Out of the Ashes

Like the mythical bird, Phoenix rises to fame from the remnants of a lost chance

Imagine you’re part of a band, but you leave and join a different one. Now imagine the group you left goes on to become Daft Punk and achieves super-stardom two years later, when their single “Around the World” becomes a hit … well, around the world.

That’s what happened to Laurent Brancowitz.  “This new movement of rave music, of dance music … was really something that I didn’t like,” the drummer-turned-guitarist says, recalling the amicable parting of ways while speaking over the phone from Paris. “There was really no drama, and when they made their first record, I was really proud of them.”

Tour Buzz

What did other stops on Phoenix’s tour think? Joe Shearer’s Aug. 25 concert review in Gateway, the University of Nebraska newspaper, expressed mixed opinions:

“Though their time onstage was brief, they performed passionately and expressed thanks many times throughout the show. Also, they had a visually stunning—and blinding—light show.”

Things worked out for him, in the end, too. The other band he joined is the pop-alt-rock sensation Phoenix, and nearly 15 years later, the group is a success in their own right thanks to their fourth studio album (2009’s Grammy-winning Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix) and its catchy singles “Lisztomania,” “Girlfriend” and “Fences.” Meanwhile, Brancowitz never languished in Daft Punk’s shadow. “We always felt that we were having success,” says Brancowitz, 36. “What’s happening in recent years is really cool because we’ve gone on to discover a new territory … we’re really ambitious in terms of trying to make good music. But in terms of commercial triumphs, we’ve always been kind of hands-off.

He and his bandmates (including his brother, Christian Mazzalai) were raised in Versailles, France, and as Europeans are apt to do, they speak a collection of languages. “Between of the four of us, we can travel to a lot of countries and find the good restaurants,” Brancowitz says, with a heavy French accent.

Nonetheless, Phoenix writes and records songs in English, and stays true to their faux-Anglo roots when they perform non-English-speaking countries. For the most part. “When we are in Italy, we make exceptions,” Brancowitz says. “We really love to sing in Italian.”

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