Back in November 2008, French d.a.n.c.e. band Justice were accused of playing pre-recorded sets when a photo of them playing from an unplugged midi controller surfaced on the internet. The group denied the accusations, claiming the device was unplugged only briefly, but the pre-recorded "button pusher" debate rages on.
When Justice played Toronto's HARD Fest, the duo's lanky spokesman Xavier de Rosnay called pre-recorded sets clunky and said they really didn't fit into the versatile DJs' worldview.
"We actually try to perform the same set ever day because we think that there is one way that sounds best," de Rosnay told Spinner. "Unfortunately we don't get it right every day. When it happens it's good, but most of the times we have to adapt. Also, if you are stuck with a time code and a one hour pre-recorded set, that's just boring."
Plus, set durations can change at the drop of a hat -- like at Toronto's HARD Fest where the set was rained out for a good 20 minutes. So as far as the tattoo-doodle-covered Frenchmen are concerned, versatility is key.
"Sometimes we are booked to play 60 minutes, sometimes 90 or 75," says de Rosnay . "But sometimes you are meant to play 75 but you are late so you have to play 45. You never know what kind of curveballs the summer festival season will throw at you!"
Though Justice love to create under-mixed and muddy sounds in the studio to give their songs a down-and-dirty vibe, this just doesn't work for a live set. Their Gibson PAs need simple audio for the audience, which results in clean, big beats.
"For example, when we play 'New Lands' live, we make the song start like on the record, and after the first chorus, we loop parts of the it and add the beat to make it a late '90s French filter disco track," says de Rosnay about how they adapt songs live.
"Disco," of course, is a loose term.
Their 2011 album, Audio, Video, Disco isn't really disco. But it's not quite rock... or what anyone really expected, either, though it earned the band the award for best electronic album at the French Victoires de la Musique awards (a.k.a. the French Grammys).
Even Pedro Winter, their label manager at Ed Banger Records who wrote the album's liner notes, had his own strong opinions on the style, comparing their current single "New Lands" to Supertramp and Soundgarden.
"We thought, 'Oh god, his impressions are so different from what we think we are doing,' but we left his notes in because we asked him his opinion. We don't want to be the ones to tell people 'no, you're wrong, it's actually a blend of this and that.' It doesn't really matter at the end of the day. Listening to a record is a very personal experience and nobody should get in the way of that."
Reactions like this -- and the the bonus related awards -- may come as a surprise to Justice, but they're things that allowed them to comfortably straddle both the worlds of commercial success and underground notoriety.
"We feel happy, and lucky that we could make music without bending over and pulling our pants down," says de Rosnay.