Chromeo's Layered Funk
Published May 22, 2014Even as Chromeo ready the release of their fourth LP, Dave Macklovitch (a.k.a. Dave 1) doesn't blame you for having preconceived notions about his Montreal-based disco-funk duo. Or, at least, he gets it. "I can completely see the doubt about us. If you look at us, you have a tall smart-aleck that's doing a PhD and singing this 'lowbrow' funk stuff, and you got another dude with gold teeth and a bunch of analogue synthesizers [Patrick Gemayel, a.k.a. P-Thugg], and when we started out we were referencing what was considered to be the least trendy music in the entire Western canon. So I understand where it came from."
The band garnered attention with their 2004 single "Needy Girl" and capitalized on it with the 2007 breakthrough album Fancy Footwork, on which the duo laid out the themes that would characterize their work. New album White Women, Macklovitch explains, "is a return to the Fancy Footwork effusiveness, the happy, poppy stuff, but with a layer of sophistication."
According to him, that layer of sophistication runs deep; or, at least deeper than naysayers might believe Chromeo capable of.
"There is deeper social commentary to what we do, there are those aesthetic layers. There's a lot of self-parody, and there's a lot of musical nerdiness. We really wanted to turn the lothario thing on its head and exaggerate the fact that the persona who sings all the Chromeo songs is actually a really vulnerable anti-heroic character. That's why we came up with the term 'Larry David funk.' We talk about neuroses in relationships; the challenge is to make that into catchy, poppy dance tracks."
That they did: White Women is loaded with infectious disco anthems that rub shoulders with yacht-pop gems. Propulsive lead single "Jealous (I Ain't With It)" kicks the album off and, judging both by its radio play and reception at recent shows, might just be their biggest hit yet. At the risk of being overwhelming, the dance floor numbers are tempered by slower fare that balance the album out: Solange drops by for a soulful guest spot and Ezra Koenig of Vampire Weekend gets his own mellow interlude.
For all the sophistication and layers, however, Macklovitch says that the first priority for Chromeo will always be getting bodies moving.
"What I want to stress is that our music can also be appreciated very, very, very superficially. My model was always The Simpsons. When I was a kid, I just watched it to see Barney burp; my father would watch it for the social commentary. I think that's the best way music, and a lot of artistic and cultural production, can be enjoyed: You have very superficial enjoyment that's offered to you and that's totally fun and feels great, and you have a deeper level of enjoyment that's also accessible if you want it."