It’s hard to play favorites when you’re a hardcore music fan. I’ve heard many an inebriated argument at music venues like Saguijo Bar over which band is better, which album trumps the other, and so forth. But I’ve realized that our favorites are mostly determined by the memories we associate the music with.
In my book, Phoenix has always been a sentimental fave. I discovered the band’s debut album, “United,” through an old boyfriend. When the guy was gone, my love for the band remained, and songs like “If I Ever Feel Better” gave me comfort. I have fond memories of running around Tokyo with the feel-good “Too Young” blasting in my ears.
My heart broke when I missed the train en route to Arras, France, catching only three songs of Phoenix’s live set at the Main Square Festival. But catching the band at Coachella 2009 was the best redemption; I witnessed my beloved French band become superstars in that festival in Indio, California.
Phoenix will finally make it to Manila on Jan. 21 at the World Trade Center, Pasay City. I tell you, this is one live act you should not miss. With its trademark energy and French indie-pop flair, the band is playing hits spanning its entire career, including crowd-pleasers from its 2009 Grammy Award-winning album, “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix,” like “Lasso,” “Lisztomania” and “1901.”
The band will also be playing tracks from its recently released album “Bankrupt!” which has intrigued music journalists and fans all over.
I was pretty psyched to have a phone chat recently with Thomas Mars, the band’s self-effacing frontman. Here are some of the insights he shared.
On connecting with a new audience: “It’s like meeting someone you’ve talked to for a long time but you’ve never actually met. There’s already something there, a connection, but it’s the final step.”
On good and bad shows: “I have the best memories of the bad shows we had when we were kids. It was more important to have the bond between us, even when there was no one watching. Once we played in a circle stadium in Spain with 20 people; it was practically empty but we still had a very good time. We figured that if we could still have a good time and be able to play a good show for those 20 people, then we could do it all the time.”
On their fellow Versailles natives Daft Punk: “I have great memories of Daft Punk playing with us at Madison Square Garden in New York. It was amazing that our friends from when we were teenagers were in a band that was so popular, and we met onstage, somewhere far from home, in this iconic place backed up by robots.”
On Phoenix’s air of mystery: “We grew up together and know each other so well that we don’t even need to talk to each other. There is a big sense of privacy and that is really important in music—it’s that mystery. It’s hard to keep things mysterious these days. The more questions you raise, the more interesting things are.”
On the Versailles touch: “A lot of great bands are coming from there, and maybe it’s the fact that it’s a very boring but beautiful place. It’s a good way to be inspired because it’s sort of like growing up in a museum. New things and “noise” (music) are not being welcomed. There’s an attachment to the past and they don’t really want you to create something new. So, you are living with so much contradiction.”
On doing your own thing: “When we were teenagers, we tried to go to a few record companies. They wanted us to sing in French, something familiar. And because our sound wasn’t familiar, we did not really have a choice but to create our own thing. You can’t follow the same thing forever.”
On Manila: “We have no idea what to expect when we play in a new place. We don’t even know how people today listen to our music, if it’s online or the radio. It’s very exciting when you go somewhere and you have five albums that people know. We are just very excited to go there.”