“Versailles is really boring so I wouldn’t advise anyone to live there,’ says Laurent “Branco” Brancowitz, guitarist for French band Phoenix. The band began in the affluent Paris suburb, but while singer Thomas Mars’ partner Sofia Coppola made it look exciting in Marie Antoinette, Branco disagrees: “Maybe it was exciting 300 years ago but not anymore. Paris is cool, I love Paris, my home town,” he says.
So what’s the music scene like in France? France is a special territory in music where there is a long tradition of very bad musicians. But right now we have a new generation of kids that are doing garage rock. It’s the first time we have had a big crowd of cool kids in Paris.
Who are some of the cool bands we should be checking out? One is Naast. They sing in French but they are cool.
You sing in English, was that to reach a wider audience? Yes. I think the prospect of having only a French life and a French career and not having the excitement of discovering the world would be so boring. We couldn’t imagine something like that.
Were you looked down upon at first for not singing in French? Yeah actually. That kind of happened. We knew it would be hard for a French band to be taken seriously by the world. That was our concern, we didn’t worry about France. They kind of viewed us as traitors in the beginning but now it’s cool. They don’t care anymore. They are happy we are at the centre of French culture.
When you came onto the music scene there was great stuff coming out of France – yourselves, Cassius, Daft Punk, Air… What was that like at the time? It was really good because the scene was natural. We knew each other. It was cool to see that every band was having success while doing their own thing. The first ones were Daft Punk. It was really exciting.
Has your singer Thomas Mars ever been pulled up or corrected on his English? I think it’s okay, but when we started we were afraid to make mistakes. Now we know we make a lot of mistakes. Broken English is more touching for you guys anyway. Now it’s our strength. So we don’t try to correct it anymore.
Were you nervous about changing styles from the synth-pop to the indie-garage sound? No. From the beginning we would not stick to one particular style and we would try to evolve so we think our fans got it. We weren’t afraid in any way. All the artists I love, they try to lose their fans at some point. We cannot control it so there is no point in being afraid.
What can we expect from the next album? I would like it to sound like the last one, but I think there will be more harpsichord. I have a harpsichord vibe right now.
We’re a magazine for travellers. You cover long distances. How do you overcome the boredom? The main thing is to have a good crew – a good friendship is important. Another tip I would give is photography. When you are a photographer there is always something to do.
Are you a hobby photographer? I want to be one of the greatest photographers, but I need more time. In 12 months I will hope to be really good.
You’re coming here for the V Festival. Who are you most excited about seeing? The Pixies, I am a big fan. And Soulwax, they’ll be cool.