Chromeo // Interview

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Words: Tom Edwards | Photos: Kyle Dean Reinford

“Obviously we’ll still have our trademark legged keyboards,” reassures singer/guitarist Dave 1 as your correspondent clumsily battles an unfamiliar audio recorder and attempts to fill the time with a cursory chat about the band’s re-jigged stageshow.

Conversely, technology is something Chromeo have clearly been coming to grips with over the years since their viral hit Needy Girl first secured them a place in the clubgoers’ psyche. It sounds almost Casio-like in comparison to their forthcoming album, White Women, with its mid-’80s Riviera sound and slick edges.

It has been almost four years since the duo’s third and most recent record Business Casual became their first to dent the Billboard chart. Electro house, chillwave and dubstep have since entered the mainstream and gone on to supersede the 2000s’ love affair with new wave, whilst the frivolous and fun side of electronic music – Chromeo’s home turf one might posit – appears to be waning even in the terrain of chart popin 2014.

Whenever electronic music goes one way we always find ourselves going the other way inadvertently.

“We’re so not influenced by what happens in electronic music,” laughs a palpably unworried P-Thugg, compressed to ’P’ for his friends,the second half of the Montreal duo. “Whenever electronic music goes one way we always find ourselves going the other way inadvertently.”

This record was really more about measuring ourselves up against our own discography, but with a chip on our shoulder. We really wanted to improve. We didn’t want to stay stuck in one paradigm and we felt we had to take the chance to expand and reinvent. It still sounds like us, just more modern and hi-octane.”

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For all its grand gestures and yacht-riding swagger, White Women might just be Chromeo’s finest and funnest chunk of plastic to date. While there’s no mistaking the graft they’ve put into shaping the songs and sounds across the record, they have crucially kept the whimsy amped up to the hilt to balance the effect, and offset any potential stiltedness. They’ve also made room once again for a collaboration with Solange (album highlight Lost On The Way Home), a guest on Business Casual, and features from Toro Y Moi and Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig.

“I had the idea of getting Toro Y Moi on the record, because as a fan… okay, it wasn’t even really me that was a fan,” admits Dave sheepishly, “all the girls I was hanging out with were fans. Girls really like him, so I got a little bit jealous and reached out to him and he wanted to do it. Then we became huge fans as well. The video shoot for [the new album’s lead single] Come Alive was an all-nighter. It was gruelling, aside from the feminine company. Toro was a trooper. He’d just got engaged and he’s getting married soon, so I think he got a kick out of making out with the girls in the video… in a totally legitimised way, obviously! It was like his bachelor party!”

One of our proudest achievements is the evolution of London rooms that we’ve played

“I met Ezra when I was starting my PhD at Columbia University while he was still an undergrad there. He went to Chromeo’s first show in New York, which happened to be our second ever show in the history of the band. More than ten years ago he was in the audience. We’ve been friendly ever since and we’re big mutual fans.”It turns out that their connection to London goes rather deeper than simply tripping over to complete White Women, which was mastered here and mixed by Dave Bascombe, the man behind two eighties chart goliaths in the form of Tears For Fears’ Songs From The Big Chair and Depeche Mode’s Music For The Masses.

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“One of our first gigs in London was a DJ set in 2003 for [legendary hip hop producer and DJ] Arthur Baker. He never paid us, so we were pretty mad at the time. We’ve made up since, so it’s all good! But yeah, we have really deep roots there. One of our proudest achievements is the evolution of London rooms that we’ve played, from Water Rats to Roundhouse. It went like this: Water Rats, Bush Hall, Scala, Koko, Shepherds Bush Empire, The Forum and Roundhouse.Next stop Brixton!”

As you’d expect from the duo’s many visits, they’re not short of an anecdote or two from their time here.
They speak about them with a visible fondness: “We’ve spent so much time in London that we’ve created habits like going to Nando’s, obsessively eating Monster Munch and drinking Ribena. Oh, and going to Helen’s on Edgware Road after shows, that’s a ritual for us,” smiles P. “I remember after playing Glastonbury one year, we were holed up in our hotel room in London all day cleaning mud out of our equipment and ditching it on the floor. That was funny.” “What was that really cheap hotel we used to stay in? Premier Inn?’ asks Dave. “I vividly remember staying at one of those one night and P was sharing a room with our sound guy.I had my own room and I brought a girl over and the bed kept splitting in two because it was two single beds pushed together. There are so many stories I could tell you of us coming up like that.”

And on that bittersweet note our time is up. I leave safely betting that White Women continues this brazen duo’s rise and that their future is filled with nothing but fine hotels and double-bedded bliss.

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White Women is released May 12th via Parlophone

Chromeo play The Roundhouse June 6th