Vocalist Thomas Mars, bassist Deck d'Arcy, and guitarist Chris Mazzalai started playing together as a "garage band" based out of Mars's house in the suburbs of Paris, France. In 1995, Laurent Brancowitz, Mazzalai's older brother, permanently joined the band on guitar after the end of Darlin', a short-lived band that Brancowitz had formed with Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo (Bangalter and de Homem-Christo later formed Daft Punk). Two years later the band took on the name Phoenix and pressed 500 copies of a single on their own label, Ghettoblaster. Shortly after, they were signed to the Paris-based Source Records. Phoenix became well acquainted with labelmates Air when they acted as their backing band on several U.K. TV appearances
In media articles on Bankrupt! since the album's release, Mars has provided insight into the circumstances that influenced the creation of the band's fifth album: "At that time, we started talking about success and not music. I guess it was time to protect ourselves and focus on music again." The frontman refers to the period of intensive public attention that occurred in the wake of the Grammy Award-winning Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, an album that was Phoenix's first record to achieve gold certification. Mars also reflected on the benefits of the band's belated success: "We're lucky that we didn't have a hit single for a while, so when we play live, people are not expecting just one song and we don't tour as a greatest hits band, which can be sad I'm sure." In a more general sense, Mars also emphasized the importance of the live setting for Phoenix and its relationship to studio work: "I guess we're perfectionists in the way that when we make an album, we know it's going to last. It's important that it's exactly how we want it to be. But when the record is done, it's all about imperfection. It's all about playing live."
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