shares. So for the past three years, they spent time simply making music — lots of it. In an interview with GQ, the band even said they stuck to a 9-to-5 schedule. “We had a lot of different ideas and we just kept the ones that were hitting the direction we decided to take at some point,” Deck says.
It’s no surprise that the album took a long time to be released. But if there’s anything the band is sure of, it’s that most of the songs are made to be played live. “It’s far from what we’ve done in the past and what people are used to,” says Deck. But despite that, the way he said it reassures us that even if they’re nervous, they’re equally (if not more) excited to play live again soon.
While I tried to get some hints on what to expect from their second show in Manila, Deck turns me down in the most polite and charming way possible. “The thing is I don’t know yet ‘cause we make the setlist minutes before (the show). It depends on the night…” he says.
A line from Fior Di Latte then comes to mind: “Don’t think about it. Trigger me happy.” And until they’re back in Manila in a few weeks, that’s exactly what we’ll do.
Phoenix Live in Manila is happening on Aug. 15 at The Araneta Coliseum. For tickets, visit ticketnet.com.ph.