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This article is from Issue 63: May/June 2013

Phoenix

The breakout French band on failure, success and chasing the ideal on their new album, 'Bankrupt!'

It's a cold day in New York City and Deck d’Arcy—bassist for French pop rock megastars Phoenix—is weighing his odds of living forever.

“I’m curious about cryonization,” he says. “I saw a kid who explained on Youtube in a very mature way how he was going to freeze his brain. He froze his two dogs. He was like 14, and he saved all his money for this. It’s creepy, but he explained it very well.”

This is the sort of stuff that Phoenix likes to talk about. Be it in technology, film, art, their own musical medium or immortality, they are obsessed with fringe trailblazers and forward movement.

They are, however, far less obsessed with dissecting their own creative work. The quote, “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture” (which has been attributed to everyone from Steve Martin to Elvis Costello), exists because no artist wants to talk about getting from point A to B. Count Phoenix among them.

At this point, they have no need to promote themselves. On the eve of releasing their fifth studio album, Bankrupt!, they’ve had plenty of practice charming fans and press alike. On their first meeting with RELEVANT, a photo shoot, the French four-piece sweeps into their hotel room-turned-studio, impeccably self-styled and cracking jokes with the photographer.

“You can call me Thomas,” frontman Thomas Mars says. “Or Tom. Or T.”

They’re unmistakably rock stars, but they’re of the affable, approachable variety. If you didn’t know these guys’ last album, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, had gone gold in multiple countries, spawned two runaway smash singles in “1901” and “Lisztomania,” scored spots on any reputable “Best Albums of 2009” list and garnered a Grammy for Best Alternative Album, you wouldn’t guess it from their demeanor. That could be because, six albums in, the band knows better than to take success for granted.

A Leap of Faith

A few days after the shoot, the band reconvenes at the hotel, looking slightly less put together than their on-camera selves—Mars’ pants have seen better days— but no less conversational.