Xavier de Rosnay and Gaspard Augé met while studying graphic design in Paris. Both had been in the kind of high school bands that have “five guitarists and no drummer.”
None of them was very good. So art school it was.
Then in 2003 they started playing around with a groovebox and a sampler on a lark and wound up with two tracks. The first, a tribute to iconic ’80s band Buggles, disappeared into obscurity. But the second track, which contained vocal samples from “Never Be Alone” by British electro band Simian, caught the ear of French DJ/producer Pedro Winter, who would become the band’s manager. Winter was looking for a B-side for his label’s second release.
The response from DJs was so overwhelming, the track wound up as the A-side and was picked up by British label Gigolo where it was released as “We Are Your Friends,” eventually selling 50,000 copies and ruling dancefloors across the globe for three years.
Augé and de Rosnay soon found themselves in demand as DJs and were inundated with requests to remix tracks by Britney Spears, Franz Ferdinand, Soulwax, NERD and others.
In the U.S., Justice also caught the attention of Windish Agency’s Tom Windish, who approached them through MySpace and quickly signed them.
“I went after them as soon as I heard the music,” Windish told Pollstar. “I recognized that it was really good. I thought maybe it could be a big thing – or maybe not.
“When I think about booking a new artist, I don’t picture them playing arenas or selling 5,000 tickets. To me, a big thing would be selling 1,000 to 2,000 tickets. If it gets beyond that, that’s great, but I don’t think of it that way.”
Windish got a pleasant surprise when Justice began selling out, and promoters kept coming back to him to move shows into larger venues.
De Rosnay said the band was stunned by the success of “We Are Your Friends.”
“Especially because it was made with nothing,” de Rosnay told Pollstar. “And at the moment we did it, we knew absolutely nothing about music or production. We didn’t know anything about dance music especially.
“It wasn’t meant to be a dancefloor track. We were trying to make a song that sounded like something between Buggles and The Doobie Brothers – a pop single. But because we didn’t have the skills to make a real pop song, it ended up something simpler. I think dance music or disco is a simpler form of pop music.”
Because both members were still in school, they didn’t record any more music, sticking to DJ gigs and remixing until Winter told them it was time to record an album. They booked a studio for a month and began cutting tracks. Once again, fate stepped in.
“We worked for like three weeks on ‘Let There Be Light,’ which was supposed to be the A-side of an EP,” de Rosnay said. “But then on the day it was supposed to be mastered, the engineer was sick. So we couldn’t do it.”
The pair holed up in the studio over their remaining weekend to record another song. They decided they’d go in a completely opposite direction and came up with the dark, moody track, “Waters of Nazareth.”
At first, the song was not well received – at one show the sound engineer was frantic because he thought something had gone wrong with the equipment – but eventually it caught on and became a hit. The band soon realized that they’d inadvertently given themselves the freedom to go wherever they chose with their music.
That freedom to be different is something that carries over into Justice’s shows. Augé and de Rosnay have chosen not to remix the songs as they are on the album, instead incorporating tracks from artists they’ve worked with.
Windish has seen a tremendous change in the duo as they quickly moved from clubs to larger venues.
“The show is growing by leaps and bounds every time they come over here,” he said.
One thing that’s certainly helped raise the band’s visibility is festivals. De Rosnay said he and Augé love playing to an enormous crowd that isn’t necessarily familiar with their work.
“These are people who you have to get into your music,” de Rosnay said. “It’s quite challenging because it forces you to go a bit further. It’s not easy and you can’t win every time, but this is what we like about festivals.”
Justice will get the chance to connect with some of the people who may not know them when they headline the spring MySpace Music Tour, which kicks off in March. After that, they’ll head back to Europe for the summer festival circuit and then into the studio to begin work on a new album. –