Pitchfork: Audio, Video, Disco is more a lot more rock-oriented than your debut, and some tracks sound like the work of a band. Are you guys putting a group of live players together for your tour?
Xavier de Rosnay: No. Although the record sounds a bit band-y, it's mainly electronic-- we wanna keep an electronic aesthetic because we like the way it sounds and it's more practical for us. We are not good enough instrumentalists, and the fact that we don't perform all of this live keeps it on the good side. We played everything on the album ourselves, but it took a long time to make it because we are not good players. And if it was played by real musicians, some of the songs would probably be a bit too "shred."
We wrote all the songs in a really simple shape, with just piano and guitar for example, and then we would record it bit by bit. Some live drums were played just to find a good pattern, and then we'd decompose it. Then we would reprogram it. That's why it took a lot of time; it was really an ant's job. But live drums are too hard to record, so we chose the simple way.
Pitchfork: That actually sounds harder than just recording live drums!
XR: Ha, yes! It took longer, but it was definitely easier 'cause it required no special ability, just patience. It was important to us that this record sounded laid-back and homemade, even moreso since we knew some bits would be shred-y.
Pitchfork: By the way, have you seen those "shred" videos on YouTube where they overdub really terrible guitar solos over a video of, like, Van Halen?
XR: Yes, they're amazing. I recently saw one of Steve Vai playing on a three-neck guitar (below). That's a really good example of something that freaks me out-- a guy who knows how to play guitar so well that he needs three necks. Guitar players we like-- Jack White, or the guitarists in Phoenix and the Strokes-- don't necessarily play like guitarists. None of them play a three-neck Ibanez and solos that go at 296 bpm.
Pitchfork: How long did it take you to make this album?
XR: It took us a year and a half. We spent the six first months just setting up the studio in a flat in north Paris. It was important to us because the way the studio looks and the type of equipment you use is a great parameter of psychological conditioning. Also, we don't know much about studio gear, to be honest, and we are not good technicians, so it took us a lot of time to test things until we found something that would allow us to achieve what we had in mind for this record.
Pitchfork: Did you have any pictures hanging up in the studio?
XR: We had a painting of [King Tut] that we bought in a NYC antique shop. It was apparently showed in the MoMA in the 70s for one week and got taken out by public request 'cause it was too badly done.
Pitchfork: Do you feel an artistic kinship with that painting?
XR: Absolutely. We're not always fond of well-painted paintings, and same goes with music. We make music without knowing much about the real process of writing or recording, and that makes us do things that are not logical or well-done in a strict technical way. That's the beauty of making music in 2011.
Pitchfork: That's funny because some of the album sounds like 70s arena rock, which is known for its technical proficiency.
XR: We do music in a really naive way. This album is like a prog record in acceptable proportions because everything ends up being more simple, partly due to our limitations as musicians; we like simple music that provides simple emotions. The problem with virtuosity and shredding is that it often goes against plain emotions. We never listen to music for the technical qualities of it.
Pitchfork: Is there a prog album that you feel is also strong emotionally?
XR: Everybody has a different definition of prog, but if we say prog according to the means and techniques a period provides, then Revolver by the Beatles is a great prog album.
Pitchfork: What you guys do sometimes seems to be arch or sarcastic-- were you poking fun at 70s arena rock and prog with this album at all?
XR: No, we do everything very honestly and naively. Sorry, did it sound sarcastic to you?
Pitchfork: Not necessarily, but that style is sort of out of fashion now.
XR: Is it? To be honest, we have no idea what is in fashion or not, and it's not really a concern to us; it's too hard to think about what is cool and uncool, and it can be alienating, so we don't think about it too much. We have really simple tastes in music, so we reassure ourselves by thinking: "If we honestly like it, other people might like it." That's the problem with joke references, you end up not knowing if it was made for fun or because it's actually good.
Pitchfork: Some of the new songs reminded me of the Eagles a bit, too.
XR: We are constantly influenced by millions of things, and it's true that sometimes we would finish something and think it sounded very much like the Eagles. You can't really fight against your musical upbringing. All those things end up coming out in bits of music or artwork or even the way you think about or listen to music. It shouldn't be kept in the closet.
Pitchfork: Did you have a eureka moment as far as creating this new sound?
XR: We made a track for a Dior show in 2008 that was called "Planisphere". It was 18 minutes, and the first track we made since the first album. (Listen to "Planisphere" here.) We did it really freely in terms of structures and changes, and it was really pleasing, so we kept a bit of the same direction for the new album, but with shorter songs. This new album doesn't use too many technical tricks, we found other ways of getting though a four-minute song and keeping it exciting to us-- doing radical changes of tempo and keys from one part to another instead of filtering a section, for instance.
Pitchfork: Were you ever tempted to make this album more dance-y, like the first one?
XR: The first album wasn't really meant to be dance-oriented; we were just trying to make some sort of pop music. I never heard any of the original tracks from the first album in a club. Also, we are not fond of live dance aesthetics like lasers and screens, so we use plainer visual tricks in our shows.
Pitchfork: Generally, do you consider Justice more of an art project or a pop thing that's trying to reach as many people as possible?
XR: We don't try to be arty, just entertaining. We always hope that music will reach a lot of people, but we don't run after touching as many people as possible-- just because we have no idea what to do to reach people. Things that are successful, especially now, are an absolute mystery to us.
Pitchfork: Are you still going with the cross imagery for this album or do you have a new logo?
XR: We still use the cross but in a different environment and a different way. We don't want to give it up yet. It'd be like if we were the Police and Sting left and was replaced by some other bloke-- it would be a shame.