Way back in 2006, when the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival was a single weekend, two-day affair (ah, the olden days!), the French foursome of bassist Deck d’Arcy, guitarist Laurent Brancowitz, vocalist Thomas Mars and guitarist Christian Mazzalai made Phoenix’s desert debut to a packed crowd inside the fest’s second-to-smallest tent. Supporting their then-impending album, It’s Never Been Like That, the hits were sparse but savvy and distinct: arguably “Long Distance Call,” that 2006 record’s jittery single, and “Too Young,” the flirtatious pop cut from their 2000 debut featured fondly and memorably in Sofia Coppola’s 2003 tour de force Lost In Translation.
Seven years, one Mars–Coppola knot-tie and a 2009 main stage stop in Indio (that time touting the soon-to-be critically adored Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix) later, and Phoenix have ascended to the festival slot previously reigned over by Jay-Z, Gorillaz, Arcade Fire, Kanye West and Radiohead. In addition to feeling the heat left by the others who’ve soaked up the Coachella Valley sun, Phoenix will be unveiling songs, many for the first time, from the band’s upcoming release, the slyly titled Bankrupt!, an album already weighted heavily by the buzz and expectation built from its brilliantly executed (and Grammy-winning, Platinum-selling) predecessor.
Here, the Guide talks to Mars about why the band’s highly anticipated follow-up is called “Bankrupt!” and not “Ludwig van Phoenix,” the strange elegance found in overindulgence and which Coachella performance “changed everything.”