air

Talking to Air is just as relaxing as listening to their music. I chatted with les hommes at Astralwerks HQ and it was clear that the calm and effortlessly cool manner of a band who classify their sound as “continental” couldn’t be more spot on. Nicolas Godin and Jean-Benoît Dunckel have not only defined a genre of music as their own, but they are sound pioneers and have taken that to the next level with Love 2. Recorded at their very own Atlas Studio in Paris, not only is Love 2 a labor of love, but a declaration that we should expect to hear from the duo for years to come.

How do you feel about the constant reiteration of what you have to say - for a band that doesn’t talk very much in general?
Nicolas Godin: The thing is that we made the recording in a specific way, but we don’t know why we do things. When they ask us questions they want an explanation why we did it, but there is no reason.

Jean-Benoît Dunckel: We have to do artistic interviews, even when the questions are all the same, we have to find a different answer all the time.

When I read about Love 2, a major element in making the album was that you recorded it in your own studio. Tell me a little about Atlas – do you feel at home there?
Dunckel: Yeah, I mean we have our own place and we can take the time and do what we want. It is not a classic recording process when bands go into a studio and they have to work fast because time is money. Us, we can do what we want and search for the sound that we want. The fact that we have our own studio is cool because we can really work with the acoustic recording, technically, we can get a good quality of sound. We wanted it to be different from a lot of electronic bands that don’t have the advantage of having their own studio; they have to do it all on computer and we wanted it to be completely different.

Bands get holed up in a studio for months on end that isn’t their own environment at first. In some way it must infiltrate their creative process because the surrounding isn’t really theirs. The fact that Atlas is yours and you can search for these sounds and you have so much freedom that you can’t even classify your genre anymore. You’ve allowed yourself these liberations that most bands/artists can’t ever experience.
Godin: We also wanted to be safe because the record industry is crashing down, and we want to be able to make records for the rest of our lives no matter what happens. It’s [the studio] like the warranty that we are going to make music forever.

That’s a very nice non-commerical outlook on it! Bands see recording as a whole “time is money” process- with the deadlines and pressure which can create a lot of failure. But this is your art that you are preserving forever. How do you feel about releasing the first single from this album as viral? I have Moon Safari on vinyl, and it sounds so different from the disc. How do you feel about listening to yourselves digitally vs. on vinyl?
Godin: I think vinyl sounds amazing. I just heard Love 2 on vinyl and I forgot how amazing it sounds. When you have the CD it sounds good, but listening to vinyl, now I cannot believe the difference. It is huge.

People tend to think digital makes everything sounds better.
Godin: It is better for a larger audience. Like when I was a child, you’d listen to music in a shitty way, with a little turntable destroying your vinyl. If you were rich, you could have a nice stereo in better condition. When the CD/discman appeared, anyone could listen to an album. Vinyl is so much better than it used to be. With MP3 now, the technology helps more people have access, but it is the price you pay for a decrease in quality. It’s an objective point of view. I am someone who spends a lot of time on sound, and vinyl is truly better. It is not snobbish, you just cannot compare.

It’s great talking to you both because most bands know sound, but sound is what you both do – the quality and difference of sounds that you see and work with that most people have no idea about.
Godin: Also because we work with the source and foundations of sounds, we use analog. So we can see for instance, the warmth going away with the process of printing a sound. When you take a keyboard and play into the amp, it is so warm, and then when it finally turns into an MP3 you are so far away from the origin of the sound.

Tell me about Love 2. What is the premise around it? Is there any kind of story or theme? I think the title is so simple and lovely.
Dunckel: Well, Jesus is love and he died for us!

How religious!
Dunckel: It is a theme of love.

Godin: We are fascinated with how many times love can regenerate itself. Each time you start a new love story, it is amazing, like the first time, all the time. There is a song by Jens Lekman about how you can relive the first time again and again that was inspiring.

On the other hand, some of your music can be pretty dark, like The Virgin Suicides soundtrack.
Dunckel: [laughs] Well it is about five girls killing themselves!

I guess it can’t be twinkly birds chirping there! Bad comparison! Overall, there is a cinematic background to Air. Do you have any other collaborations coming up?
Dunckel: We are doing a soundtrack for a French film. We are doing the music for a movie based on a Japanese comic book. They are about family dramas – when people love each other, leave each other. You can buy the comic, it is a Manga.

You are big fans of animation?
Godin: Our newest video is a cartoon; we are big fans of cartoons from the 70s. Like the American one that teaches children?

Schoolhouse Rock! How kitschy. Any Sofia Coppola collaborations in the future?
Godin: Well, she is a long-time collaborator and anytime she asks us we would do something. But ideally we want to do a soundtrack like the old-school way, you know, when a composer made the whole soundtrack. That is why we are doing our upcoming project, because we can do this.

The composition is all yours, that’s quite empowering! Do you like working in film, have you always wanted to?
Godin: I think it works well with us. We need to make music all the time, we love doing collaborations.

–Andrea D’Alessandro, Photo credit: Luciana Val & Franco Musso