Chromeo: It’s their time to shine
They’ve been dismissed as a joke band, but with their new album, ‘White Women’, it’s time Montreal duo Chromeo were taken seriously, says David ‘Dave 1’ Macklovitch
It’s Chromeo time again. Since debut album She’s In Control in 2004, Montreal duo David “Dave 1” Macklovitch and Patrick “P-Thugg” Gemayel have become the first, last and middle word in dancefloor-friendly electrofunk high japes. Their new album, White Women, has just gone on release, its title borrowed from fashion photographer Helmut Newton.
Where did the Helmut Newton homage come from?
“White Women was the first book of photos that he brought out in the 1970s. I became aware of it at an exhibition and the titles just knocked me out. I rang P-Thugg there and then and went: ‘Yo, I’m standing at an exhibition and the titles are incredible, like check this one out, White Women’. It would have been such a great title for a Roxy Music or David Bowie album so we decided we should just use it.”
Is this Chromeo’s only nod to the fashion world?
“Well, there’s two different sides to fashion to me. There’s the consumer and the industry aspect, which is cool, but that doesn’t have any real effect on us. Style, though, is another matter. We always look at old photos and old album covers and YouTube videos of 1970s and 1980s groups to see what they were wearing.
“Architecture also has an effect, but I don’t want to mention that too much because it sounds pretentious. ‘I am so influenced by architecture on this album’. Dude, shut up! The truth is it really does stimulate us, but for a guy from Chromeo to walk around saying that? I would slap myself.”
What did you do in the four years since last album Business Casual?
“We toured for two years before we got into the studio and it took us a year-and-a-half to finish the record and another six months to set it up right. We take our time, we’re not fast workers, we keep everything kind of casual.
“The early plan was just to work harder. We wanted to give ourselves new challenges and one of them was to spend way more time on every aspect of the record, from songwriting to recording to arrangements to vocal production.”
Was that a reaction to the fact that some regard Chromeo as a joke band?
“There are some quarters where we’re not taken seriously, but that doesn’t matter as long as people enjoy our music. I don’t care if people take us seriously or not. I can’t sit here and dictate how Chromeo should be perceived. The only thing I can do is make better and better music and I think we’ve achieved that on this record. More people do take us more seriously now than before.”
But there is still a light-hearted hue to the new album, isn’t there?
“It ain’t easy, man. The paradox about Chromeo is that it’s difficult to make this music seem so light-hearted. There’s a very fine line. If we go too quirky and funny, we’re a joke band. If we go too campy, it doesn’t have staying power. If we go too serious, it’s not Chromeo. There’s a really fine line between all those elements and a tremendous amount of work goes in maintaining all of that in a way.”
There are a lot of collaborators on the album. How did you persuade such super-busy people to contribute?
“What I didn’t realise is that we have a legacy of songs which people knew and were fans of. I never had any relationship with Pat Mahoney, for example. He lives a couple of blocks from my house and I always see him at this restaurant. We never said ‘hi’ and just kind of ignored each other, like two really mature grown men. I saw him at the LCD Soundsystem show and he did a beast of a drum solo. When we did Sexy Socialite, we decided to ask him to come along and he said ‘for sure’.
“Ezra from Vampire Weekend is one of my best friends so that was a no-brainer. Solange was on our last album so she was happy to be onboard again. Who would l like to contribute with? Oh man, Haim. We definitely want to work with them. I think it would be crazy when we get into the studio with those girls.”
White Women is out now on Atlantic