What Is a Daft Punk? Explaining France's Preeminent Robots

01/27/2014 at 01:25 PM EST

Daft Punk Explained
Daft Punk in 2014
Matt Sayles/Invision/AP
While not exactly on par with the "Who Is Arcade Fire" fiasco of 2011, it's pretty amazing that Daft Punk cleaned up at the Grammys on Sunday night. Not just because the album, Random Access Memories, was a lovingly-crafted homage to music spanning nearly four decades, but because it was made by two Frenchman who've spent a career hiding behind elaborate robot masks.

If you're confused – or know someone who is – we're here to help.

What is Daft Punk?

Daft Punk is an electronic music duo from France, consisting of Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter. They've been recording since 1997. (Laurent Brancowitz, currently of the band Phoenix, was one of the group's original members.)

What kind of music does Daft Punk make?



Broadly, "electronic dance music." While Random Access Memories purposefully looked backwards into the genre's early roots with nods at disco (the inclusion of Nile Rodgers), '70s film scores (Paul Williams) and early synth pioneers (that Giorgio Moroder monologue), pre-2013, Daft Punk was most known for pummeling, repetitively enthralling dance music heavy on the vocoder, synthesizers and drum machines.

Where else do I know Daft Punk from?



Well, if you didn't know them prior to "Get Lucky", you almost certainly know them through the song by now. Before that song, you were probably peripherally familiar with either "Around the World" or "One More Time," though both of those songs – while hitting no. 1 on the U.S. Dance chart – failed to make it higher than no. 61 on the Billboard Hot 100. Kanye West sampled "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger" for his 2008 song, "Stronger." The pair also scored Tron: Legacy and made cameo appearances in the film.

What's with the helmets?

What Is a Daft Punk? Explaining France's Preeminent Robots| Daft Punk, Grammy Awards 2014, Random Access Memories

Daft Punk unmasked in a rare interview from 1995

The duo are just not that big on being seen, preferring to use animation or costumed people in early videos, and we guess they've become accustomed to either the privacy or swagger afforded by really high-end robot helmets. However, the best explanation is given by Bangalter himself: "We did not decide to become robots. There was an accident in our studio. We were working on our sampler, and at exactly 9:09 a.m. on September 9, 1999, it exploded. When we regained consciousness, we discovered that we had become robots."

What other Daft Punk is out there?



There is so much more Daft Punk. Alive 2007 is a pretty great document (sonically if not visually) of the group's legendarily insane live shows – which, side note, you should really make an effort to attend – and how they tend to blur the lines of their own songs mid-set. That said, we've also put together a playlist of their best studio cuts, because we love you. Enjoy.

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