Alternative pop band Phoenix has made quite a name for itself. As if it's not already cool enough to be from Versailles, France, the four-member band has established itself as one of the most lively and fun concerts around. Full of energy and head-bopping beats, Phoenix fun translates perfectly into any language.
The band just nailed its second appearance on Saturday Night Live last week [see video above], was featured on Spotify in an 18-minute documentary chronicling a day in the members' lives, and has a new album coming out later this month, "Bankrupt!" The French crew has played Coachella before -- but this year the band is headlining -- and many are wondering what what might be up its sleeve.
The Huffington Post spoke with lead singer Thomas Mars a few days before Coachella and learned about recording in the Australian jungle, how he met wife Sofia Coppola and who he would put in charge of a mini-society.
HuffPost: This isn’t your first Coachella rodeo. Are you excited to return as headliners?
Thomas Mars: We are nervous. Very excited, and nervous. We have played there twice before. When we played Coachella around our third album, it was the worst show we ever did, by far. Nothing worked. There was a little fire on stage. The keyboards didn't work. There were power issues. French voltage in the California desert didn't work.
I have a feeling you will not be encountering those problems this time at Coachella. You guys are headlining Saturday night –- pretty prime time real estate.
You never know. I think Coachella is becoming famous for these last-minute malfunctions [laughs]. It's wild in every sense of the word. The weather is wild, the preparation is wild. It's not an easy festival but it's really rewarding if you succeed.
How do you feel about Coachella being two weekends in a row? A lot of people are still cranky about the fact that they cloned the festival.
I am hoping that we can change it up. The idea is to make each weekend a different experience. It's an opportunity to play more songs, so from that perspective, I like it.
I was lucky enough to get an early copy of your new album 'Bankrupt!' and think it's great. I read that you guys locked yourselves away for two years to work on it. How prepared are you when you go into the studio to record?
We are totally unprepared. We go without anything in mind in the studio. We just go in a place that's soundproof and then we bring all of our own equipment. But we write everything -- the four of us. It's ridiculously communal. Democratic. When we hear the record we don’t even remember who wrote what. I don’t think we would do music otherwise. I don’t think we are as good separately. We are okay, but we are not great. It's more about the chemistry of the four of us. I don’t want to jinx it.
Did you always want to become a musician?
I didn't really realize it when I was a kid, but I destroyed everything that could possibly lead me to do anything else.
So it was a process of elimination ...
Yeah, exactly. And being stubborn.
One thing everyone says about Phoenix -- and I can personally attest to it as well -- is how fun you guys are live. It is always an awesome dance party. Do you have a favorite song to play live?
It changes all the time. Right now, my favorite is 'The Real Thing' because it's the one that I'm the most emotional about. The lyrics and just the fact that it's a slow song but it's a big wave of noise coming in and out. It was a hard one to practice and it's a hard one to get right. Some nights when we play it right, it’s really satisfying.
You are set to perform on "Saturday Night Live" the weekend before Coachella. You guys have been on before. What was that like?
It's just the best. I don't know many TV shows, but it's certainly an incredible experience. Very emotional. The level of stress and the fact that it's live. You can see all that, but it's a show that has ultimate integrity and craftsmanship. It's almost like if civilization would end and you would keep the best of the best, you would want all these guys that are there to be a part of that mini-society.
I've heard that the hope for the new album was to do something more experimental. Can you tell me a little bit about that?
We started the album in the Australian jungle. We played a festival in Australia and the father of a friend is a percussionist for the Sydney Opera. He plays all these amazing instruments and he lives really far away from everything, out in the jungle. We went to record just anything with him and went there without any specific ideas. It was all very minimal but we ended up using a lot of it on this record.
I first heard your music on the 'Lost In Translation' soundtrack. Did you and Sofia Coppola [director and Mars' wife] already know each other, or is the movie the reason you met?
We met before 'Lost In Translation.' I sang on a song with Air for 'The Virgin Suicides' soundtrack called 'Playground Love.' It was the main theme from that movie. Air played three or four shows on the West Coast in the U.S. and I played in two of those show with them. That was when I met Sofia.
Are there any current bands that you are really into right now? Anyone you are hoping to see perform at the festival?
We are touring with a Canadian guy named Mac DeMarco and I love his music. I think it's very unique. You can hear his living room. It sounds like he's making the album in his living room. It's very charming. I love everything about it. My Bloody Valentine is another one that I have seen many times, but each time it's a madeleine for me, like the Proust madeleine. The ultimate the highest music emotional ratio that I can possibly have. It's physical. It's incredible.
And at the festival, it's hard to hear other bands because you're not always playing the same day as other bands. Also, when you play late at night, you have to be careful … it's temping. There are lots of bands I want to see. I have never seen New Order and I grew up loving their music.
Phoenix won the Grammy for Best Alternative Music Album in 2009. How much of a game-changer was that?
It doesn't seem like it changed anything directly (on the inside), but you can see that it does something to the people that are working with us. The people that believed in us and had invested their time in us. You could see that to them, it represented something important. And so it did for us, as well. For us, it was pretty exotic. And it's the only award we have ever won.
That won't last long.
It's the best one to win. I'm happy that it’s that one [laughs]!
Check out HuffPost LA's complete coverage of Coachella 2013 here.
Click through photos and watch Phoenix videos below: