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13 February 2012
Articles | Interviews

Interview: Tomorrow’s World

Caught in the headlights of electro's unlikely new pairing

Words Alex Denney

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Of the few nuggets of info to be gleaned online about Tomorrow’s World, a collaboration between Air musician Jean-Benoît Dunckel and New Young Pony Club’s Lou Hayter, one detail stands out like hairs on the back of your neck.

On the YouTube clip for their awesome track ‘So Long My Love’ — which kicks off a new Kitsuné compilation released this month — Dunckel and Hayter stare out coldly from behind a car windshield, an image that puts you right between the headlights.

But don’t go picking bits of yourself from the radiator grill just yet, because ‘So Long My Love’ is more about the thrill of the chase. At once minimal and voluptuous, the track bears down on you like a girl group masterminded by Alan Vega, suggesting an eerie dialogue between pursuer and pursued: “Too much love driving me away / Too much love can feel like pain.”

Despite flying mostly under the radar since meeting in summer 2010, the duo have compiled nearly two albums’ worth of material. And, in a weird instance of art imitating life imitating art, Hayter was the victim of a harrowing pursuit while recording for the project in Paris. “I wrote a song about being followed,” she says, “and [before] recording the vocals I was followed down the street and mugged. They came up behind me in the street and put their hands over my eyes, so it was quite scary. Then I had to go back in the studio and sing these lyrics, which felt very spooky.”

Equally spooky is the palpable chemistry between the pair, who met after Dunckel showed up at a NYPC gig in Paris with Jarvis Cocker, a nerve-racking experience for Hayter. Dunckel had been looking for someone to lend vocals to some tracks he’d written, and Hayter was suggested by a mutual friend. On meeting to discuss ideas at Dunckel’s studio, however, they decided to build the project from the ground up.

‘So Long My Love’

“Lou has this British view of music which I love,” says Dunckel. “It’s more concerned with style, and whether something’s cool or not cool. I don’t think about manners; I think about chords and melodies and emotions, whereas Lou’s really good at turning me onto a certain style; at finding a way to finish the musical phrases. She also has this British code of musical production. I found the same thing working with [Air/Radiohead producer] Nigel Godrich… It’s like John Lennon said, ‘French rock is like English wine.’”

Taking inspiration from Angelo Badalamenti’s soundtrack work, Factory Floor and Lil Louis’s masterpiece of robo-erotica ‘French Kiss’, the pair crafted a sound informed by their musical schooling in successive decades, the 42-year-old Dunckel being principally a child of the seventies, Hayter the eighties. The band name strikes all the right retro-futuristic notes, too, stemming from Hayter’s love of the BBC science and technology programme, which was cancelled in 2003.

Dunckel is effusive about Hayter’s lyrics, admiring “the poetry behind her words”, but says he would often ask her to redraft pieces, partly so they would end up with something “deep”, but also because “I’m a pain in the ass to work with”.

With the group mulling over potential album deals, the next step is to make the project fly on stage. Hayter says she’s daunted by the prospect of being a frontwoman,  and Dunckel… well, he’s just a pain in the ass. “I want it to be difficult, because if it’s too easy I’m gonna be really bored. I have to suffer — and she has to suffer as well!”

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