Cassius: French dance duo on making their first album in 10 years
It's been 10 years since Cassius last released an album, but the French DJ and production duo are back and hoping their "joyful" music is the perfect antidote to electronic dance music (EDM). Philippe Zdar and Hubert Blanc-Francard talk about the making of their new record, working with friends like Pharrell and listening to Frank Ocean.
Cassius were inspired to create a whole new word - and world - with their fourth album Ibifornia.
"It changed everything," says Philippe Zdar of the lightening bolt moment when he came up with the name and gave their first album since 2006 its direction.
A portmanteau of Ibiza and California, the duo are hoping the sunshine and good vibrations will attract the same kind of attention as their debut album, titled 1999, and standout tracks like Feeling for You.
Ibifornia features a roll call of longtime Cassius collaborators and good friends: Pharrell Williams, Mike D from Beastie Boys, OneRepublic's Ryan Tedder and Cat Power.
"[The name Ibifornia] helped us mix the sound of Pharrell with Cat Power, Mike and us," adds Hubert Blanc-Francard aka DJ Boom Bass.
"All in the same family at the same table. It's not so easy to mix all of these people - if you write it on paper you say 'woah!'."
"We do duets a lot," adds Zdar. "Cat Power with Mike, Pharrell and Ryan. It was like a band."
So Cassius... you're back...!
PZ: To be honest, we did two albums in the middle that got completely lost in England. The second album - nobody got it. It came out the year that The Strokes were breaking so nobody cared about house music - everybody wanted to be rock, be beautiful, dressed in black with skinny pants.
We would always be working in the studio, spending years producing for other people [Phoenix, Beastie Boys, OneRepublic, Cat Power]. But we were really missing each other. Hubert is my favourite partner, best friend or whatever.
BB: When we decided to go back to the studio together, it was really a need.
PZ: Sometimes it can be a nightmare when people do it like this, because you could find your partner has been smoking joints and watching telly [for the last] four years. But we were in good shape!
You've got some amazing collaborators on this album. With technology today you can make a record and not even be in the same country - do you still try to get people together in the studio?
PZ: It's not that we try, we make a point about this. I'm very happy with the record, but I have to be honest, I don't care about the record. Perhaps I will never listen to it again in my life. The most important thing for me was the three years and what we were doing. 'Do you remember the day Chan [Marshall aka Cat Power] sung on the song Feel Like Me and we were crying? [Do you remember] when we went to this restaurant? Do you remember this great wine?'
Mike D is the most funny guy in the world - if you don't have a session with Mike, you're missing something. If you don't have a session with Cat Power, you're missing something. Same for Pharrell and for Ryan.
BB: There is a big spirit on the record, it's not a job. They don't need us - it was more, 'oh let's do this musical experience', so you share something. We are friends, it's very important.
What was the idea behind the artwork and the volcano?
PZ: We thought of the Velvet Underground artwork with the banana. I was obsessed with this sleeve for numerous reasons but one of them was that you can say, 'oh you know, it's the sleeve with the banana!'. We were obsessed by Maurizio Cattelan - a big Italian artist who is untouchable and one of the leading 20 most expensive artists. I managed to get his email and he said: 'Yeah why not? Lets meet.' And then he and [collaborator] Pierpaolo Ferrari came, we played the music and he said: 'Oh, we could make a volcano.' And then in my head it was, 'it's the sleeve with the volcano!' And we were so happy.
Nobody is going to see the vinyl, nobody is going to have it on CD - it's going to be on the internet, small like this. I could ask my dog to do the sleeve! But no, we wanted to keep on doing it this way... old school.
And Ibifornia is most definitely not EDM?
PZ: We decided that we should not do any songs without any meaning. If you've gone to Ibiza lately and listened to the lyrics... phew, it's something, because the music played at 90% of the places is EDM. There's one or two notes and it's like 'tonight I'm going to party' or 'tonight I'm going to have a beer' or 'tonight I'm going to try to get this girl'. It really lacks deepness. But then you don't go to Ibiza to get deepness.
BB: It's great to be a little bit of a soldier - to fight, not with violence, but just by doing a record with the best cover possible and the greatest singers possible, the best we can do.
You've both just downloaded the long-awaited new Frank Ocean album, Blonde - what do you think?
PZ: I was obsessed with his album Channel Orange, so hopefully I'm going to love it. I never had anything else in my life other than vinyl.
When we were in the studio in LA we were in the same studio as Frank and we know the engineers. They were going crazy, because they had something incredible three days ago and he took the hard drive home and then he came back and it's completely changed!
BB: [Ocean had put in] three years of work - we know what it's like, we did that too! Sometimes you have to be careful on your first listen, especially when you have been waiting for an album. This morning I played it again and I was like, 'woah! OK, I begin to understand now'.
Ibifornia by Cassius is out now.