REWORKING THE JACKSON 5 classic “ABC,” mashing up T-shirt fetishism with hipster languidness and setting dance floors positively fizzing with booty-shaking joy is just a moment’s work for Gaspard Auge and Xavier de Rosnay of the French duo Justice.
Parisian electronic geniuses typically lumped in with a rockist DJ scene (references, for better or worse, to Daft Punk show up a lot), Justice rocks harder and less ironically than many arena-dabbling DJs. That was proved by the song that put them on the map: a startling appropriation of British electro-rockers Simian‘s “Never Be Alone” that was turned into the pounding club anthem “We Are Your Friends.”
Since then, Gaspar and Xavier have since blown otherwise sober people’s minds again with the single “D.A.N.C.E.” — the one with the T-shirts and the Jacksons. On first listen, it sounds like schoolyard babble, then deepens and grows into an insanely repetitive and hypnotic exhortation that’s like underwater anime made sound. Or something.
Justice‘s debut album — sometimes called “Cross” because its title is the duo’s logo of a glowing cross — was released in June by Vice Records, and “D.A.N.C.E.,” with all its buzz, is and isn’t symptomatic of the cuts surrounding it. It’s tough to define Gaspar and Xavier’s sound because they are so wide-ranging and inventive.
In a conversation, Gaspar admitted it’s a surprise if Americans have any feelings whatsoever about the single or the band.
» EXPRESS: Are you afraid people who have only heard “D.A.N.C.E.” will think all your music is very disco-y?
» GASPAR: You know, this is still a bit fresh for us, because we don’t really know if it’s a success. What we only know is it is getting played on the radio in France but we don’t know the rest of the world. So if you’re telling me it’s a success, I’m kind of happy. I’m not really aware of it.
» EXPRESS: Well, “buzz” is a better word than “success.” You surely have more fans in home country.
» GASPAR: It’s kind of cool because we’ve been kind of ignored by French radio from the beginning and it seems like now they are a bit more aware of what we are doing.
» EXPRESS: Radio DJs like categories, and your work is so eclectic.
» GASPAR: Yeah, but you know, it’s a problem we’ve had since the beginning because we are always trying to switch to something else for each release. When we did “Never Be Alone [We Are Your Friends],” people were expecting something that was exactly the same for the second one, and we just decided to release a really unfriendly track [the disjointed club banger “Phantom“]. So yeah, and then it was the same process again for “D.A.N.C.E.,” because everybody was wanting more distortion, and then we ended up with this Michael Jackson tribute. [“D.A.N.C.E." is acronymic after the “Thriller" song “P.Y.T.“]
» EXPRESS: Tricky.
» GASPAR: Yeah, but it’s way more fun to try to surprise people. It also is a bit risky because, as you say, the record is not really danceable.
» EXPRESS: Is this how you always work?
» GASPAR: What we like when we are doing music, we are just trying not to be in the middle of the road and to do just extreme things in both ways. We really love romantic music and also some more aggressive stuff, and this is also why we decided to link all the tracks together [on the CD] to lead the listener through some very different atmospheres. This is why decided to work with friends and not to ask for some bigger pop stars to be on our tracks. This is also why we are trying to find some other tricks to be able to be narrative but without the lyrics, which is why we wanted to do something theatrical and very evocative. This is also something we like in music, this kind of epic feeling, you know, and we were really inspired by bands like Sparks or Queen who have this really operatic sound.
» EXPRESS: You work in a really modern genre, but the album is almost like an old-fashioned concept album — it’s carefully sequenced, each track leads into the next.
» GASPAR: We were thinking that it would be totally pointless to try to do just a club album, because in the end, this is just boring. Also because when we started to do our music together, the density of the tracks was the main goal and if some tracks were ending in the club it was totally by chance.
» EXPRESS: So now you’re on tour?
» GASPAR: We are just touring on the weekends and we are spending the week in Paris. The real tour is starting in September, and so we will go to Australia then the U.S. [but not D.C.], then Europe and France.
» EXPRESS: Then will you record again?
» GASPAR: Yeah, but we will see if we are still, like, bearing each other. It’s like four years that we are sharing the same flat and touring together.
» EXPRESS: That can be tough.
» GASPAR: Yeah, we are kind of each other’s girlfriend.
Photos by Marco Dos Santos