Published Dec 07, 2011When French electronic duo Justice released their 2007 debut, Cross, their squelching, speaker-rattling sound garnered them instant success. Not wanting to retrace their steps, Gaspard Augé and Xavier de Rosnay knew they had to tread new territory on their second album, so with ambitions that matched their previous success, they set out to create an album that replaced their synth-based sonic signature with electric guitar. The only problem? Neither of the Parisian pair knew how to play the instrument. Over two years, the duo trained themselves to shred, and set up a new studio whose instrumental arsenal more accurately reflected their vast array of influences, which includes the Eagles, Supertramp, and more. The result is Audio, Video, Disco, an album as diverse as it is sure to be divisive among fans of the signature sound they developed on Cross. However, over the phone from London, and through a thick French accent, Xavier de Rosnay assures fans that despite the addition of guitars, a number of guest vocalists, and yes, flute solos to Justice's sound, the album is a natural progression from the "opera disco" that made the band's name. The pair's primary musical objective remains, de Rosnay declares, the same as it ever was: "to entertain."
You said Cross was an "opera-disco" album in concept. What's the concept behind the new record? Is there one?
Yes, there is! I would say it's the same — it's a disco opera, although it's probably less disco in the sense that we didn't make it so key. We tried to make this record not too groovy, but with really simple movements. We were still aiming at making the same kind of opera record, but just what we think is the pop music of today. When we made this record, we wanted to create something very laid back and a bit "countryside-ish." You know, daytime music.
Did you feel the need to "chill out" a little bit after how loud and blown-out Cross was?
Maybe, but it was really natural, because we didn't look back when we made the new record. It was not made in reaction to what we did before. We didn't try to change too much, and we didn't try to redo the same thing as well, we were just making something that was natural to us. I think, probably, because we heard a lot of this type of music in the last years, I think what we wanted to do was keep the beats, but make it more soft. One of the challenges of this record was to make it feel heavy without being aggressive. Like being soft and violent at the same time. The texture of the new record is really soft.
So after the success of Cross, you didn't feel pressure to have the album sound a certain way?
No, no. As I was saying, we didn't try to change or do the same thing, we're just continuing, you know? We didn't make the new record in comparison to the first one, we just continued making music in a natural way, without wondering too much about what we should do, or how.
Your new single has singer Ali Love on it, and Audio, Video, Disco features guest vocals from Diamond Nights' Morgan Phalen, Vincenzi Vendetta of Midnight Juggernauts. Why did you want singers on this album?
When we write the songs, it's sometimes hard for us to sing them, because when we write them, we have a really precise idea of what we want to have in terms of vocals, and we know we're not singers. When it's simple — like on "Audio, Video, Disco" or "Parade" — then we can sing it, but when the lines or lyrics get more complicated, we can't really sing it because we have terrible English accents. We're just not singers, so that's why we got others to do it.
I read that you prize the emotion of music 100 percent over the technical side. Is Audio, Video, Disco more emotional than Cross?
I think they're both emotional, and not technical at all. Technique is just the means that allows you to achieve what you have in mind. So in that sense, they're both technical, because we have to learn about technique to make them, but the pure technical aspects of it don't matter to us. I'm sure in the new album, as well as on the first album, there are a lot of things that are wrong, technically, that are technological, but we can't really do anything about it because we're not technicians, you know? We don't think it's a problem; most of the albums we like are not technical at all. And that's fine; only the emotion and what you get out of the songs, sometimes you need a tiny bit of technique, but the kind of music we do, not a lot of technique is required.
I read that you recorded the album using drum machines, because it was easier than live, but did you want Audio, Video, Disco to sound like it was recorded on analog instruments?
We want the records we make to sound electronic. The reason why we use computers and stuff is because it's easier, and we like the way it sounds. We like very much the sound and the power of electronic music; we didn't want the new record to sound analog, that doesn't matter to us. We love new tools and new technologies. We use a few old pieces of gear, but most of the time, when we look for synthesizers or other instruments, we always look for new things. We like the idea of having one setup for every album, one for every project we do. Then we change everything and use something else. I think it's made possible by new technologies and the modern world, right? Before, you had to go to a studio where everything is fixed. We have a home studio, so we just set up our studio with what we're going to need to make an album — which is not a lot — and then we just change the instruments when we want to make another project. But we don't want things to sound analog or vintage, or anything. We want to make the music of today with the equipment of today.
There are a lot of audible influences on this album. How would you say your sound has changed?
We wanted the record to be almost, ummm — I don't want to use a bad word and be misunderstood — but almost under-produced. Almost like a rehearsal, and not too many effects. Also, a lot of the songs on Audio, Video, Disco are changing rapidly tempo and key. Sometimes in a song there will be two or three changes; it's really free in terms of structure because we needed that to go for four minutes of music, you know? Audio, Video, Disco is more free in terms of structure. We're not being complicated. We always make a lot of effort for the music to sound simple, and not too complex.
Do you think you've incorporated more of your influences onto this record than on Cross?
No. We've always been influenced by millions of things. Maybe less, 'cause there's no sampling on Audio, Video, Disco, there are less direct influences. It's really hard for us to know, because we don't have enough distance. We know what we do, but everybody will hear something different. I was talking to another journalist, and he could hear a lot of Supertramp in the new album, but although I love Supertramp, I don't really see where it is in this record. At the same time, I didn't want to tell him, "No, it's not there," because if he hears it, then he's probably right. It's hard to say. Everybody hears something different, and I'm cool with that.
How do you anticipate fans of Cross taking Audio, Video, Disco?
We have no idea. To this day, we don't know what people liked in Justice's music before. For example, for most people, if you say Justice, they will think about the distortion and stuff like this, but many of the songs don't have distortion at all; "D.A.N.C.E." for example. From the beginning, we didn't know what was connecting with people in our music, and therefore, we can't anticipate anything. We don't think about what people expect, or anticipate. It's too complicated, and too alienating. We have no idea, you know?
So Audio, Video, Disco is just the next step for Justice?
Yes. It's just a new album. At the end, it's just 40 or 50 minutes of music. Just an album, nothing less, nothing more. It's just made to entertain you. That's what we did with this album, like we did the first album.