Musician Thomas Mars travels frequently between his home in New York City and his native France. As these flights pass over Nova Scotia, the singer of the acclaimed French indie pop-rock band Phoenix says he feels in exile.
“It’s a turbulent flight,” he said in a recent telephone interview from New York City. “It’s bumpy, you feel a little bit anxious, you’re leaving your family behind.”
It’s these details that helped inspire Mars to write a song called Artefact, which is on the band’s new album, Alpha Zulu.
This is the seventh studio album for the band, which won the 2009 Grammy for Best Alternative Music Album for Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix. That album sparked indie anthems like Lisztomania and 1901.
Artefact includes the lyrics “Over Nova Scotia” followed by Mars singing “I’m no Rubirosa.”
Rubirosa is a reference to the famous 20th-century playboy, Porfirio Rubirosa.
“I’m no Rubirosa is just a very complicated way to say, ‘I’m stressed out right now and I’m full of fear, basically,'” said Mars.
Artefact’s upbeat, catchy tone masks the vulnerabilities Mars’s lyrics express.
The title is also fitting because of where the album was recorded.
Alpha Zulu was recorded over two years in Paris at the Museum of Decorative Arts, which is part of the Louvre.
For Mars, who grew up in Versailles, France, recording the album at the Louvre complex was the fulfilment of a childhood dream.
“As a teenager, I would walk alongside the museum and look at those empty rooms and thought, ‘Maybe one day there will be space for us to create something there,’ so it was really an incredible experience,” he said.
What made it even “more magical” was that the band was often alone in the complex as it recorded during COVID-19 lockdowns.
Phoenix has never performed in Nova Scotia. The closest the group has played to here in Canada is Quebec City.
“Most of my vision of Nova Scotia is through flying over it and looking at it and thinking, like, ‘This is a very remote place that I somehow can relate to,'” said Mars.
While Phoenix is French, the group mostly sings in English, with some French and Italian thrown in.
Depending on where the band is playing in the world, this adds to the thrill for fans and the band.
“We recently played in Milan, and to have the crowd sing back to us in Italian was a very special moment,” said Mars.
The group recently completed the first leg of its tour in support of Alpha Zulu, which included shows in Europe, the U.S., Mexico and Canada.
The band resumes touring later this month and has dates booked through 2023, including many festival dates in Asia and Europe.
Asked if the group will play a show in Nova Scotia, Mars said he’d love to come here.
And the band would definitely play Artefact.
“I’m looking for all these special moments,” said Mars. “But it feels like someone from a festival, they have to come to us and say, ‘Hey! We’re doing this. Would you like to come?’ And we will, for sure.”