A version of this story about Phoenix, “On the Rocks” and the Original Song contender “Identical” appeared in the Race Begins issue of TheWrap’s awards magazine.
Phoenix frontman Thomas Mars described the track “Identical” as though it were Cinderella’s glass slipper: It’s a song that delivers a first taste of the French rock band’s next album, which will be its first since 2017’s “Ti Amo,” but it’s also a perfect fit for the conclusion of Sofia Coppola’s “On the Rocks.”
The song, he said, had an unexpectedly “strange echo to the movie” and to the loving but strained relationship of the characters played by Bill Murray and Rashida Jones.
“There are many coincidences that are happy accidents, but once you listen to the song, that works with the Felix and Laura relationship,” Mars said. “That has a father-daughter echo to the relationship. It’s rare enough that those moments happen, and it makes sense and was meant to be, so we embraced it.”
“Identical” continues Phoenix’s tradition of worldly, electronic pop rock that over the years has taken their sound from Italy to Korea and beyond. The opening drum loop is a bassy jam coupled with a pulsing synth beat, which guitarist Laurent “Branco” Brancowitz said is a “micro-slice” of a sample based on a track from a contemporary South African group.
“We don’t really think about what’s inspiring us,” he said. “We’re like a compass; we’re just attracted to the thing that is somehow magnetic to our intuition. What captured our interest was this groove at the beginning, the whole bounciness and darkness, the melancholy groove…Once we found something, we just dove in.”
Mars, who is married to Coppola, had previously worked on the scores and music supervision for the director’s “Somewhere” and “The Beguiled,” but “Identical” is the band’s rare single intended specifically for a film. Coppola immediately gravitated to the sound for the film’s end credits, but at the time “Identical” was just a very rough demo. So the band made another first and raced to finish the track, something Phoenix found “counterintuitive” compared to the process of finishing a full album.
“We tried I don’t know how many,” Mars said. “We tried from our own personal collection of demos and nothing worked, but it seemed like the demo to ‘Identical’ had a tempo and an atmosphere that Sofia liked right away, so we had to finish it.”