The Bowery Presents
Phoenix

Phoenix

The Vaccines

Wed, October 2, 2013

Doors: 7:00 pm / Show: 8:00 pm

Barclays Center

Brooklyn, NY

$50, $40

This event is all ages

Phoenix
Phoenix
While it's true that you have to wait for inspiration to strike, there’s comfort in knowing it will inevitably arise, even if you have to look all over the globe for it before you find it—or so goes the logic behind the epic recording process of Phoenix's new studio album. To write their new album, titled Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix and released this May on Glassnote Records and Loyaute (the band’s own imprint), the Gallic quartet decamped to various locales away from their home studio in Versailles, searching for the stimulus necessary to transform the new material into a coherent LP. "We spent a long time waiting for the chemical reaction," says guitarist Laurent Brancowitz, "that moment when a song isn't just the sum of all of our parts, but it's something more. And the idea was to go someplace we'd never been." Actually, they went to a few: Brancowitz and his bandmates Thomas Mars (vocals), Christian Mazzalai (guitar), and Deck D'Arcy (bass) worked in the Parisian studio of 19th-century Romantic painter Théodore Géricault ("The light was beautiful," Brancowitz says), chartered a houseboat on the Seine ("Not the best idea—some of us got seasick"), and stayed at the Bowery Hotel in New York City for a month, among others. As the guitarist explains with self-effacing humor, "It was like our Orson Welles moment."

As you'd expect, the traveling took its toll, leaving only a trip back from whence they came as a means of allowing the songs to gel, this time in the Montmartre home of Philippe Zdar, the producer known for his work as half of French house duo Cassius. Zdar, a longtime friend, lent Phoenix his studio and wound up producing the record alongside the band—the first time Phoenix has recruited outside help. "He's very European, very dramatic," says Mars. "We worked in his studio for a year and a half, so he was around the songs. He had a lot of good comments that helped shape them. There was no in between with him; either the songs were great or we'd ruined them. Every day was either time to open a bottle of Champagne or to go home depressed."

The results collected on Wolfgang demonstrate a kind of deliberate, considered approach, and in turn, they’ve created what is the best album in their already-amazing catalogue. Featuring the band's signature melding of synthetics and organics, of sharp, danceable rhythms and intense guitars, of effortless melody with a considerable dose of aural panache, the album's ten songs are more layered than previous efforts. "On our last album, we were trying to make a minimalist record—something austere, almost ascetic," Brancowitz explains. "This time we wanted to create something more elaborate." That's evident on electro-tinged slow jams like "Fences," the sweeping and mostly instrumental "Love Like a Sunset," and the spirited pop of lead-off track "Lisztomania," on which Mars sings the transcendent chorus, "Like a riot, like a riot, oh!/ I'm not easily offended/ It's not hard to let it go/ From a mess to the masses." On first listen, his lyrics might seem obscure, but Mars definitely intends to reference the Hungarian composer: "Franz Liszt was the rock star of his day," he explains. "Other musicians hated him for getting all the girls; his concerts were out of control. This song's about playing live, the romantic beauty of a crazy crowd...and about the loneliness of still being one in a group of many."

That self-reflexive quality informs Wolfgang, as does Phoenix's sensibility—a nostalgic, vaguely melancholic vision of the way things ought to have been. "It's a little bit of a fantasy," Mars says. "We wanted to create an optimistic vision of the future for ourselves." His references are clear: The title of "1901," for instance, refers to year after the Exposition Universelle in Paris, which Mars describes as the city's "most futuristic moment" (and which, incidentally, popularized Art Nouveau). The same can be said of the album's title—a blending of the classic and the upstart. "It's both unacceptable and unforgettable," says Brancowitz. "In a way, it redefines what you can and can't do. My mother is German, and she hates the title. I'm taking that as a sign that we're doing something right."

The four men of Phoenix are a close-knit group of childhood friends from Versailles, which Mars calls "one of the most beautiful cities in France, but a place without a soundtrack. People don't listen to music there." Nevertheless, the foursome have deep roots in the modern French music scene: Brancowitz, for instance, who is Mazzalai's older brother, played in a band called Darlin' with Guy Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter, later to become Daft Punk. Phoenix, meanwhile, was formally founded after they performed backing Air for a few shows in the UK. Mars also sang the vocal on Air's "Playground Love" which appeared on the soundtrack to The Virgin Suicides (the film introduced him to his girlfriend, Sofia Coppola). The band then released their debut, United, whose song "Too Young" became an underground hit when Coppola used it in Lost in Translation; they followed up with Alphabetical in 2004, a critically acclaimed record whose labored creation took almost two years and produced precise, measured material like "Everything Is Everything" (so endearing them to then-Dior Homme menswear designer Hedi Slimane that he commissioned the band to provide music for one of his runway shows); and followed that up with 2006's It's Never Been Like That, a much rawer collection of rock ‘n’ roll gems.

