The group got its start playing on the French bar circuit, doing Hank Williams
covers to drunken audiences. Two years later, the band took on the name Phoenix and pressed 500 copies of a single on its own label, Ghettoblaster. The A-side was a punk rock song and the other a chugging Krautrocker, hinting at their eclectic tastes. Shortly afterward, they were signed to the Paris-based Source Records
. Phoenix became well acquainted with labelmates Air
when they performed as their backing band on several U.K. TV appearances. The result of the electronic exposure was a single called "Heatwave," which was very similar in approach to '70s disco.
United, the group's debut album, appeared in 2000 on Astralwerks and was recorded over two months. The album featured guest appearances from friends and family, including Thomas Bangalter (Daft Punk
), Philippe Zdar (Cassius
), and d'Arcy's mother's choral society on the track "Funky Squaredance." From that point, they issued Alphabetical (2004), It's Never Been Like That (2006), and their mainstream breakthrough, the critically acclaimed Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (2009). Part of the extended break between the third and fourth albums was due to Mars becoming a father (with his partner, director Sofia Coppola). Soon after finishing the Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix tour, the band reconvened in Adam Yauch's studio Oscilloscope Laboratories in late 2010 and embarked on some experimental recording sessions. They continued in Paris the following year and completed recording in 2012 with the help of co-producer Phillipe Zdar, then mixed the songs on the console used to mix Michael Jackson
's Thriller. The results, Bankrupt!, appeared in April 2013. The band began work on its sixth album in 2014, taking a break to appear in A Very Murray Christmas, a Netflix holiday special directed by Coppola. Largely recorded in an old opera house refurbished into a museum, concert hall, and tech incubator, 2017's Ti Amo channeled the joyousness of Italian discos and summertime into a defiant response to the political and social struggles of the late 2010s. ~ Diana Potts, Rovi