...And Justice For All

Alex Scordelis

Justice, a stylish, Parisian, electronic duo featuring two very hard-rockin' hommes, is one of the few bands whose music feels equally appropriate at either a haute couture runway show in Milan or a hesher's house party in Milwaukee. Both graphic designers by trade, Gaspard Augé and Xavier de Rosnay exploded on the electronic dance music scene in 2007 with the release of their debut album †. The record was a dance-rock revelation -- its massive beats and roaring arena rock-riffs sounded like two French rave kids who secretly loved Def Leppard and Judas Priest. Some purists in the dance community were appalled to see hipsters head-banging instead of dancing in discotheques to Justice's tunes, but it was too late to stop the revolution. Justice blew up so fast that they were soon turning down offers to open for Madonna. Last month, Justice released their long-awaited sophomore LP, Audio, Video, Disco, and naysayers be damned, it rocks even harder than their first LP.

Augé and de Rosnay chatted with us by phone from Paris to discuss their new album, and, despite a small language barrier, the scope of the conversation exceeded expectations; in A Cross the Universe, a 2008 documentary about the band, Justice comes across as aloof, cryptic and, well, very French. After several failed attempts at contacting the band (at first they only agreed to be interviewed via instant message, but then changed their minds and allowed a phone interview), the elusive duo turned on the charm. De Rosnay, 29, did most of the talking and sounds like Roland Barthes, if Barthes was more into clubbing and hair metal than literary theory. "The thing is, we were born in the early '80s and the late '70s, so hard rock has always been a part of our musical landscape," he says of the band's primary influence. "And the type of hard rock we listened to was actually pop music. Like AC/ DC -- they're pop music before everything else. But at the same time, instead of being influenced by the hard rock music, we're more influenced by the idea we have of it. And we are more interested in the small details. We find inspiration in the way the drums sound or the guitar sounds more than the actual song."

One of Audio, Video, Disco's standout tracks, "Newlands," owes a heavy debt to AC/DC's "For Those About to Rock," and features a foxy falsetto vocal performance by Morgan Phalen of New York's retro-metal band Diamond Nights. Justice occasionally collaborates with a guest vocalist, but unlike other dance music acts, they prefer to work with little-known singers instead of chart-topping superstars. "When we wrote the tracks they are singing on, it made us think of them, and they came to Paris to help us finish the lyrics," de Rosnay says of AVD's vocalists, who also include Vincent Vendetta of Midnight Juggernauts and electro-popper Ali Love. "We never introduce things as 'featuring,' because we don't think it's Justice featuring Morgan Phalen; we really embrace the idea that Morgan Phalen is part of Justice, equally as much as we are. With all of the guests, they feel like the third member of Justice throughout the process. We understand the commercial appeal of having people that are really famous on the record, but this is something we are not really running after. We just think it's more fun to work with people we like."

In their meteoric rise from graphic designers who liked to do remixes for kicks to the hottest French dance duo since Daft Punk, Justice has had to pick and choose their projects more carefully. Though highly-sought after as producers, Justice have recently turned down requests from other bands to produce or do remixes, even bands they admire. "Most of the bands we really love, we think they don't need us to produce them," de Rosnay says. "We wouldn't want to get involved with any band we love, because they're already doing great without us."

Despite denying most requests to work on outside projects, Justice did create a 17-minute song for the Dior Homme summer runway show at the Paris Observatory in 2009. "Fashion is not really important to us, but we were happy to make music for Dior because we like what they are doing," de Rosnay says. "What they were proposing to us was a good thing. We got to make a really long track and it was really progressive. But actually we are not really fashionable. Our wardrobe looks like ten times the same jacket, ten times the same shirt, ten times the same pants and so on. That's how we dress."

With AVD on record store shelves and bumping in dance clubs, Justice is gearing up for a world tour that launches on January 1, 2012, in Sydney, Australia. "We want to provide people with really simple emotions, like a blend of emptiness and melancholy and happiness and a bit of warmth inside," de Rosnay says of their concerts. And as at their past live shows, the giant illuminated cross that graced their first LP cover, and has become synonymous with the band, will be front and center onstage. "We say it as a joke, but actually it is very true, that if we were the Police, the cross would be Sting, and we would be Stewart Copeland and Andy Summers," de Rosnay says. "People don't know our faces, but they know the cross -- it's more famous than us. The cross is the front man and we are the backing band."

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