Catching Up With Chromeo

Music Features Chromeo
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When David 1 and P-Thugg—aka Chromeo—were building up the breakdowns and tracks of the dance floor anthems that would eventually form the track list of White Women, they were holed up in an industrial space in Bushwick that served as the electronic duo’s beat laboratory. They brought all their “crazy old keyboards and computers” into this dumpy little room, and they did what they do best: they cut out the distractions, tuned out everyone else and got to work. The experiments they carried out within the confines of their makeshift Brooklyn studio hatched the first strains of Chromeo’s most insatiably addictive hooks yet, from the relatable angst of “Jealous” to the kinetic chemistry popping off in collaborations with Solange, Ezra Koenig of Vampire Weekend and Toro y Moi.

“We love that Beastie Boys basement vibe!” says P-Thugg, cracking a smile. White Women definitely doesn’t sound like it was crafted in your mama’s basement, but its youthful energy and enthusiasm totally reflects the time they spent geeking out in Bushwick over their new creations. “It’s the most fun we’ve ever had making music, says Dave 1. “I don’t say this to be generic; we were just literally laughing the whole time. Even though we’ve worked harder and longer on this record than we had with any other record before, it was way more fun.”

We met up with Chromeo for a minute at Terminal 5 in New York City before their sold-out show, and it’s clear that these guys are just as excited to be rolling out the White Women show as the fans giving their beat a run for their money.

Paste : When did you guys arrive in New York?
Dave 1: Two days ago.
P-Thugg: Really? Shit.
D1: Wow.
PT: Every day seems like a week!

Paste : Well, it’s go time for you, really: the record just came out, this tour behind it began back around Coachella, and festivals are becoming more and more your forte. I feel like your music works so perfectly in that setting, given the vibe and the crowds and such. What is it about White Women that makes it work into your live set at the moment?
D1: The songs thump more. When we play “Jealous” and “Come Alive,” we get a reaction just from the low-end frequencies and the drums that we don’t get on our other tracks. Those songs have a really nice build. By the chorus, people can rage. (laughs)

Paste : “Frequent Flier”, too—that one’s my favorite, anyway.
D1: We’ll play that one tonight! That one’s also really good live. “Sexy Socialite” is really fun to play, too.
PT: A lot of them are more interesting to play because we’re now supported by heavy drums and bass. We can just sing the choruses at the top of our lungs, the top of our top boxes. It’s just a more immediate response, whether you know the song or not. Before, you had to kind of know us and be into us to know it. It was a bit harder to reach outsiders at the festivals. Now, it just seems like anybody who’s hearing those guitar licks and those big drums, they gravitate towards the set.

Paste : There are so many fantastic collaborations on White Women, too. How do they feed into your enthusiasm and that of the crowd?
PT: Well, most of the collaborations, we already had those on the last record.
D1: Ezra [Koenig, of Vampire Weekend] was the bonus track on the last record. Solange was on the last record. We just sort of made it more interesting; Solange is way more involved on this record. She’s more than a guest; she’s on half [“Lost On The Way Home”] and a total cowriter. Ezra is almost like an auteur because that’s all his song. Toro Y Moi, that’s brand new. It’s a mix of old and new, really. There’s a bunch of behind-the-scenes collaborators. It’s a record where the credits are fun to read, which was always something I liked to do as a kid.

Paste : Are the liner notes super important to you?
D1: Hell yeah! We both loved that. There’s a Grammy for best liner notes …
PT: It’s a part of collecting records and learning about musicians and who’s playing on what. That’s something we want to give, too.

Paste : What’s something you walked away with from working on these particular collaborations? How was White Women a learning experience for Chromeo?
D1: Having this open studio, curatorial approach, we basically saw how Kanye did it on his last couple of albums, like on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, where he posted up in Hawaii and just had all these people come through. We felt like doing our version of that in a way. It’s really stimulating to have everybody chime in and try to integrate feedback from some people who don’t even necessarily have musical language. Like, our A&R, he doesn’t have technical ways of expressing himself, but he has a good ear. We like some of those challenges.
PT: What’s also interesting is not only working with other musicians, but working with non-musicians, and seeing how they approach every song. “That would kind of sound good here, and there—” and then you realize it may be a fun way of looking at it. We’re so in our own world and in the studio 24/7 thinking about that one thing, and as soon as somebody comes in with a different approach, whether it’s the music, or the sequence of this song, or whether or not you repeat the chorus, it’s stuff you learn from that, too. No matter how advanced the person is, musically, a good pair of ears is a good pair of ears. A shit pair of ears is good, too, because they pick up on other stuff that you sometimes take for granted!
D1: Here’s the thing: up until now, Chromeo, our vibe was to have zero perspective. Our goal was to be two guys in a vacuum, making this music that wasn’t trendy, being the only ones making this kind of music, and fuck you, take it or leave it, you know? With White Women, we had to challenge ourselves and say, no, let’s make this more of an open process, because that’ll be more stimulating for us.

Paste : We’ve got 10 years in between She’s In Control, your first full-length, and White Women, a solid decade of work littered with hundreds of songs and thousands of live performances. What is the biggest difference between the Chromeo of 2004 and the Chromeo of 2014?
D1: It’s massive!
PT: We were always and still are on a learning curve with this—the music, the production, everything. To us, it’s just, you know, step by step, we’re learning. We started this and we didn’t even know what we were going to make.
D1: I never sang into a microphone before “Needy Girl.” We’re still learning and putting it together. White Women, we agree that the production is at its peak so far, but there’s no such thing as a peak. You’ve gotta go higher. We’ve gotta keep perfecting it. Our whole thing was that people could kind of dismiss us as a joke band, a schtick band, but the reality is, we’re on a quest to make music that’s complex. It’s super funny, it’s lighthearted, and it’s cheesy in many ways, but it’s deep and intellectual and emotional, and genuine, and heartfelt, and earnest and sensitive. The further we go, the more extreme the opposites get. When we really nail it, it all makes sense together.