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College and Electric Youth Explain the Captain Sully Inspiration for Drive’s ‘Real Hero’

Among the many gems on the much-discussed Drive soundtrack, "Real Hero," a dreamy electro-pop ballad by College and Electric Youth, has become the movie's unofficial anthem (and required listening at many social gatherings this fall). The musicians behind the song — David Grellier, a French electronic artist who performs as College, and Austin Garrick and Bronwyn Griffin, who make up Electric Youth — made their joint U.S. debut last night at the opening of denim atelier 3x1, hosted by Scott Morrison. Before their set, Vulture caught up with the trio to discuss "Real Hero," eighties movies, and whether they managed to score a white satin Driver jacket. (They have not ... yet.)

It's been a big fall for you.
David Grellier: We’re surprised and not surprised, because we know the importance of the music in the movie is great. But it's very impressive, for us, I think.
Austin Garrick: We couldn't have asked for more from our first film. The film is the embodiment of the emotions we tried to capture in our music.

Ryan Gosling kept describing the movie as a John Hughes movie with head smashing. Did you think about eighties movies when making music?
AG: It's ingrained in us, the feelings that we got from those movies. We're definitely very inspired by film. I actually have a Pretty in Pink DVD with me in my bag that I always just carry, so if I'm just hanging out …
DG: I like Ferris Bueller's Day Off.
AG: Oh, I brought Ferris Bueller too.

And this particular song, what was the inspiration behind it?
AG: [Laughs.] It's amazing the coincidences that came together. Really, it started separate, as two ideas. On my side, I had this conversation with my grandfather, and he had been really moved by Captain Sully Sullenberger, who had crash landed that plane safely. He was the one who came to me talking about “a real human being and a real hero.” That was my grandpas' words, so I should credit him for that. And at the same time, I was like, how can I make this into a cool song, something about a hero. Then after a couple months, totally coincidental, David sends me this instrumental, titled "A Real Hero," already …
DG: I wanted to give a homage to that lonely hero that we see in movies like Mad Max … people who make their own choice and try to save lives. I want to give an homage. It was a coincidence.
AG: So really it came together like that, the first half of the song is very much Mad Max inspired. We are really inspired by films, and it was the thought of his character. And the second verse, the inspiration was Sully Sullenberger.
DG: When we finished the EP, I wanted to make video for the track, and I asked a friend from L.A. to shoot something inside the L.A. River.
AG: That was a video concept we had had!

AG: This is two years ago!
DG: Two years ago, I thought about that, and my friend said no. It's a very eighties reference, Terminator 2 and Grease also. He said no, it's impossible, and then we saw the first tape of the movie.
AG: It was like, wow, this is the ultimate music video.

How did you end up getting in the movie?
DG: They contacted us.
AG: We're still not 100 percent sure who showed it to Nicolas. We think maybe it was Matt Newman, right?
DG: Yeah, but I think also Ryan Gosling.
AG: Really?
DG: Don't say it was him who chose the music, but he had a great effect on the choice of shooting during the movie, because he knew L.A. very well.

So do you hear the song everywhere now? It feels like it's everywhere; it comes on at parties.
AG: We haven't really been out much, there’s been no time. So we don't know. That's really cool. The impression we're getting really just comes from what we see online. And we can see it's definitely made an impact. People getting "Real Human Being" tattoos. [To Greiller.] I don't know if I showed this to you?
DG: I saw it. It made me afraid.

So the Driver character is gonna be a huge Halloween costume, I think.
DG: I figured, yeah.
AG: Are we gonna? Is that what you're asking?

Would you ever wear those jackets, is I guess what I'm asking?
AG: We would love to. If they gave us …

You know they made them!
AG: I would love to have one.
DG: It's strange, though.
AG: I agree. It'd be nice to have one, though.

You could probably call in a favor?
AG: We're still owed a few memorabilia items.
DG: We have already asked for some posters, and we're waiting.
AG: This kind of stuff means a lot to us.

Photo: SHAUN MADER/Patrick McMullan