Artist Interviews

Q&A: Chromeo

By | Published on Wednesday 16 November 2011


Chromeo’s David Macklovitch (Dave 1) and Patrick Gemayel (P-Thugg) met at high school in Montreal, later signing to Canadian DJ/producer Tiga’s label, Turbo, for the release of their 2004 debut, ‘She’s In Control’. Breakthrough single ‘Needy Girl’ then placed an international spotlight on the band’s flair for instant electrofunk gratification, recasting the duo as in-demand remixers for the likes of Cut Copy, Feist and Vampire Weekend.

Macklovitch and Gemayel made a bigger impact, both critically and commercially, with second album ‘Fancy Footwork’, which proved a mine of crossover hits, as popular as an ad campaign soundtrack as it was a credible club success story. Most recently glimpsed collaborating with Solange Knowles on their latest single, ‘When The Night Falls’, the duo have toured non-stop in support of their most recent LP, ‘Business Casual’, which was released last year.

Ahead of a headline date at the London Forum on 25 Nov CMU Editor Andy Malt caught up with singer Dave 1 to discuss Chromeo’s past exploits, present progress and future plans.

AM: When you first started working on music together at high school, what sort of sound did those early songs have?
DM: This was in like 1992, I was fourteen years old. I’d say the songs were acid jazz inspired at first. The first Jamiroquai album had just dropped. We were into that, Incognito, Brand New Heavies – I’ve just started re-listening to those records by the way. It’s time for an acid jazz comeback! The first Roots album was a huge influence on us as well. Then we got deeper into 70s and 80s funk and started producing hip hop with the record collections we amassed.

AM: How long did it take to develop your sound into something that was recognisably Chromeo? Was it a direction you intentionally went in or was it something that happened naturally?
DM: It took a while. We had no defined creative direction when we first signed to Turbo, we didn’t know what we were doing. We just started producing tracks that weren’t hip hop and it naturally evolved from there. Pee got deeper into synths, I wrote more lyrics. Somewhere along the line the 80s funk influence gelled. We picked up on it on records like Les Rythmes Digitales and Daft Punk’s ‘Discovery’, and wanted to take it even further. We had ‘Woman Friend’, we had ‘So Gangsta’. By the time we did ‘Needy Girl’, the direction became clear…

AM: How do you see Chromeo progressing over time? Is it something you could continue with indefinitely, or do you see it as time-limited in any way?
DM: Indefinitely, inasmuch as we’ve proven to ourselves that we can expand our sound enough to include ideas that don’t initially correspond to the typical Chromeo style. Take ‘Momma’s Boy’ or ‘J’ai Claqué la Porte’, for instance. ‘Momma’s Boy’ remains one of our biggest tracks – once we saw how well it was received, it was like: “OK, we can make anything work within Chromeo”. Same with ‘Don’t Turn The Lights On’. Our artistic challenge is to refine our sound, make it more sophisticated, richer, even more polished, become better writers and better players, and all the while maintain the ingenuity of tracks like ‘Tenderoni’ or ‘Bonafied’. It’s a tall order and we could be at it for a while.

AM: You’re preparing to go record your fourth album now. When do you start? Do you already have it mapped out, or will the songs form in the studio?
DM: I’ve been coming up with song ideas for the past year and Pee’s about to start making demos next month. We’ll both be writing during the spring and come summer we’ll most likely start to record.

AM: You produced Adam Kesher’s album, ‘Challenging Nature’ album. Is producing other artists something you’d like to do more of? How does that differ from producing your own work?
DM: I did the Adam Kesher album because they’re on my good friend’s label. There was a personal connection there. I want to produce more projects but I also want to keep up the Chromeo momentum, so we’ll see. When I get to the producing phase of a Chromeo album, I want to be able to look at it with the same critical perspective as if it were someone else’s music. I think I’ve learned a lot from things we could’ve done different on our last couple of releases and I look forward to being way harder on myself on the next one.

AM: How did your collaboration with Solange Knowles on ‘Business Casual’ come about, and what was she like to work with?
DM: She’s a good friend of my brother A-Trak. We wanted a female vocal for a hook and she was the first one we thought of. She’s truly a pleasure to work with. The session was fun, her sister was there too, we were all just chatting. We actually just performed that track on a big American TV show [‘Late Night with Jimmy Fallon’] with Solange last week.

AM: Who else is on your wish list of people to work with? Are any of them lined up to appear on the new album?
DM: No, there’s no list. Whatever happens organically.

AM: It’s now just over a year since ‘Business Casual’ was released, have the songs changed as you’ve played them live in that time?
DM: We’ve tinkered around a bit with structures, lengths and arrangements to make them as effective as possible live. ‘Night By Night’ has barely changed; ‘Don’t Turn The Lights On’ and ‘Night Falls’ keep getting modified, so it depends.

AM: You’re playing in London on 25 Nov. What can people expect from your final show of 2011?
DM: Lots of dancing and singalongs, as usual. And an emotional outburst of gratitude on our part!

AM: You’ve just announced Skream as your support act. Are you fans of his?
DM: Absolutely – he gave us our first remix on this ‘Business Casual’ campaign. He’s a good dude.

AM: Which other artists are you listening to at the moment?
DM: The new Drake stuff, the new M83 album, the ASAP Rocky mixtape. And oldies, of course.