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Phoenix On ‘SNL’: The Career-Defining Moment That Almost Didn’t Happen

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Arnaud Potier

Arnaud Potier

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Shannon Carlin Shannon is an associate music producer for Radio.com....
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America fell in love with Phoenix after the band’s 2009 performance on Saturday Night Live, but it turns out the career-defining moment almost never happened.

Guitarist Laurent Brancowitz told Radio.com that the band almost didn’t get their Visas in time to come to New York from France. But even once they finally did make their way to the States, the pressure of playing in front of a live studio audience started to set in.

“We were already working on a tightrope and if we failed we would fail in front of millions of people,” Brancowitz said with a smile.

Daniel Glass, head of Phoenix’s label Glassnote Records, remembers getting the initial call from SNL looking to get the band on the show in just a few weeks. The label had just leaked “1901,” giving fans a chance to download the single for free, which was not the norm four years ago.

“We gave the song away for free and it shot up to number one on the blogs,” Glass explained. “They wanted to book the band in a few weeks, which was unheard of because the band would be on SNL way before their album would be out.”

The 2009 episode, hosted by Seth Rogen, aired in early April, while the band’s fourth album was released on May 25.

 

With all of the travel arrangements being made last minute, the band was feeling unprepared for their first show behind their 2009 album, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix. But Brancowitz explained that once they get on set, they realized that the cast and crew were feeling the same tension they were.

“You see people running as chicken people,” Brancowitz noted of the interesting backstage scene at SNL.

He added, “This tension that is shared it brings you to a higher level. So yeah, we will remember it forever. It was a crazy day.”

In the end, Phoenix made it look easy and earned major props for their performances of  “1901” and “Lisztomania.”

“They went on and they delivered,” Glass said. “I mean it was an amazing performance the sound, just the vibe of it and it was a great night for the band.”

Singer Thomas Mars said it was the best way to introduce themselves to an American audience, to actually have them see the band live and in the flesh.

“There was no misunderstanding possible. People didn’t hear the song and think we were two DJs or a Scottish trio, which happened to us many times before,” Mars explained with a chuckle. “It was nice to start the relationship with the U.S. in a good way on a good basis. It wasn’t a blind date.”

As for their second appearance on the show with returning host Melissa McCarthy this Saturday (April 6), the band said they’re ready to play their latest single, “Entertainment,” along with another song off of Bankrupt!, due out April 23.

But don’t expect them to appear in any sketches, at least not willingly.

“We just told them that we are very, very bad actors,” Brancowitz said. “I’m afraid they don’t understand the extent.”

But the guys may be funnier than they think they are. They recently shot another less K-pop influenced video for their latest single “Entertainment.”

 

The homemade video was filmed in front of a green-screened black and white photo of Versailles. The guys are lounging on a picnic blanket (shoes off of course), drinking a little wine and playing the stripped down version of the electro hit. An adorable little dog even makes a cameo at the 42-second mark and reappears to take a treat from Mars’ hand.

Maybe the pup will be up for appearing in a few skits this Saturday.

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