Words by Sam Nichols
The ethos behind Phoneix is simple yet undeniably idyllic:
It’s been four years since the French-rock troupe released their acclaimed album Bankrupt! and after three years of dedicated work, 18 years in total and five albums, Phoenix have delivered their newest record Ti Amo. The album itself has an ultimately Italian theme, something new for the band and it’s undeniably reminiscent of summers in Tuscany, Vespas and Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday (at least that’s what I’d assume it to be).
You’d think with this concept and given the amount of time to produce the album, there would’ve been an inconceivable amount of research but frankly, much like all bands bent on maintaining their artistic integrity, the process behind the album was rather loose and casual.
“When you start doing a record, we have zero idea of what it’s going to sound like. It’s more a stream of consciousness is anything. After a while, the logical process kicks in and we began to understand what we can do with this musical matter and that’s when the mind tries to create something that’s coherent. With Ti Amo, we realised we had a lot of Italian emotion and slowly we started building something around this Italian flavour.”
As far as inspiration goes for the album, Deke tells me it’s the “Italian emotion” that runs throughout the band. As children, the band spend a lot of their childhood in Italy and Deke has an Italian father. But that’s as far as it goes.
Although this approach is admirable, it’s overshadowed by the universal ‘happiness’ of the album. I use quotations as although yes, the album on the surface is undeniably positive, the amount it pertains is suspicious. There is no emotional spectrum whatsoever and even the title track, while sounding fun, flirty and European, lyrically is quite obscene ultimately painting a picture that this album is more than meets the eye.
And the reasons for that is that the album was born from a place of darkness. The band being based in Paris, has witnessed a dark wave wash over France from the recent terror attacks to its recent election and the rise of the far-right.
“It was a spontaneous reaction of our mind. Like when you dream, you don’t control but you know it was a reaction. For us, where we living, it was all tense and a dark time and a continuous reaction of our mind and body was to create something very joyful, which is weird. At first we tried to resist, but we had to surrender and let go and embrace it.”
Although hidden, the emotional spectrum within this joyful album exists with Deke describing it like making a cake. “You can’t strictly use sugar,” he says. “You must add some salty elements and acid. For us, the secret to mix the joyful melodies, and something that is bittersweet in its nostalgia, we managed to create something that’s mixed emotions of happiness with a touch of sadness.”
And this ‘cake’ is what makes this album a lot more than meets the eye. It was born from sorrow and without realising – Phoenix has made a response to that with an obscenely happy record.