Over the past few years, Aeroplane’s Vito De Luca and Stephen Fasano, French-speaking Belgians of Italian descent, have slowly built a rock-solid reputation for crafting sublime sounds that are heavily influenced by late-‘70s and early-‘80s disco, Italo, and pop. By weaving together laid-back grooves, sticky melodies, and smooth, gently danceable beats, they create uplifting, emotion-laden music that evokes blissful nostalgia yet still soars with innovation in today’s banger-filled world of dance music.
This year, the boys have been busy: In addition to wrapping up their debut album (due out this September), they’ve been touring madly (including sets at Coachella and Winter Music Conference; upcoming North American tour dates below), working on the occasional new remix, and compiling their monthly chart mixes (which they give away free on their SoundCloud page). Most recently, Aeroplane were honored as the 500th DJs of BBC Radio 1’s seminal Essential Mix, broadcast live from Liverpool, England, on April 23. (You can listen to that here.)
Over the next few months, we’ll check in a handful of more times with the de facto leaders of the “nu disco” revolution as they set out to take over dance floors worldwide; the results of our conversations will be published in this space. In Part 1, De Luca and Fasano discuss the little-known stories behind some of their most popular remixes, why they’re still surprised they have fans, and the reason there’s so much booze on their tour rider.
Let’s start off with a little history: How did the two of you meet and end up making music together?
Vito De Luca: I had a record store.
Stephen Fasano: I was DJ’ing for 20 years or something like that.
VD: It’s actually not difficult to understand how a DJ and a guy who owns a record store meet. We’ve been doing music for six years, I guess — we did some other projects before. We’ve been really into it for two years. We had the opportunity to stop our jobs and focus on music. Before that we were both working at day jobs, making music like one day a week or something like that. When it all started to get a bit out of control, we just said, “Ah, fuck it, let’s stop working.”
Do the two of you have very different personalities? I read somewhere that when you met you really didn’t like each other.
VD: Oh yeah, we said that in some interview. When you do four interviews a week, you just try to be different …
So you do get along?
VD: Yeah, but we have an age difference. He’s 34, and I’m 27. That’s a lot, because there are loads of things where he was there at the time and I wasn’t. Now it’s kind of fitting together. In the beginning we were a bit like, “Why do you do this?” “Yeah, but why do you do that?”
I’ve heard you say you have similar musical tastes. Is ‘80s music big for you both? I hear a lot of ‘80s stuff in your DJ sets and mixes.
VD: Yeah, like the cheesy ‘80s Italo disco and pop music and all the psyche disco-pop stuff like Fleetwood Mac, Pink Floyd, the Beach Boys, and then all the ‘80s bands.
Do you prefer that era in music to what’s happening now?
VD: Of course. How can you not prefer that era? How can you compare The Dark Side of the Moon to the xx record?
SF: I like the xx.
VD: I know you like it, but can you compare it to The Dark Side of the Moon? No, you can’t. Maybe in like 20 years someone will say you can’t compare the xx to whatever new band, you know? I don’t mean the xx in particular; it’s just an example that crossed my mind. But of course I prefer that era.
You’ve been putting the finishing touches on your debut full-length. Is it true Steph and Dave Dewaele, 2ManyDJs and half of Soulwax, are producing?
VD: Another journalist — wait, that’s our fault, because we said that in Milan and then it didn’t happen.
SF: Because at the beginning it was going to be too late — but at the end we’re late, too! [laughs]
VD: We said, “Fuck it, we can’t wait,” and we’re actually like a year late, so we could have done it. Whatever. We did some stuff together, we did a tour with them. We both — Soulwax and us — wish we could do something together, but our schedule and their schedule is just impossible to fit together.
Will the album sound similar to what you’ve released in the past?
VD: It’s not gonna be like our mixes. Everything that’s influenced us, that’s what the record is. Not too much proper dance music — we’re more into psyche disco, but still pop music, three-and-a-half minute tracks, like verse-chorus-verse-bridge-chorus. “Caramellas” is gonna be on the record, but a new version. We’re excited to release it. [We’ll discuss more on the making of the record in the second part of our interview.]
By now you guys have quite an arsenal of remixes under your belts. Do you have a favorite you’ve done?
VD: We have different ones.
SF: For me, it’s the Friendly Fires’ one, “Paris.”
VD: For me, it’s one of the first ones we did, Low Motion Disco, “Love Love Love.” Personally, I think that’s one of the smartest remixes we’ve done. I mean, we like it all.
