"This movie was meant for us, they wanted French musicians and it alludes to moon landings and all that. Who else?"
Who else, indeed? French musical duet Air, who blew sales out of the sky with Moon Safari in 1998 (required background music for cooking any Jamie Oliver recipes, for example) have come up with something typically singular for their latest album.
It’s the soundtrack to Le Voyage Dans La Lune (A Trip To The Moon), and takes its inspiration from the recent rediscovery of French icon George Melies' 1902 silent film of the same name.
This film is tucked deep into the cultural DNA of any self-respecting Frenchman. However, with the incredibly delicate ten-year job of remastering the original film in colour came the task of putting it to music, no small task as the Air duo explains:
"We knew of the film, but only as a piece of history," remembers Nicolas Godin, the pair's lead vocalist.
"The colour version brought it back to reality. Nobody had ever seen it in colour, all the copies were gone, so nobody knew what the movie was like... it was a voyage of discovery.
"I looked at the characters in the movie, all very young, having lots of fun, the discovery was magical, lots of emotions and dreams. You can feel all the energy of Paris in 1902, just before the Belle Epoque. It was like the 1960s, with all the great artists and musicians, the place to be. It was like travelling through time, taking off in a space shuttle, really...
(Notice the lunar reference slipping in there - these chaps really can’t help themselves.)
"Georges (the film's creator) was intending to ask musicians of the time to do something, and he would have liked something extreme, so we tried to do something suitably out there."
The film restoration may have taken a decade but, when it came to the music, work had to proceed a bit more speedily.
"When it was finished, the Cannes Film Festival wanted to show the movie, so we had to get on with it... 21 days in total," explains keyboardist Jean-Benoit Dunckel.
"But it was only 14 minutes of music, so that was doable. But, because it's a silent movie, you can't repeat yourself, people will notice. So afterwards, we went to work on the album and we were able to improve the mix, the sounds and create more music."
While talking to Air, there is no escaping the fact that, arguably, they created one of the sounds of a generation with Moon Safari. Can they ever escape it themselves, or do they wish to?
"When you are in the supermarket abroad, and you hear your music, it's a good sign," reflects Godin.
"It wasn't a big success in France, we really had the success abroad. So this meant we could still go to the beach at home, it was the perfect level.
"But we got attached to French easy listening after that, so we wanted to do something extreme, we knew that we didn't want to do Moon Safari 2. Even if it meant shocking our fans, never mind, we preferred that each album has its own personality.
"If we do something similar, they will be disappointed, and if we do something different, the same. So there's no point worrying. It's an honour to write a classic album, I can't believe it happened to us, it was like a dream."
And what's next?
Godin rewards me with a full-shouldered Gallic shrug. "Five minutes before, we didn't know we would be doing Le Voyage Dans La Lune. We have no plan. We never ask for it. We have a lucky star, and each time the lucky star shows up with good things."
Or a lucky moon, of course.
The album Voyage Dans La Lune will be released on 6th February. Click here to order, and watch the clip below:
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