This week marks ten years since Justice vs Simian’s We Are Your Friends was given an official release, so inthemix is revisiting the long history of one of dance music’s best-loved tracks.
We Are Your Friends isn’t just worth celebrating because it’s a great track – it’s the song that made Justice.
Back in 2003, as he recounted to inthemix some years later, Gaspard Augé was in a Paris nightclub when he bumped into his best friend’s girlfriend locking lips with another man. The guy breaking up the relationship was a then-20-year-old Xavier de Rosnay and despite the circumstances in which they met, he and Augé hit it off.
Together, the new friends decided to try their hand at music by reassembling a track called Never Be Alone, released by UK four-piece Simian a year earlier in 2002. They submitted the finished product to a remix contest run by a local college radio station et voilà, Justice was born.
These days, the guitar-heavy Never Be Alone sounds completely unrecognisable until the refrain hits – something the pair owe to their very low budget operation. “We were working without music software: just a sampler, a sequencer and a synthesizer,” Rosnay told the New York Times in 2007. “So we downloaded just the voice on the chorus, because there was not space enough for more than eight seconds of sound on our sampler.”
In a decision that probably haunts that radio station to this day, Justice didn’t win the remix competition with their edit of Never Be Alone. But they did get the attention of a then-fledging label called Ed Banger, who – for their second ever release, following only Mr. Flash’s A Bass Day – dropped the remix as a double A-side together with Steamulation in 2003.
It would be another three years before the track was re-named We Are Your Friends and given a commercial release, making it a shoe-in for dance music’s longest-gestating hit. By that time, Simian had already split up, drummer James Ford and keyboardist Jas Shaw going onto form Simian Mobile Disco.
The final version of We Are Your Friends was an instant classic, fast becoming a generational anthem that captured what it feels like to be young and out having fun. So it was fitting that the song’s video clip was an ode to the fucked up shit you do to your friends when they fall asleep at a party before you – that’s Ed Banger label head Busy P defaced by permanent marker at the beginning of the video.
The clip picked up the prize for Best Video at the 2006 MTV Europe Music Awards, but not everyone was a fan. Three years before he and Taylor Swift became uncomfortably acquainted, Kanye West got in some practice crashing awards shows. When We Are Your Friends beat out his own Touch The Sky for the award, Kanye got up, grabbed the mic and yelled that his video should have won, because it a) cost a million dollars to make and b) featured Pamela Anderson.
Justice – who weren’t there to pick up the award in person – didn’t hold a grudge. “Kanye was the best promoter a young band like us could have ever had. It was exactly what we needed,” they told inthemix in 2008.
Besides, the two scruffy Parisians only ever wanted to make music that stands the test of time. “We don’t try to be new, we don’t try to be surprising, but we don’t try and remake the same thing – we just do what is natural,” they told inthemix in 2011. “I think when you’ve done a great record, the fact that it was ‘new’ at the time is not important. What matters is if 10 years after it’s still a great record.” Mission accomplished, ay lads.
Katie Cunningham the Editor of inthemix. She is on Twitter.