Though they're obviously fond of the studio, they say that playing shows is what's sustained them most over the years. As Brancowitz says, "What I love most about playing live is the feeling that you can fail," he says. "It's always a gamble as to how well it's going to come across. But what makes it good is that you have to fight for it. Our friendship is what keeps us together. We're a gang, and when we're all working together, it can be beautiful."
The Vaccines
The Vaccines
What Did You Expect From The Vaccines? is the debut album from The Vaccines. Eleven songs, eleven tones of excitement recorded "quickly and painlessly" in just under a month in London late last year at the hands of producer Dan Grech.

It's a record that favours 'the song' over all other disciplines. It's best articulated in one of the record's shortest (and most dizzy) tunes, If You Wanna.

"That song was the turning point," explains Justin Young, lead singer of The Vaccines. "It crystallized what we were and where we were going. What followed was a process of shaving the songs down to their very essence".

If You Wanna cuts through with a sharp simplicity, so much so that the demo version the band put online in the summer of 2010 was rapidly noticed. It was a starting point for the band -- Freddie Cowan (guitar), Arni Arnason (bass) and Pete Robertson (drums) who, alongside Justin finally kick-started The Vaccines in the spring of 2010 after a fair few months of rehearsals honing their sound.

"We never set out with any sort of mission statement, but when we first started playing we quickly realised that through our shared love of the 'perfect pop song' there was a real bond, we all felt really invigorated and excited by the music we were making," says Justin. "If there was ever any quest, it was to create direct pop music with depth and emotion, the sort of stuff that the Moderns Lovers, The Velvet Underground and The Clash made sound so easy."

"A lot of the arrangements were much more complicated when the songs were conceived," adds Justin. "But we got to a point where we were confident to just strip everything away. Being that direct seemed to carry so much more emotion."

As Justin says: "some of The Vaccines songs sound simple, but making them sound like that is one of the most difficult things of all to do."

Consider the minute and half squeal of Nørgaard or debut single '
Wreckin Bar (Ra Ra Ra), songs that perfectly showcase the kick-and-rush-riffarama of The Vaccines' default setting. They're much like modern lullabies, songs that wiggle their way into your consciousness and won't let go.

Or the stuttering Wolf Pack or the bubblegum romance of Under Your Thumb; confident, headstrong songs that are testament to the young songwriter's almost veteran status having written his first song aged eleven ("about girls and stuff, things I didn't really understand") and spent his teenage years in a variety of bands.

Yet The Vaccines debut isn't just Ramones punch and Jesus and Mary Chain swagger. Blow It Up is all woozy eyed atmospherics, evocative on record as it was at its first London outing last October, at the bands Flowerpot show in London. Then there's Wetsuit, more modern hymn than pop song, Freddie's guitar coaxing rich colour out of the skeletal verse and big, brave choruses. "I'm always been more into sound than songs," says the guitarist, younger brother of The Horrors' Tom. "That's what I bring to the band -- texture".

"My favourite song on the record is Family Friend" says Arni of the record's closing opus (in that at five, it's a rare venture over the three minute mark). "I think it wraps the record up nicely, Justin's lyrics are beautiful, but it ends the record on a question mark. Sort of like, this is what we do... but this is what we might do next."

"I want people to love the record like we do," says Justin of this band's debut, "but I want them to be as excited as I am about where The Vaccines go next too. I want them to join here and let us take them somewhere else. I'm excited about the next lot of songs I know I've got in me. I'm excited about what comes next."

What did you expect from The Vaccines? Excitement, thrills, melody, power, romance? You'll find all contained within their debut. Yet perhaps the most exciting thing is that its contents signpost the next dose you can expect next from its creators. Much like their name, 'What Did You Expect Of The Vaccines' is a statement of intent, that much is for sure...
Venue Information:
Barclays Center
620 Atlantic Ave
Brooklyn, NY, 11217