While it's often a bit risky having two brothers in the same band together (ie. Oasis), sometimes, it definitely pays off. Formed in 1997, Phoenix burst into the mainstream with their 2000 debut 'United,' and have since continued to dominate festivals and shows around the world with their anthemic, increasingly synthy textures. You'd be hard pressed to not remember a time when the band's catchy track '1901' dominated airwaves back in 2009. Led by the polyrhythmic, interlocking dual guitar attack of brothers Christian Mazzalai and Laurent Brancowitz alongside Deck d'Arcy and Thomas Mars, Phoenix have accumulated a huge international following, with the brothers' dual guitar sound in particular influencing dozens of groups across the world. With an upcoming visit to Australia for the inaugural Sydney City Limits Festival next year, we take a look at the assortment of gear used by Phoenix to finesse their signature sound, focusing largely on the equipment favoured by brothers Mazzalai and Brancowitz.
FENDER BULLET S-1
Both Brancowitz and Mazzalai tend to rely upon several different models of the quirky Fender Bullet S-1, a Telecaster shaped curio from the early 80's. Produced in an era of mass uncertainty for the American manufactuer, the Bullet S-1 featured two Mustang pickups, and was marketed as being Fender's newest entry level model at $199. Laurent Brancowitz, who almost soley uses a Buller S-1 for live performances, lauded the guitar in an interview with Music Radar, claiming the limitations of the guitar help to create Phoenix's signature indie-rock sound. "We purchased it a long time ago in London as a spare because we needed one guitar in case there was a problem. I fell in love with it," he says. "I like its flaws, it's a complicated relationship with a guitar. They did a more deluxe model, but it's not the same; it's not as good."
FENDER ROSEWOOD TELECASTER
In addition to his own Bullet S-1, Christian Mazzalai is often seen playing a Rosewood Fender Telecaster onstage. Made famous by The Beatles' George Harrison, Rosewood Telecasters are highly regarded by many musicians for their tone and pleasing aesthetic. While it's unclear whether Mazzalai's is an original 60's model or a Japanese reissue, it looks like it's 100 percent original and definitely 110 percent cool.
For recent radio sessions promoting Phoenix's 2017 LP Ti Amo, Mazzalai has been using a green Fender Duo-Sonic, fitted with singlecoil and humbucking pickups. This guitar is part of Fender's ongoing Offset Reissue series, which can be seen here.
SQUIER STRATOCASTER (MINI)
Similarly, Brancowitz has recently been using a half-sized Squier Stratocaster in a lush pink finish for radio sessions promoting the band's new record, which can be spotted in their performance of title track 'Ti Amo' for BBC Radio 6.
Prior to attaining his Rosewood Tele, Mazzalai frequented a Seafoam Green Fender Jazzmaster, which can be seen in the band's performance of their breakout hit 'If I Ever Feel Better.' Brancowitz can also be seen sporting a late 70's Fender Mustang with a translucent Wine Red finish throughout the clip.
FENDER REDONDO + GIBSON LG-2
For acoustic duties, Mazzalai and Brancowitz tend to swap guitars depending on the songs played; however, the brothers often rely upon the tones of vintage US-made acoustics. Throughout Phoenix's NPR Tiny Desk Concert, Mazzalai plays a 60's Fender Redondo, while Brancowitz plays a smaller bodied sunburst Gibson LG-2.
Mazzalai and Brancowitz both rely upon the chiming cleans of the Fender Twin Reverb for live use, and according to Brancowitz, use a single Vox AC30 for studio recordings.
Brancowitz also told Music Radar that the band tends to rely more upon preamps than they do on amps and microphones while recording, saying, "It's more in the preamps we use. You use a very cheap mic and a very good preamp ... it instantly sounds like a record, which is what we're looking for."
Interestingly enough, Phoenix tend to eschew effects pedals in favour of processing guitars through various studio devices to achieve their angular tones.
However, for live performances, Brancowitz and Mazzalai plug into two overdrive units, the Overtube Vintage Pro and the Fuseblower, from Jacques Stompboxes, a custom builder from France who also acts as the band's guitar tech.
With the band's sound evolving to include a prominent electronic influence, Brancowitz often plays keyboards live and in the studio for Phoenix. In the above video, you can see Brancowitz and bassist Deck d'Arcy playing a bunch of vintage synthesisers, including a Moog MemoryMoog, ARP String Ensemble, a Yamaha PortaSound 380 and a Yamaha CS-80. Fun fact: Brancowitz used to play in a band named Darlin' with Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo, who later went on to form Daft Punk.
(Feature Image: Getty Images)