WHEN: Thursday, September 22 @ 8:00 pm
WHERE: The Pageant
6161 Delmar Blvd. St. Louis
TICKETS: On Sale Now HERE
— by Laura Tucker
Today I had the absolute pleasure of jumping on a Zoom call with Laurent Brancowitz (aka Branco), one of the four members of the French, Indie-pop band Phoenix. You may remember them from their wildly-popular tunes “Listomania” and “1901” that were everywhere in 2009. There is a particular vibe to this music. It’s like, just hit play and relax.
Well, they are back with a new album, a US and European tour, and one of the coolest music videos I have ever seen, and I have seen more than my share of music videos. Actually, their music and all of their videos have a certain je ne sais quoi. (Don’t worry, that’s all I’ve got)
Alpha Zulu, the follow up to Ti Amo, is their first release in five years and has already topped the Billboard Adult Alternative charts since it was released in June of this year. Their album, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix won a Grammy for Best Alternative Album. But, their new music comes with an amazing story to tell. It was recorded in the most famous museum in the world, The Louvre.
Here’s what I found out from Branco.
Laura TuckerT Thank you for joining me and for taking time out of your busy day, because I know that you are very busy.
Laurent Brancowitz: I’m happy….. Oh, no, Deck.
(ha ha) In that moment, Deck, the bassists video bombed the interview by walking by shirtless, schlepping chords as they break down the studio and prepare to depart. He stopped to say hello and mentioned that it was hot in there.
LB: It was a little gift / present.
LT Thank you! (insert girlish giggle.) So I’m super excited that you guys are coming around and the fans are really looking forward to this. (I actually read some comments about wishing they were coming to Seattle. Fingers crossed for next time.)
LB: Yeah, that’s great, too. Yes. That’s always good to know up front.
LT: So let’s start with the Louvre. That’s so great!
LB: I do agree. Actually, you’re witnessing we are moving out. So it’s the last day we spend in this place, which is the best place we could imagine. We always dreamed of working in a museum but we would never have there imagining it would be this one, which is the real heart of Paris. So this moment, this particular moment is very sad. We are leaving.
LT: Did they give you a permanent key so you can come back later?
LB: Actually, yes, we might come back. That would be so nice. We can sneak in.
LT: It’s literally the most famous museum in the world.
LB: Yeah. We are in the palace of the Louvre and there is a museum of the Louvre. And just next to it, in the same building, the MUSÉE DES ARTS DÉCORATIFS. And that’s where we are. So it’s really just here. The other wall here. I’m pointing. And the Louvre starts at this point. So we are in another technically it’s another museum, but it’s the same building and it’s smaller. So it’s like we know all the guards and we know the rooms. It’s a bit more intimate, which was great because it’s a bit intimidating to be surrounded by this huge shadow of history.
LT: Yes, surrounded by greatness. That’s very cool.
So I’m assuming that then the “Alpha Zulu” video was inspired by your time at the Louvre.
LB: Yeah, that’s right. We were looking for a way to connect all those different pieces. The fact that we were here and the fact that we wanted to be inside the museum, in a way. So when we found the technology to make all those paintings lip sync we knew it was the right idea.
LT: I was going to ask you about the technology. Whose idea was that or where did that technology come from? And honestly, that’s probably the most entertaining video I’ve ever watched. I love it!
LB: Thank you. It was very genuine because we had the idea of making the paintings move and we were looking for a solution. So we asked for guys in the industry that are really capable and for some reason it didn’t. We couldn’t find something that worked well, it wasn’t convincing. And then here in the studio, we work with an assistant who is 20 years old and it’s a guy we know since he was a kid. So he joined us. Sorry about that. It’s okay. He’s pretty sure it on. He’s good. And he knew we were looking for something and by coincidence he saw an app on the iPhone where you could do it. It was super simple and super straightforward. So, we contacted this company, and they helped us do it, but in a very simple way, because we used the app. It was so much more efficient than the professional version of it. Which means that when you have a genuine approach, it’s always a good sign.
LT: Amazing. So it was super simple and it was an app on the phone. Who would have thought?
LB: Then there’s some kind of magic to make it look good. But basically it’s just something that anyone could do.
LT: Thank you for telling me about that. I was honestly wondering, how did they do that?
LB: It’s a little secret. Please don’t tell. (laughs)
LT: Ha ha. Everybody is going to know now, I don’t know the name of the app, but it’s very cool.
LT: You’ve played in America before, right?
LB: Yeah, we’ve played a lot in America we can be considered as Americans, I would say. No, we played a lot and actually we played… where are you located?
LT: I’m in St. Louis.
LB: We played, I think twice in St. Louis. So we are locals. Let’s say we are locals.
LT: We can give you dual citizenship. So when you travel, do you get to spend time sightseeing or is it mostly hotels and venues?
LB: We put a lot of effort to avoid this, to see only hotel rooms because it’s the most boring life, I promise. So we put a lot of effort into trying to make it interesting. And actually when you touring the right way, it’s really great because you see the world and you have a mission every night. You have this gospel you’re preaching and all day long, if you’re lucky, you can discover a new city. And we really love this. And so when we came to St. Louis, for instance, I remember I have some flashes. I see the first thing I see is the venue. The Chuck Berry owned venue.
LT: Yes. So I believe that’s where you’re going to be again. (The Pageant)
Did you see the arch when you were here?
LB: Yes, I remember the arch.
LT; Did you go up? You can go up inside. (pointing to the sky)
LB: You can? We will.
LT: So speaking of venues, it looks like you’ are playing Radio City Music Hall and the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. Those are both such iconic venues.
LB: We are very excited about it because even for French Guy, those venues, they have a perfume of legendary. They are legend crossed the ocean and the Ryman for sure.
LT: Thankfully, you don’t have to be a country artist to play the Ryman.
LB: Yeah, I’m really thankful for that because it’s really a beautiful venue and a part of the American history we love as music lovers. And the Radio City is also very iconic. So when we picked up the venues, we made sure to go to places like that that.
LT: So, I have time for just one more question. I am curious about the difference between your European audiences and American audiences. Is there anything that you can tell me?
LB: America is a great place to play. The American audience is very skilled musically. in Europe, sometimes they clap off beat or something. I promise. It’s true. Also, when we are in an airport or in the street and we meet local people, they are always very enthusiastic about the fact that we are musicians, touring.
American people are sensitive. No, that’s not, I’m sorry. My English is…. (his English is perfect by the way) American people appreciate touring musicians more than European people, I would say. So, we always feel welcome. That’s what I mean. They are very inviting and it’s a nice feeling.
LT: That’s good to hear. We love our pop culture, that’s for sure.
I think we might be out of time, but I wanted to say thank you so much for spending a little time with me today. And I will be at the show.
LB: Fantastic. We will play new songs. It should be fun. I’m very much looking forward to it.
LT: And I know your fans are as well. Enjoy your last day there. You guys be safe on the road, and we’ll see you in St. Louis.
LB: See you there.
Phoenix will be playing new songs and a few we already know. I ran out of time but was wondering if they had a favorite song from the new album. I guess we will just have to go to the show and see for ourselves.
We are in for a great time at the Pageant on September 22nd. Be sure to get your tix before they are gone. They have been selling out on this tour. Like Branco said “see you there!”