Justice Jumps Into Art-Rock Territory on 'Audio, Video, Disco'
The new album...is a bit like seeing an old friend with a new hairdo. Is Justice a duo in denial? The Parisian pair's new album, Audio, Video, Disco, couldn't be further removed from the sound of their 2007 debut record, but Gaspard Augé and Xavier de Rosnay both assert that the two records are essentially cut from the same cloth. Despite the fact that AVD is an elegant, artful-but-accessible blend of prog rock, spacey '70s Euro synth sounds, and art-pop a la Alan Parsons Project/10cc, while its predecessor was a collection of brutal, buzzing bass riffs and in-your-face grooves designed for the dance floor, Augé insists that "For us it’s not so different. The new album, compared to the first one, is a bit like seeing an old friend with a new hairdo, in the sense that the intention and the influences and everything is pretty much similar to what we’ve always been doing, only the shape changes a bit. But the shape is such a small detail."
No, he isn't being willfully contrary or blithely obfuscatory; both Augé and de Rosnay speak quite earnestly and openly about their views on the new release. Justice has clearly just immersed themselves so completely in the creative process that they see their entire output as an ever-unfolding story with different chapters, and that's probably as it should be. It speaks to their commitment to craft. Without too much prodding, Augé allows that "The main difference is maybe that this record sounds much more dry than the first one, and really more laid-back. One of the challenges of this record for us was to really make it heavy and powerful without making it aggressive, and without using sonic tricks to achieve that. We backed off the production a lot. We wanted it to sound like a rehearsal...like a demo, but with good sound and a lot of detail in it. We wrote the record in a kind of over-the-top way, and we felt that doing a really dry production would be a good thing...If we would have overproduced it, it would be like eating a cake with too much cream on it."
"You are the first journalist to mention 10cc, which is a band that we are really fans of," admits de Rosnay, whose surprise seems to prompt an enthusiastic assessment of that band's influence on the album. "One song that was really influential to us from 10cc is 'Feel The Benefit' [From 1977’s Deceptive Bends]. That is an 11-minute song that starts like The Beatles’ 'Dear Prudence,' then it goes into some sort of power pop, and then it goes into something that could be like samba, and then it comes back again for the last few minutes to that power-pop thing. We found it interesting that you can make a song that goes through many different stages, and maybe that inspired us."
On an album that moves from stately, Pink Floyd-like soundscapes to airy pop moments to Jean Michel Jarre-on-cocaine synthstravaganzas, the aforementioned fondness for bold juxtaposition would seem to be key. But another major aspect of AVD's aural identity has to do with the guest vocalists who appear on four of the album's 11 tracks. Ali Love, Morgan Phalen of New York hard rockers Diamond Nights, and Vincent Vendetta from Australian electropoppers Midnight Juggernauts all add significantly to the sound of Justice's second outing. "When we wrote the songs, it just made us think of different people," says de Rosnay of the singers. "For example, when we wrote 'Ohio,' it made us think of Vincent...because we used to tour with him, and we are fans of Midnight Juggernauts for a long time. He would be the best to perform it, so we just called him and asked him to do it. The same thing with Ali Love and Morgan Phalen, they were just making music we were fans of, and the songs made us think of them. What they have in common is they sound very masculine without being macho."
When looking ahead to Justice's touring plans, Augé returns to the idea of the duo's two albums as being eminently compatible. "When we play live we don’t try to recreate the record," he says. "The way we think of live shows is just to take all the elements we have from the two records...putting them into one big track that is one hour and 15 minutes." As sanguine as he might sound about that process, that's bound to be one big track indeed.