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On a late spring day in the penthouse of the Cooper Square Hotel in Manhattan, Ara Starck pushes back the strands of her fiery red, and newly dyed, mane and flashes her tongue at her lanky bandmate, David Jarre, who grins in return.
Better known in their native Paris as The Two, a primarily acoustic pop duo that has risen to some prominence after the October release of their self-titled debut, the pair are sitting for a portrait ahead of their first U.S. tour. The group began working together seven years ago, when Starck, who is originally a painter, asked Jarre to create a soundtrack for her art exhibition.
“I knew Ara had a great voice because she was always singing Edith Piaf,” says Jarre before reconsidering the Gallic stereotype. “It wasn’t like she was singing Piaf and painting while wearing a beret with a baguette under her arm.”
“Well, it was almost like that,” shoots back Starck, before explaining that music has always inspired her art.
The pair gained traction in France after one of their songs was featured in a short film presented at the Césars in 2009. Despite being sung in English, their debut has garnered further attention in The Two’s homeland, where it’s actually more beneficial to sing in French thanks to a law that requires that 40 percent of all music played on the radio be sung in the native language. Although they converse with each other in French, the duo understands the universal marketability of English. They recently performed at New York’s Le Poisson Rouge and at the Cooper Square Hotel, and will play at Hiro Ballroom on June 22.
A magician and classically trained flutist, Jarre played most of the instruments on the album, and also wrote and composed most of the songs. While both sing, it’s Starck’s voice that lifts the tracks.
Both in their early 30s, the tandem’s rise has been quick, and arguably not coincidental. Starck is the daughter of prolific product designer Philippe Starck. Jarre’s late grandfather (Maurice) and father (Jean-Michel) are renowned French composers, and his mother is English actress Charlotte Rampling. Although they don’t like to talk about their families, perhaps for fear of being construed as benefactors of nepotism, they admit their backgrounds have helped with connections.
“I’m not an accountant. I’m not a lawyer, that’s for sure. If you’ve been brought up in a creative environment, you’ll probably end up in a creative environment,” Starck says, then turns to a reticent Jarre. “His grandfather, father and now he is a musician. It’s a legacy in a way. I find it beautiful.”