And Justice for All 

Parisian duo wins the West

Wednesday, Sep 26 2007

The guys who make up the French electronic duo Justice don’t seem to want to be in Los Angeles on this particular day, the day after they were in Las Vegas for MTV’s Video Music Awards, where the clip for their breakout single “D.A.N.C.E.” was up for Video of the Year. The night before that, they were in Glasgow; before that, London. Tomorrow they fly to Cologne, then on to Berlin, Hamburg and, ultimately, Australia. Today was supposed to be a day off, but a last-minute photo shoot for Urb magazine beckoned. They’re only spending eight measly hours in L.A. before boarding a plane back to Vegas — they have plans to do some gambling tonight — and the least-favorite part of their ascending worldwide fame is the photo shoots.

As they descend the escalator at LAX, standing side by side on the same step in matching black jackets and white Capezio shoes, they look like they’re in a music video: the haggard, sleepy-eyed jet setters, casually unkempt in that Franco-fabulous way, their thoughts on the cigarettes they’ll soon be enjoying upon exiting the terminal. Xavier de Rosnay, who has wide, almond eyes beneath a defiantly untended unibrow, bums a smoke from his partner, Gaspard Auge, who’s taller, slouchier and mostly asleep. He looks like he could be a Doobie Brother, with his overgrown nest of brown hair and a sideburn-mustache combo. They smoke their cigarettes, de Rosnay mumbles something about maybe stopping at a Burger King for some lunch, and the two slip into the back of a Saab sedan headed for Culver City, where a photo stage awaits their arrival.

Despite the fireworks that accompanied this year’s VMAs, the duo missed most of that night’s gossip-fodder action, which seems fine by them. They were still on the red carpet when Britney did her belly flop, and even though they were sitting at the same table as Kid Rock, Justice managed to miss the tussle with Tommy Lee. They were far removed from Kanye’s backstage sore-loser tantrum.

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Here’s de Rosnay’s abridged version of the day. Imagine a thick French accent:

“We checked into the hotel, we went to the event, then we had the red-carpet shit, which was nothing because we were stuck between two lead celebrities and nobody knows who we are, so the journalists didn’t ask us any questions. We went to the event, then we lost. We skipped the after-parties and went to dinner, and then we went back to the hotel to sleep because we knew we had to wake up early this morning.”

His casual demeanor aside, the nomination was a surprise. A year ago, Vegas odds on a French duo that’s not Daft Punk getting nominated for anything would have been pretty high. America’s pop-music consciousness, ever impatient, had moved away from “electronica,” as electronic dance music of all shapes and sizes had become known, and re-embraced rock. The music, so perfect for turn-of-the-century revelry, seemed to stagnate post-9/11. It turned in on itself, fixated on minimalism, and lost the rockers and hipsters who in years prior had been buying techno and house records.

Add to that, there hadn’t been an electronic artist nominated for the top prize since Fatboy Slim in 2001, and Justice’s nod seemed some sort of mistake. Except that it wasn’t. For the first time in years, MTV seemed almost, well, relevant.

Like magic, 2007 delivered the world, America and, specifically, Los Angeles a hot French summer, filled with huge, synthetic beats coupled with massive electro-rock riffs and a party-time vibe.

The summer of France unofficially began in the springtime, with the triumphant debut at Coachella of Justice and the entire posse from their French label, Ed Banger, followed the next night by a massive Ed Banger/Dim Mak/Cobrasnake party to christen the then-new Echoplex. By July, Justice’s ubiquitous “D.A.N.C.E.” — or one of its countless remixes — was on virtually every dance floor and mixtape. That month, fellow Frenchmen Daft Punk performed a victorious throwdown at the L.A. Sports Arena, an event that has already taken on near-mythic status. Another rising French label, Institubes, impressed Los Angeles in mid-September with its own visit to the Echoplex. Last Friday, big-deal selector Diplo dropped “Never Be Alone” at the climax of his Echoplex set, and the crowd rejoiced. And L.A.-based Guns n’ Bombs are signed to the excellent Paris label Kitsune. The summer will unofficially end next week, when Justice and the Ed Banger crew arrive to perform a series of local shows. Once again, Paris has arrived, though de Rosnay seems relatively ambivalent about the hype as the car exits LAX and makes its way to the photo shoot. “Three years ago, it was New York City with the post-punk things and the DFA. Now it’s Paris and our music.”

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