Reporting Shannon Carlin
Phoenix would like to remind you not to forget the exclamation point at the end of Bankrupt!, their new album out April 23. The French foursome told Radio.com that the title’s punctuation was deliberately used to add a little mystique, a bit of danger. And without it, the title would mean something totally different.
“The exclamation point changes it,” frontman Thomas Mars said. “It makes it a headline… It makes it artistic.”
Guitarist Laurent Brancowitz added, “It’s a Warhol exclamation point.”
The album cover’s illustration is also a nod to the Pop Art style of Andy Warhol, specifically his unique talent for taking mundane objects and turning them into art, just like his famous 1962 screenprint, Campbell’s Soup Can (Tomato). That was Phoenix’s goal with their latest cover, which features a perfectly pixelated drawing of a peach.
Brancowitz explained that they were looking for “another form of beauty,” something that would make people wonder why they found an ordinary piece of fruit so beautiful. It was the same thing people thought when they first looked at Warhol’s soup can.
“Now we know it as this mystique of Fifties design [but] back in the day it was just a can of soup,” he explained. “I think it’s the same idea…You just pick it and put it in another context and then hopefully it becomes art.”
Phoenix used this same strategy when they were recording Bankrupt!, forcing themselves to put the music in another context. They decided that the only way to make things fun for themselves was to experiment with their sound. They also knew that with the success of their last album, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, there was pressure to make another hit. But instead of letting the pressure get to them, they actually used the idea of failing as a driving force.
“We could feel the possibility of total failure,” Brancowitz said. ”And it was actually really exciting this feeling.”
And, as Brancowitz explained, their penchant for danger began to come through in their live shows.
“On stage the best moments are the ones when you know you can fail,” he said. “The fragile things are the most interesting. That’s what makes a good show.”
Stream Bankrupt! right now on iTunes, and watch our Radio.com Essentials episode on Phoenix’s ascent to festival headliner status below.