Aidin Vaziri | The French duo Air is celebrating 20 years of turning out exquisite, sensual electronic music. Following appearances last year at major festivals such as Outside Lands, FYF in Los Angeles and Primavera in Barcelona, the group returns to America on its first headlining tour since 2010. Nicolas Godin and Jean-Benoit Dunckel, who have been making music together since 1985, are performing cult hits such as “Sexy Boy,” “Playground Love” and “Kelly Watch the Stars,” all of which are featured on the tour’s companion album, “Twentyears.” We spoke to Godin during sound check in Boston.
Q: Did you mean to take a seven-year break from touring?
A: We needed to make a break because we did tour a lot on the last album (2009’s “Love 2”). At some point, it becomes a habit. After a while we missed the stage and wanted to go back out.
Q: Were you worried that your fans had moved on?
A: I was kind of scared and thought people would forget. But when we came back, I noticed there were more people at the shows. It was very rewarding for us. When we started doing this, we wanted to play timeless music. After 20 years, many of the songs we recorded when we started still feel fresh.
Q: You said some of the most popular songs you recorded only took five minutes, while the ones you worked on for weeks were ignored.
A: It’s true. We say in France, “The best is the enemy of the better.” You shouldn’t think too hard.
Q: Your music offers a sense of escapism. I imagine that’s especially important now.
A: When we first did music, it was to escape from reality. Like when you go in a house and it’s beautiful, but when you open the drawer there are real things in it like an ironing machine and things like that. We did this music to create a perfect world. It’s a selfish process. When you’re touring, you realize how much you make people happy. For an hour or so they forgot their problems and they forget where they are.
Q: When you first came back, you played a lot of big outdoor festivals. Were you concerned about how your intimate music would feel in those spaces?
A: I grew up in Versailles. I used to hang out in the gardens of the palace, in this dreamlike world. It’s an amazing landscape with lots of trees and horizontal lines. The music I imagine in my head fits well in open spaces. If you walk into Versailles with headphones on and play an Air record, it will be like a soundtrack to that walk. There’s a logic there.
Q: You still travel with 14 keyboards. Why haven’t you switched over to laptops?
A: Because that’s depressing for us. We want to change the songs if we want. We want to slow the songs down, we want to make songs longer if we want. If everything is on a computer, then you can’t make anything different. We are old people. It’s too late for us.
Q: Is this an exclamation point on Air’s career or merely the start of a new chapter?
A: I think it’s a new chapter. I think the world now is changing, and I think we may think of exploring the live performance world, and all the possibilities of doing all the songs we have. If we found a good reason to do a record, we’ll do it. Right now, making a record is not that exciting because records don’t exist anymore. Being on stage is real.