Dec 05, 2022
By Celine Teo-Blockey
Frontman Thomas Mars of French band Phoenix is our latest guest on Season 3 of our Under the Radar with Celine Teo-Blockey podcast. The band—which also includes Deck d’Arcy, and brothers Christian Mazzalai and Laurent Brancowitz—released their seventh album Alpha Zulu, on Glassnote Records last month and have been relishing being on tour together and playing live, post-lockdown. Recorded in a room at the Louvre Museum in Paris over the course of the pandemic and several strict lockdowns in France, Mars explains the significance of Alpha Zulu’s title and how the songwriting relates to themes of death, aging and trying to “manifest the light at the end of the tunnel.”
On a Q &A session on the band’s Facebook, Mars revealed that the vocal take for the synth-heavy single “Winter Solstice” was recorded “in the fetal position, under a table”—a hint at the mood of the track, which was recorded in the depths of the pandemic and California fires. Though Mars now resides in New York with his wife, filmmaker, Sofia Coppola and their family, the foursome always write together in the same room. This was their first where Mars was unable to leave Northern California and join the others in Paris. “The light in this song,” Mars explains on the podcast, “is loyalty.”
Yet Alpha Zulu is not all doom and gloom. Like their previous album—2017’s Ti Amo, which was written in the aftermath of France’s brutal year of terrorist attacks—Alpha Zulu is life-affirming and filled with moments of pure joy and euphoria, songs designed for the dancefloor. In the end Mars says, “That is the function of art.”
Poignantly, Mars also reveals the lasting impact that the death of his grandfather had on him as an 11-year-old, and he talks candidly about growing up in the “judgy” suburbs of Versailles—how that bonded the four bandmates to make music and their families to become close friends.
Listen to the episode below.
Each monthly episode of Under the Radar features an interview with a different musician conducted by host and producer Celine Teo-Blockey.
On top of being available on all podcasting platforms the podcast also airs on WLUR, an NPR affiliate based in Lexington, VA (the city where Under the Radar is currently based).
Season 3 launched with episode one and our interview with Warpaint. Season 3, episode two featured Seratones. Season 3, episode three featured Marlon Williams. Season 3, episode four featured Bloc Party.