A Fresh Breath Of Air
By Derek de Koff
It's been more than 10 years since Nicolas Godin and Jean-Benoit Dunckel first unleashed 1998's Moon Safari upon an unsuspecting world, garnering rapturous critical acclaim for their chilled-out sci-fi soundtracks full of fluttery arpeggios, oozing vocoders, and cryptic vocals about sexy boys. Since then, the duo has stayed in the public eye through their numerous collaborations with Sofia Coppola, most notably on The Virgin Suicides soundtrack, as well as with four experimental albums in which they've toyed with a diverse range of moods and approaches. Their latest album, the self-produced Love 2, feels like a new beginning for the band: it's hard to recall a phase in which they've ever sounded so exuberant. In order to suss out the reasons for this new lease on life, we talked with Nicolas Godin about their space-age new recording studio, the woes of owning a record label, and the myriad advantages to having telepathic gifts.
Out: This is the first album you've recording at your very own state-of-the-art recording facility, Atlas Studio. Pitchfork Media recently imagined that it's 'the most luxurious recording studio on the planet.' Are they right?
Nicolas Godin: Yes -- it's amazing, actually. Basically, we've been through a lot of studios over the last 10 years, and we took what we liked from each and put all of the elements together in our own studio. It's like the dream of a child. I never thought there'd be a place like it, and I can't believe it. It looks like a spaceship from Star Wars, but it's full of Stevie Wonder's equipment; it's full of the most amazing drum machines and keyboards.
Why did you decide to produce the album yourselves after working with Nigel Godrich, the famed producer who's worked with Radiohead and The Divine Comedy?
We wanted to feel credible again, and feel young again, so we decided that we didn't want to do any collaborations on this album; we wanted it to be just the two of us.
What's up with naming the album Love 2? Is there anything to that?
There is. We're fascinated by the fact that every time you start a new love affair, it feels like the very first time. It's crazy to us how love seems to regenerate itself every time, over and over.
You seem to have stripped out a lot of the darkness from previous ventures in favor of lighter, more summery fare. Songs like 'Do The Joy' and 'Heaven's Light' have a very sunny, science fiction feel' like the Dr. Who theme song just took a hit of Ecstasy.
Well, I was very, very depressed when we recorded Pocket Symphony. It felt like we just didn't have any energy left for that album. Now, we have this brand-new recording space, and we feel like we have nothing left to prove. This time, I feel like things really came together for us. Before this album, we were always scared of dating ourselves, or sounding dated. We were scared of using drum machines -- because if I hear a particular snare drum, I can tell you exactly what year the album came out. But now' we just don't care, and I don't know why.
Can you describe your working process to me? I read that 2004's Talkie Walkie was named after this weird telepathic sense of communication the two of you have while working.
Right. That's still very accurate, I think. We just don't talk to each other much while making the music. We really do most of our communication through sounds. We're using a lot of different instruments this time around, and when we're creating a new song, everything goes so fast that when I listen to the tracks later, it's very hard to remember how they were even born. We've always worked very instinctually. We wake up in the morning and get to work, and when we record, it's very easy to immediately forget what we've just done.