With its blend of synths and acoustics, French indie rock outfit Phoenix has always operated within its own space in the synth-pop world. Delivering a sprightlier pop rock flavor to the traditionally electronic-driven style of synth-pop, the quartet–vocalist Thomas Mars, bassist/keyboardist Deck d’Arcy, guitarist/keyboardist Laurent Brancowitz and guitarist Christian Mazzalai–has maintained consistent across their evolving discography.
Now, 18 years in, Phoenix is on its sixth full-length album, Ti Amo, which the four members will support with a June 13 show at Marquee Theatre. On Ti Amo, the group continues pushing forward with the electronics it has incorporated on previous releases.
“We’ve loved electronics since we started,” Mars says. “When we made our first record, we were doing it in our bedroom, and it’s really hard to record acoustics in a bedroom so we didn’t really think of it that much. It’s easier to get a good sound with a drum machine or with a sample or with a keyboard than it is recording with microphones; so we’ve always mixed both.”
Ti Amo is led by the single “J-Boy,” one of two tracks that Mars says set the pace for the writing process. On “J-Boy,” the collective gives off a more retro vibe. The strong groove and Mars’ quirky vocal patterns make this a unique new take on the group’s sound.
“‘J-Boy’ was the first one that was good enough,” Mars explains. “You always look for a song that when you have an idea, you look for that one song that you know is gonna be on the record; you know you’re very excited to play to your friends.”
Another early favorite of the group, Mars says, was “Fior di Latte,” which was written after “J-Boy.”
“We were really satisfied with the way it’s its own language–that it’s really its own thing,” he says of the track. “We never really did something that sounds similar, that’s in the same feel as that.”
But while the group still tweaks its sound with each release, Phoenix has been a purveyor of the idea that “less is more.” Each album since Phoenix’s 2000 debut has consisted of 10 tracks.
“I’ve always loved something that was really dense,” Mars explains of the narrowing process. “I always like to work with a frame. It’s important to have limits because otherwise it’s timeless–it’s a never-ending process.”
While Ti Amo comes four years after Bankrupt!, Mars, d’Arcy, Brancowitz and Mazzalai never took time off, starting the songwriting process before their previous tour even ended. This time, the group took up residence in a studio at the top of an old Parisian opera house to write and record. Even with a potentially more retro, dance-y and synthetic flair than previous projects, Phoenix is still the same group.
“It’s hard to describe music. That’s the beauty of music,” Mars says. “We play around so that it’s mysterious to us as well. It’s sort of this hybrid process that you don’t really know what’s playing what and how and you try to create your own language. But I think the whole record has its own language. To me, that’s what we wanted to achieve. It might be sung in English, French or Italian–the point of it was to create our own language.”
Phoenix w/ The Lemon Twigs, Marquee Theatre, 730 N. Mill Avenue, Tempe, 480.829.0607, luckymanonline.com, 8 p.m.. Tuesday, June 13, $40-$60.