“IN FRANCE, the more you have girlfriends,the more you are a seductive man, and the more you are healthy,” says Jean-Benoit “JB” Dunckel. “In France, marriage has no value. Everyone is cheating,” agrees Nicolas Godin. “It’s healthy.”
While glancing at magazines and sipping espresso, the odd couple from the smart city of Versailles who make up Air arc taking it in turns to expound on new album Talkie Walkie. And when they say that it’s one for the ladies out there, they mean all the ladies — maybe not at once, but if they form an orderly queue…
“We need passion all the time,” shrugs Godin in a fashion that can only be described as Gallic. If the floaty but funky sounds of their debut Moon Safari were the soundtrack to a million dinner parties, and their follow-up soundtrack for The Virgin Suicides a triumph of the form, Air’s darker, more experimental last album 10,000 Hertz Legend left many puzzled. Talkie Walkie is good news for those: Godin even goes as far as calling it “secure and safe” — a reaction, he says, to some frantic multitasking (touring, a ballet score, a words-and-music project with the novelist Alessandro Baricco) over the past two years. Dunckel says it is “more about songs, about romanticism, about all that we have to say to our girlfriendsthat we didn’t dare to say before”. (And by girlfriends, they don’t mean one each, but… well, you get the picture.)
Though the “difficulties” of the last album were overstated, Talkie Walkie more readily offers up Air’s unique satisfactions: the cinematic atmospheres, the drifting melodies, the ’70s-synth sounds and what Godin describes as “the warm blanket” production — the Air sound, in fact. “But this album is more feminine,” picks up Godin, “and 10,000 Hertz Legend is more like a record for men, like Pink Floyd or Radiohead. This is more like you want to capture your emotions on the tape.”
And what if it is used as the background music for dinner parries? “In France, we take food very seriously, so for us it’s an honour,” smirks Godin, as Dunckel picks up another magazine.
© James Medd, Esquire, January 2004