When Phoenix were attempting to figure out a title for their new album, they wanted something that represented the idea of pairing positive with negative — a central theme on the record — and were kicking around several phrases … none of which really seemed to fit.
“We happened to be having this exploration of the limit between good and bad, and, you now, when you’re working in perfume, if you take only beautiful flowers that smell very good, the end result is a very boring perfume,” guitarist Laurent Brancowitz said. “You need some stinking things to make something interesting, and we so we were attempting to find an appropriate title, with little success.”
So, after apparently passing on titles like Lawsuit! or Death! they finally settled on Bankrupt! a word that, on its own, normally carries with it a rather, uh, negative connotation. But, with the addition of the exclamation point, it took on a whole new meaning. One that seemed strangely perfect for the songs contained on the album.
“We are fueled by the universe around us, those words they have this power, and we are always looking for things have not been used in popular music. So all these words that have this poetic power and this freshness, that are frightening and heroic, for us they are very magnetic,” Brancowitz explained. “We looked for all the beautiful words, and we got bored; and then we looked for the frightening, powerful words, and then we got excited.”
Of course, he’s quick to add that not all the songs on Bankrupt! (due here in the U.S. on April 23) deal with decidedly dark subjects — “We tried to write a song about divorce, but it’s too hard,” he laughe — though, when asked for a tune that best sums up the disc, the first one he mentioned was “Entertainment,” the debut single that pairs shiny synths with downright dour lyrics. And, then, there’s the matter of the accompanying music video.
“When we wrote this song, we we’re thinking of Korea a lot, and when we thought about the video, we knew we wanted to do something about South and North Korea,” he said. “And we talked with Patrick Daughters, the video’s director, and he told us about the K-Dramas, the soap operas of Korea; his mother is a big fan, so he knew them very well. And so we know we could put all the themes into something more entertaining and pop and Warhol-esque. We didn’t want it to be ironic; we just wanted to use this particular form of poetry.”
And poetry aside, given the “Entertainment” clip’s subject matter (and their increased stature around the world) will Phoenix soon follow in Dennis Rodman’s footsteps and tour North Korea? Don’t bet on it.
“I’m not sure if we want to be like Dennis Rodman at this point,” frontman Thomas Mars sighed. “I think there would have to be a lot of plastic surgery involved.”
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