French 'Justice' Follows New CD to the U.S. Former graphic designers Gaspard Auge and Xavier de Rosnay met by chance and discovered a shared love of dance music. Together, they put down their design tools, picked up skills at remixing and audio editing, and created their own sound.

French 'Justice' Follows New CD to the U.S.

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In the three years that I've been NPR's Justice correspondent, I have never actually interviewed Justice, until now.

(Soundbite of music)

SHAPIRO: Justice is a French electronica duo. Gaspard Auge and Xavier de Rosnay. When they needed a band name, they wanted a word that's the same in French and English. Mayonnaise seemed a bad choice so they went with Justice.

(Soundbite of music)

SHAPIRO: The band played a concert in Washington last week to promote their new album. And a few hours before the show, Gaspard and Xavier came into NPR's studios for an interview. They're in their late 20s and they wore skinny jeans and leather jackets. When I ask Gaspard what he had for breakfast, he said, a good old cigarette.

(Soundbite of song, "We Are Your Friends")

Unidentified Woman: (Singing) Because we are your friends, you'll never be alone again, come on, come on, come on, come on. Because we are your friends, you'll never be along again. Come on.

SHAPIRO: The band's first hit was not originally a Justice song. A few years ago, a British group released a track called "Never Be Alone Again." Xavier and Gaspard entered a contest to remix the song. Xavier, the talkative one, says they were students at the time.

Mr. XAVIER DE ROSNAY (Justice): That was a contest organized by a school radio, like a campus radio. They were sponsored by Virgin, the record label, and we just get it to try because we were just starting to make music, we didn't know anything about music or production. So we needed, like, a kind of studio things that you are to make than you own tracks. And that was perfect. And we've lost the contest.

SHAPIRO: You lost the contest.

Mr. DE ROSNAY: Yeah. But it was okay at first. It was not unfair to me, it's not. It was not a problem. We were just like, okay. Let's try to improve our skills.

SHAPIRO: And improve they did. The Justice remix of the song came out under a new title: "We Are Your Friends," and soon it was everywhere.

(Soundbite of song, "We Are Your Friends")

Unidentified Woman: (Singing) Because we are your friends, you'll never been alone again. Well, come on.

SHAPIRO: Can you describe what exactly you did to take this song, that was pretty much unremarkable, and turn it into one of the biggest hits of the year?

Mr. DE ROSNAY: I think it was pretty much remarkable because actually, we still think that the original one is better than the one we did.

SHAPIRO: But the original one wasn't successful the way your remix was.

Mr. DE ROSNAY: Yeah, but the music, timing and luck and to be, like other (unintelligible) right moment is real important much more than the talent of the music (unintelligible).

SHAPIRO: But there's a moment when you guys perform live where sometimes, you're doing "We Are Your Friends" and the music cuts out and the whole audience starts chanting.

Unidentified Group: (Singing) We are your friends, you'll never be alone again. Come on, come on, come on, come on. Because we are your friends…

SHAPIRO: When you guys are on stage and hundreds or thousands of people are shouting we are your friends, you'll never be alone again, what does that feel like from your perspective?

Mr. DE ROSNAY: We really have a distance between, like the music we do and how well (unintelligible).

SHAPIRO: What do you mean by that?

Mr. DE ROSNAY: I mean, that when the crowd is singing "We Are Your Friends," it's not a message. We wrote this just a sample we took from a song that was cooler. Like, for sure, we feel like, good and happy and excited and stuff. But then we know that it's hard to think that you are, like, great or (unintelligible) when people are singing, like your lyrics from a sample you took from another record.

SHAPIRO: Partly for that reason, Justice recently took a break from remixing other people's music and released their own record.

(Soundbite of music)

SHAPIRO: The album's title, if you can call it that, is a giant cross. Xavier says he wanted the CD to be like a 2008 disco opera. The songs range from aggressive instrumentals to a poppy sing-along that Gaspard describes as a tribute to Michael Jackson.

(Soundbite of song, "Do the D.A.N.C.E.")

Unidentified Woman: (Singing) Just easy as ABC. Do the dance. Do the dance. The way you move is a mystery. Do the dance. You're always there for music and me.

Mr. GASPARD AUGE (Justice): The lyrics are made of Michael Jackson song titles.

SHAPIRO: Right. Did you just sit down and say how many Michael Jackson song titles can we pack into these lyrics?

Mr. AUGE: It was the first time that we're writing lyrics and it's quite hard because English is not our native language. So to write lyrics in your non-native language is a bit tough.

SHAPIRO: So you're saying because it was difficult for you to write lyrics in English, you took Michael Jackson song titles and made those lyrics to the song?

Mr. AUGE: It's articulated by real words so it can sound like sentences.

(Soundbite of song, "Do the D.A.N.C.E.")

Unidentified Woman: (Singing) Do the D.A.N.C.E. 1 2 3 4 fight. Stick to the B.E.A.T. Get ready to ignite. You were such a P.Y.T. Catching all the lights just easy as A.B.C.

SHAPIRO: I love how the lead vocalist, the kid, is just a little bit off.

Mr. DE ROSNAY: Yeah.

Mr. AUGE: Yeah. Actually, like, the oldest singer we cast to sing this song, (unintelligible) professional. That means you just bring them the score and they sing exactly what's on the score. And so we had to write, like, all the mistakes and the stuff on the score. So they continued sometimes a bit off…

SHAPIRO: Do you have to say, sing this a little bit flat, sing this a little bit sharp?

Mr. AUGE: No. We wrote it on the score. We wrote a score and at the end of (unintelligible) we put, like, some note, just a half tone up or down and so it can sound a bit, like, not real sharp.

(Soundbite of song, "Do the D.A.N.C.E.")

Unidentified Woman: (Singing) Do the dance. Do the dance.

Unidentified Group: (Singing) Under the spotlights, neither black nor white, it doesn't matter.

Unidentified Woman: (Singing) Do the dance. Do the dance.

Unidentified Group: (Singing) As strong as you might, working day and night, whatever happens.

Unidentified Woman: (Singing) Do the dance. Do the dance.

SHAPIRO: All the band's lyrics are in English. Xavier says that comes from growing up with American popular music.

Mr. DE ROSNAY: When it's in French, we understand the lyrics and most of the time they sound really cheesy. But I them, like, more cheesy than English lyrics. There's always preaching about the same things.

SHAPIRO: It's just that in English, you don't understand them so it doesn't seem so cheesy.

Mr. DE ROSNAY: Okay. Now, we do understand them. But because of this habit, we just saying that to write in English is like, easier because you don't involve yourself as much as writing in French because then your parents will understand them, your friends will understand them. You understand them, you know?

(Soundbite of song, "DVNO")

Unidentified Man: (Singing) It's always the same, always the same story. Tell me what…

SHAPIRO: The band's latest single is called "DVNO." Xavier says the song is about the lame club in every country called Divino.

Mr. DE ROSNAY: Then our clubs would have, like, real strict dog policing where you have to wear, like, a tie or white shirt when entering or…

SHAPIRO: You say this as I'm wearing a white shirt and a tie.

Mr. DE ROSNAY: Yeah, but you have the right shoes, yeah. You cannot enter Divino.

SHAPIRO: Gaspard, Xavier, thanks for coming into the studio.

Mr. DE ROSNAY: Thank you.

(Soundbite of song, "DVNO")

SHAPIRO: Gaspard Auge and Xavier de Rosnay are the band Justice. They're touring the United States through the end of this month. To hear songs from their CD and to compare the band's remix of "We Are Your Friends" to the original "Never Be Alone," visit our Web site at

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Ari Shapiro.

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