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Radio.com Essentials: Phoenix’s Long Road To Coachella Headliner

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Shannon Carlin
Shannon Carlin Shannon is an associate music producer for Radio.com....
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For Phoenix, preparing for Coachella is a bit like training for the Olympics.

Besides the fact that the band seems to be on the same four-year schedule as the Games — they first played the festival in 2006 behind It’s Never Been Like That and again in 2010 — guitarist/keyboardist Laurent Brancowitz explained that the band has been training “like athletes” to improve their stamina.

“It’s a big responsibility,” Brancowitz said in our latest Radio.com Essentials profile. “We know there’s going to be a lot of people that are going to spend one hour each watching us. If it’s a really bad moment, it’s going to be like 60,000 hours wasted.”

As headliners, the band certainly doesn’t want to disappoint, but due to their past experiences at the fest they’re having concerns. “We’ve played there twice,” guitarist Christian Mazzalai said. “And we did maybe our worst show and our best show there.”

“This time,” Brancowitz interjected with a smile, “we aim for an average show.”

 

But as Daniel Glass, the President of the band’s record label Glassnote Records, explained, these four guys — Brancowitz, Mazzalai, bassist Deck d’Arcy and singer Thomas Mars — don’t do anything half-heartedly. For the last two months, Phoenix have been in seclusion getting ready for the live show, which will feature songs from their new album, Bankrupt!, out April 23. They’ve even hired a new lighting designer to echo the magnitude of the Coachella performance.

“It’s a badge of honor,” Glass said of headlining. “There are far and few between who really get there and stay there and earn it the right way.”

From the minute Glass heard Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix  in 2009, he knew they were going to be big. “I thought I was dealing with a masterpiece the first time I heard it and there was nothing that was going to stop us from signing it,” he said.

Glass also believes he was destined to meet Phoenix on their fourth album when they had found their sound and were ready to take America by storm.

“I think it takes time to grow bands,” Glass said. “The ones that have the hit singles too quickly, they burn out and they don’t really have the gravitas or resume or repertoire to play. The nice thing about Phoenix is there’s 60 songs to cull from and that’s a career.”

Phoenix at Coachella in 2010/ Derek Horner

Phoenix at Coachella 2010. (Derek Horner)

With four albums under the French band’s belt and a bona fide hit with their last record, Errol Kolosine, the former GM of Astralwerks — the label that released Phoenix’s debut United in 2000 — agreed that the band has earned their headliner’s status.

“They have a career arc that in my opinion artists should crave, which is: Do you want to have one big single at some point and disappear? Or do you want to develop an audience through making quality records?” he said. “They’ve always demonstrated a commitment to making the next record even better, making the live show even better. That’s a big part of being great.”

When it came to their new album, Phoenix didn’t try to remake Wolfgang  or as Brancowitz joked, “We didn’t want to make Ludwig van Phoenix.” Instead the band tried to make something a little more experimental.

Radio.com‘s own Jillian Mapes believes that even though their first single “Entertainment” is nothing like  “1901,” which gained notoriety thanks to a Cadillac commercial and a Saturday Night Live appearance, their latest single will be a hit during festival season.

“I thought ‘Entertainment’ was actually really bizarre when I first heard it and part of it is how strong the Asian influence is,” she explained. “[But] the more I listened to it, the more it grew on me. It will be a great festival song for that reason, I think it will be this thing that kind of just grows, and grows and grows and explodes a little bit.”

While some have questioned Phoenix’s headlining slot, Glass, who calls the band “the four coolest guys he’s ever known,” thinks the combination of great songs, a stellar live show and a work ethic that just doesn’t quit, proves the band is finally ready for top billing.

“You feel like a proud father,” he explained of Phoenix slow rise. “Because you saw their climb or struggle or ascent and you say, ‘They’re ready!'”

Phoenix is scheduled to headline Coachella’s Saturday lineup on April 13 and April 20, and along the way will make a stop at KROQ’s Party House.

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