A favourite among those who know their YSLs from their LVs, the French band known as Air is a musical duo who continually entice the stylish set without ever getting labelled démodé. According to the band’s lead singer, Parisian Jean-Benoit Dunckel, the inspiration behind Air’s sound successes (four albums and hits such as “Sexy Boy” and “Playground Love”) comes directly from their love of—what else?—girls, girls, girls. “We constantly observe our female fans like [sexy ’60s French pop icon] Serge Gainsbourg did,” says Dunckel. “We worship the sophisticated, beautiful girls who aren’t vulgar and don’t turn up their nose at people. We write so many songs about them and fantasize about their most intimate moments. Usually we prefer the ones who don’t want to meet us backstage—the shy, pretty ones who are a mystery and want to keep us a mystery.”
What is no mystery is Air’s much-raved-about latest album, Pocket Symphony. Packed with the duo’s sultry lounge-like verses, Pocket Symphony hosts a clutch of delicate pop songs that pair nicely with a good glass of Beaujolais (light, smoky and sweet). The album’s lyrics—mainly driven by hypnotic phrases—touch on the topics of foreign erotic cinema (“ ‘Lost Message’ is like a modern Emmanuelle sound track,” says Dunckel) and a bevy of unidentified beauties the duo have dreamed up: “ ‘Left Bank’ is about a nonexistent girl, our ideal.”
Another sensually charged track called “Redhead Girl” is about the scent of a fiery-maned muse that Dunckel hazily admits “Air’s never met.” He does, however, cite Patrick Süskind’s book Perfume as inspiration. “In the song, we were trying to investigate the cliché of what a redhead’s aroma would be. Süskind writes about the same sort of addictions and obsessions to love that we cherish. Love and longing are things we never tire of.”
And Sofia Coppola, for one, never tires of them. The renowned director collaborated with the twosome on the sound tracks
to all three of her films: The Virgin Suicides, Lost in Translation and Marie Antoinette. Coppola took to the lads so much that she even had them appear in the latter film with full-on frills and wigs.
“When we were filmed in Versailles, it was as if she had brought the ghosts of Versailles to life,” Dunckel says, laughing. “It was very strange for us, but we did it because Sofia knows the importance of having artists interact with one another. She has built a little artist family around her—not an avant-garde clique but a family that we are happy to be a part of. We feed off each other.” —Elio Iannacci