The release of French rock band Phoenix's 2006 album It's Never Been Like That caused an obsession to sweep across my group of friends like a contagion. A few of us had been fans nearly from the start—Phoenix's 2000 single "Too Young" made us early believers—but It's Never Been Like That had a unifying quality to it that seemed to make everyone in the room feel a little brighter whenever it was playing. Over the summer, we played that record into the ground. It was a mandatory soundtrack to every barbecue and house party, and somehow it seemed to never wear out its welcome.

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When Phoenix (Laurent "Branco" Brancowitz, Thomas Mars, Deck D'Arcy, and Christian Mazzalai) came through on tour to support It's Never Been Like That, they played the Crocodile, and we all got tickets. We stood up front and chanted along, dancing, smiling, and swaying in unison. Onstage, the band breathed a sleek and exotic air into their songs, with each instrument adding intricate visceral layers of sound to create a fully realized string of pop gems. It may have been just another rock concert, but it felt like a taste of a singular foreign delicacy.

As years passed, we waited patiently for a new album, and when it came, we were overjoyed. Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix was a pop masterpiece, meticulously crafted and sparkling from start to finish. But then it started happening, like we all knew it would: Everybody else heard the record and loved it, too. Pitchfork raved about it, calling Phoenix "a bona fide 'should be bigger' band." Their songs began popping up in Cadillac commercials and on Entourage. They played every late-night TV show in America. Seattle's 107.7 The End started airing their single regularly, an act that has historically signaled the end of everything that was once good and pure in a band's music.

This week, Phoenix return to Seattle to perform at The End's annual Deck the Hall Ball, held in the massive cement tomb known as WaMu Theater. As a longtime fan of the band and a realist, I'm not surprised at all that Phoenix have become so popular. It is surprising, however, to band guitarist Laurent "Branco" Brancowitz.

"Actually, we thought that this album was going to appeal only to connoisseurs, to music lovers," says Branco. "We did this album with this in mind, the fact that with the internet, we could reach the few people who would love this kind of music. We never imagined it would go beyond a close, small circle. It's really great what's happening with the album, because it was done with very pure intentions."

For nearly a decade, Phoenix have been playing moderate-sized clubs around the world. Their current tour is a series of major radio holiday concerts in music halls and arenas across the U.S. "We are just discovering this world," says Branco. "We've played big venues, but never stadiums. We are not really a stadium band."

Though Phoenix's members are used to smaller settings, they're not worried about losing a sense of intimacy with the crowd while performing on such big stages. "It's a different kind of energy when you are playing in front of a bunch of people," says Branco. "But we've played in a lot of festivals—it's just a different mode. There is something great about the power you can conjure on a big stage, but we love both kinds of shows. We will be very excited to play in small clubs in the near future. It's great being in a band where we can have that kind of contrast. We always end up in a very small club with a very small stage, and it's really cool. We love that."

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None of my friends are going to go see Phoenix open for 30 Seconds to Mars. That is not where Phoenix belong, but you can't really blame them for being there. Thankfully, the band isn't too interested in following the arena-rock route much further. It would seem they have little aspiration to become an international pop juggernaut.

"We are very happy with this amount of fame... a very modest amount," says Branco. "Actually, we never really think about that. What's good is to have a level where when you make an artistic move, it has an effect on people. That is the only level we want to have, where people listen to what we are trying to say." recommended