Phoenix is one of the most popular French bands in the world. And the rock quartet made its latest album right in the heart of Paris.
But their minds were elsewhere: Italy.
Guitarist Laurent Brancowitz says they had their European neighbors in mind as they wrote “Ti Amo” -- which is Italian for “I love you.”
"It pays tribute to Italy as a fantasy land that doesn't exist anymore, and maybe never existed," he says. "It’s more a distant dream of a place where we could find peace of mind."
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Phoenix needed peace of mind. A series of tragic events shocked France as the band worked on new songs -- terrorist attacks that targeted journalists, immigrants and even music fans.
But Brancowitz said the music didn’t reflect what was happening around them. It felt upbeat and fun. A form of escape.
"We were not very at ease with it in the beginning because it was so different," he says. "But in the end we figured out it was like an antidote that our body and mind produced to create a space of hope."
Brancowitz says there’s a reason Phoenix focused on Italy. That country’s culture snuck into their songs after the band watched YouTube clips of TV shows from their childhood. It was a kind of nostalgic comfort.
"France was influenced by Italian TV during the '80s," he says. "We grew up with that and it’s part of our DNA. And it was really bad but there was some kind of charm, we must admit. That's something we would look at when we were in the studio to create a good vibe."
That vibe is all over “Ti Amo.” There are lyrics in Italian and sounds from Italian disco. The music transcends the fear and helplessness they experienced at home in France.
Brancowitz says Phoenix never set out to do that. But the music came together intuitively.
"We don’t really have the feeling we’re making decisions," he says. "We follow the compass of our emotion. And some are very magnetic."
The title “Ti Amo” says it all: Phoenix created an album about love, whether they intended to or not. And it comes in a time when their fans and fellow citizens need it most.