If you get a distinct sense of Asian influence on Phoenix's new single "Entertainment," you're not entirely wrong. The lead single off of the French pop-rock band's latest album, Bankrupt!, has mixed origins, but as lead singer Thomas Mars explains, Asia is definitely one of them.
"There are two things," Mars tells Exclaim! "[Guitarist Laurent Brancowitz] was looking for sound palettes, and I remember him doing Ethiopian scales, which are really close to Chinese scales so it was a mix of both." Mars goes on to hum the two scales to show off the similarity, but is cut off by Brancowitz, who offers a third point of reference: "To me, it's Italian."
To Mars, though, China and Korea are the song's biggest inspirations, adding a second point that "there was just something so irresistible, and when the music came, it screamed Asia and it screamed it so loud that you instantly had to go in that direction."
The video followed suit, with a K-Drama (Korean drama)-themed collection of clips that celebrate the Eastern culture with love, action and tradition, a collaborative effort between the band and director Patrick Daughters (Feist, Yeah Yeah Yeahs).
"We wanted to do one of those massive stadium choreographies, but they are incredibly complex and too complicated to organize," Mars explains of their original concept, which would have featured a reenactment of North Korea's famous mass games. "So Patrick came with the idea of a K-Drama and we really liked it.
"It made it possible to incorporate a lot of different things and it was a team effort. We love that it doesn't look like a music video. It's very cliché, but at the same time when it's combined with the music, the combination creates multiple layers and goes beyond."
When asked if those two — the cliché and the multilayered and meaningful — are an apt description that extends to the band itself, Brancowitz responds, "Yes, absolutely. United opposites, we're an oxymoron."
Bankrupt! is out Tuesday (April 23) through Glassnote Records. You can read more of Exclaim!'s newly published interview with Phoenix here and see their upcoming tour schedule here.