Chromeo Talks Morality & Music Before Final Webster Show



EmbedPhoto: Courtesy of Loren Wohl.


We’ve written about our love of electro-funk duo Chromeo, and its intellectual, facetious, crazy-addictive, crazy-danceable tunes before. The band (Montreal bffs David Macklovitch, a.k.a. Dave 1, and Patrick Gemayel, a.k.a. P-Thugg) is dropping a fourth album come spring. While we're not sure to laugh or cringe at the title — White Women — we are definitely looking forward to its release.

A week before the sold-out show at Webster Hall, Macklovitch spoke with us about the highs of this recording process, balancing serious social issues with their tongue-in-cheek style, and his side project with Gemayel designing a winter capsule collection for French art studio Surface to Air.

So, tell us about White Women. What did you want this album to sound like?
“Well, first of all, we wanted to improve. We came at it from a very humble standpoint, which was we’re still learning to be better singers and songwriters and producers. And, then in terms of atmosphere and vibe, we wanted this record to be a little bit more effusive, happy, poppy than our last record but also to have moments of real sophistication. We wanted to jack up both the highbrow dimension of Chromeo and the lowbrow dimension of Chromeo.”

Sounds like fun. Were you guys happier when you made this record?
“Yeah, absolutely. It’s the most fun we’ve ever had making music together. When I sang [Patrick] the third verse to ‘Over Your Shoulder,’ it was almost like I was doing stand-up, you know? It’s this thing with us where you never know if it’s entirely tongue in cheek. Like at the end of the day, ‘Over Your Shoulder’ deals with really serious issues. It’s [about] self-esteem in a culture where we have so many young girls who have eating disorders, and where you’re bombarded with images of women that will f*ck with the head of any teenage girl. At the same time, for me it’s much cooler to talk about it in a song where I say, ‘I wanna take a bath with you in it.’”

Can you delve deeper into those social issues? Tell us more about "Over Your Shoulder" and about “Sexy Socialite.”
“Well, ‘Over Your Shoulder’ is a song that deals with women’s insecurities, and the guy who’s singing is saying, like, stop looking over your shoulder, let me boost your self-esteem. It could sound really preachy, but we made it, hopefully, in a fun, lighthearted way. Musically, ‘Over Your Shoulder’ is really smooth. It’s got that '70s-FM-radio, driving-on-Sunset vibe. ‘Sexy Socialite’ is really up-tempo. It’s got almost a Talking Heads vibe. The lyrics [are about] me pleading with a girl — like, you just care about being on the guest list. I say, ‘You’re a sexy socialite/I wish you were a socialist.’ And, the chorus is completely ridiculous because I say, 'I could be your boyfriend and your counselor.' It’s a love song. At the end of the day, we’re guys talking about girls.”

OK, so why did you call the new album White Women?
“I was at a Helmut Newton retrospective in Paris a year and a half ago, and they listed off all the titles of Helmut Newton’s books. Helmut Newton has always been this huge influence on us. You know, we have the legs and that kind of sexy, '70s soft porn imagery in what we do. And, it said ‘Helmut Newton’s first book, White Women.’ So, I called P and I was like, ‘Dude, why don’t we call our album that?’

“And, everything you asked me about women, you can apply that to Helmut Newton’s photography. On the one hand, it’s fashion. But, it’s also vulgar. But, it’s also artistic and intellectual. And, he took photos of all kinds of women, from porn stars to anorexic models.”

We want to talk about Surface to Air. You guys designed a capsule collection for them. Tell us how that came about.
“Well, Surface to Air has been our art director since [our second album,] Fancy Footwork. The legs keyboard-stands [we use] was a Surface to Air idea. I know them from when I was living in Paris. We forged this creative partnership with them, and then they offered to do the capsule collection. That’s been in talks...forever. But, then we figured now would be the right time to do it. So, we designed a little capsule — two pieces that I designed, two pieces that P designed. I did a leather jacket and a pair of leather pants, and P did a Versace-style shirt and a bomber [jacket].”

Why leather jacket and pants?
“Well, on stage I wear a leather jacket, right? I used to do suits, too, but I’m not gonna wear suits anymore. I’m just gonna do the leather jacket thing now. And, then, I mean, leather pants.... What’s more Chromeo than a pair of leather pants?”