Can you talk about what happened with the MGMT “Electric Feel” remix?
VD: We are actually really sad about that remix, because we were really proud of it. We had been really working hard, it was really something we thought about, and they just turned it down. They asked for it, then they said no. For us, it didn’t change anything, because the promotion and the fans we got from that remix were the same as if it was released. That’s actually what the record companies do today: They ask for a remix, then they turn it down, you have 25 remixes leaking all over the Internet, and you get the same promotion as if you paid for the actual remixes without even paying the people. If you do an official remix and you paid the remixer, everybody would still download it from a blog and not pay for it. Whatever, it’s a revolution.
The remix you did for Grace Jones’ “Williams Blood” is a fan favorite, but I understand it too was turned down originally by her label?
VD: It actually was not the record label. She was choosing the remixes herself. She heard like 10 seconds of it.
SF: In her computer, or something like that.
VD: And she just said, “I don’t like the high hats.”
Stephen: I think she heard like 25 remixes in a day, so she was going “yes, no, yes, no.”
VD: We shouldn’t say this, but we actually sent it to a blog: “You can have this.” I think 25 minutes and that fucking remix was everywhere. And the label really liked it, even when she turned it down. We were like, “Can you listen to that remix properly, like in a studio with a big sound system?” So they played it to her fully, and she said OK. And she actually called me in the middle of the night. I didn’t get the phone, like, “Who the hell is that? I’m not answering it.” And in the morning I hear the voice mail: “This is Grace Jones ….” I was like, “What?” I fucked up.
SF: I was at a party and it was the same. It was so loud, like, “Who? Who’s this? Can you call me tomorrow?” [laughs] Whatever!
Are you surprised when you hear about your hardcore fans? Back when you first came to the U.S. in October, I know there were a lot of people who turned out at every single gig.
VD: That’s actually what we noticed. But we don’t really understand why we have fans, that’s the thing. We’re just making the music we love, that music gets released, then people are buying it and you have fans. But we don’t really understand why. Because we love other people’s music so much, it’s weird to understand that you have proper fans. There were two people who drove fucking nine hours to come to those New York shows. I was like, “Why? Why did you do that?” Once in London, a guy told me, “I came from Barcelona just to see you.” I was like, “We’re playing in Barcelona in a month,” but he was like, “Yeah, but I’m not gonna be there.” Of course we’re surprised. We’re just really happy about what happened.
I’ve heard that the two of you share a big love of champagne?
SF: Not me.
VD: That’s me. You know what? We actually have that on our rider. The cool thing is giving it to people, like when you give a fan a glass of champagne. That’s why we actually ask for it on our rider. We can’t drink all that.
SF: Maybe just two or three glasses of alcohol.
VD: If you see our rider, we actually have rum, vodka —
SF: Jagermeister —
VD: Blah blah blah. If we drink all that, we die. It’s just about giving it to people.
And last, can you tell me something people would be surprised to learn about Aeroplane?
VD: Our studio is in the middle of nowhere in Belgium. It’s a fucking mess. When we talked with Erol Alkan, he was like, “What are you working with?” We were like, “This, this, and this.” And Erol said: “How’d you get that fucking sound?” We were just like, “I don’t know. Luck!” We’re just so disorganized and so bad at everything that we can’t really understand what’s happening.
SF: It depends on what —
VD: The only thing you’re organized at is Miles & More [a European frequent-flyer program].
SF: Maybe. [laughs]
VD: He’s obsessed by Miles & More. I think that’s a nice end. We sound like complete assholes.
Aeroplane North American Spring/Summer Tour Dates
05.25 New York, NY: plan b
05.27 San Francisco, CA: 330 Ritch (Popscene)
05.28 Los Angeles, CA: Club 740
05.29 Morrison, CO: Red Rocks (Bisco Inferno)
05.30 Las Vegas, NV: Wynn Las Vegas
06.02 Calgary, Alberta: HiFi Club
06.03 San Diego, CA: Voyeur
06.04 Vancouver, British Columbia: Celebrities
06.05 Playa del Carmen, Mexico: La Santanera
06.09 Atlanta, GA: Opera
06.10 Philadelphia, PA: Voyeur (Making Time)
07.15 Toronto, ON: Wrongbar
07.16 Miami, FL: Vagabond
07.17 Mariaville, NY: Indian Lookout Country Club (Camp Bisco)
09.05 New York, NY: Randall’s Island Park (Electric Zoo Festival)