"We went to Canvas, you know, in London," says Gaspard Augé, half of French electro duo Justice, on the phone from Paris, "and we saw a crazy guy, like, eating his glowstick, you know? So he had glowing liquid all over his face. It was really funny."
Augé laughs, and then the language barrier kicks in, his accent too upbeat: "But I think the guy died just after, so ... "
"Yeah, yeah, no. But the guy fainted just after that episode, so it was kind of funny."
Well then, viva la revolucion.
Really, though, it's entirely plausible that overstimulated club kids are hospitalizing themselves over Justice's dance floor debauchery. After all, Augé and accomplice Xavier de Rosnay blew up with "Never Be Alone," their first excursion into international acclaim, in 2004. The remix of defunct U.K. rockers Simian became an underground anthem, its chorus a skewed comfort for late-night comedowns ("Because we are your friends/ You'll never be alone again") roared over rubbery bass and gooey disco synths. It's a momentous track, but it only hints at the ferocious energy and sweat-stained funk that Justice took on over the following years.
"I don't know how to explain," Augé says. "For the second EP we did, we wanted to do something really different from 'Never Be Alone,' so maybe that's why it sounds so dirty and raw."
That EP is Waters of Nazareth, released last month. The track of the same name is a monstrous electro-house descent into goth-glam ecstasy, easily one of the strongest dance singles of the year. While Justice's nationality incurs reflexive comparisons to Daft Punk, the EP hews much closer to fist-pumping dance-rockers like the Rapture, Death From Above 1979, and its spinoff, MSTRKRFT, who happen to be Justice's current tour mates.
"They were in Paris a few months ago and we were eating steaks together," Augé says of the Toronto duo. "Really nice guys, and we love their stuff."
Like MSTRKRFT, Justice makes dance music for people to rock 'n' roll to. Or Justice makes rock 'n' roll with sequencers and turntables. The distinction is moot as long as the collision of volume and sex appeal is as desperately infectious as the title track.
"I think that's a good point that the crowd is not split anymore, so everyone is listening to a lot of different styles," Augé says. "When we were younger, you were listening strictly to hip hop or heavy metal, but now the boundaries between the genres are really exploding. The goal of 'Waters of Nazareth' was to get the indie kids' attention, but yeah, we just wanted to do a funky, distorted track, but in the end it sounds like heavy metal."
Kicking off with a drum battle between a steroidal Energizer rabbit and a pop-locking GoBot, the track jackhammers machine rhythm on top of machine rhythm. Three minutes in, it's taken over by a haunting organ riff that burns down the divide and sets the whole affair a painfully funky reckoning of house, electro, and metal into a cathartic revelation. Given the song's name and the blazing white, human-sized cross Justice rocks behind the DJ booth, the sanctimonious effect was intended.
"We were thinking about the whole concept of the EP and it appears that all the tracks are a bit dark, and we wanted to keep the imagery of heavy metal," Augé says. "We thought that 'Waters of Nazareth' was kind of a new mass, like church music, and we are comparing the energy of the religion of the mass and the energy of club music. Not, you know, like one nation under a groove but something like that."
Club kids or indie kids, if they're not dying for Justice, they're at least being reborn.