Since their 2004 debut album, She’s In Control, Montreal-based Chromeo have finessed their way into almost every facet of the public realm; a strange but fitting extension of their charming and idiosyncratic music. Coincidentally, the group is no stranger to serendipity. From their almost premature signing, to their surprise celebrity endorsements, it seems like Dave 1 and P-Thugg were fated to make a massive impact on the music industry.

With cited influences like Zapp and Hall and Oates, musical intricacies reminiscent of Prince and Giorgio Moroder, and a long line of club producers and DJs behind them, it is damn-near impossible to classify Chromeo’s music. This is the type of prototypical greatness that you will be telling your kids about one day. Format caught up with Chromeo’s Dave 1 on a snowy New York afternoon, to figure out how it all came together. 

“A lot of people can do electro stuff, or dance floor bangers that are way more effective than us, but we’re the song-writing types.”

Format: So Fancy Footwork was re-released this year, as was the “Momma’s Boy” 12-inch. When is the new album dropping? 

Chromeo: We’ve been pushing Fancy Footwork for about a year and a half, and “Momma’s Boy” was gonna be the last single and video for it. We’re starting to work on a new record right now. 

Format: Do you have a working title for it? 

Chromeo: We’re just starting demos right now, so no. 

Format: What direction would you say the band is moving in, with this next release? 
Chromeo: Again, it’s really early to say, but songs like “Momma’s Boy” and “100%” are a good indicator of what we want the record to sound like. We want to do more smooth, ballad-y stuff. That’s kind of like our lane, you know? A lot of people can do electro stuff, or dance floor bangers that are way more effective than us, but we’re the song-writing types.

Format: Chromeo garnered heavy club rotation this year. How did you end up collaborating with Surkin on “Chrome Knight”?
Chromeo: He is a good buddy of ours, and had done the remix for Fancy Footwork when the 12-inch came out; we actually put out that record twice. The first time, it had remixes by D.I.M., Surkin, and [Tomas Barfod of] WhoMadeWho. The second time, it had remixes by Crookers, Laidback Luke, and Kissy Sellout. Anyway, when he was doing the track for us, we decided on a trade-off. He was like, “I want you to do vocals on [Chrome Knight].”

Format: You [Dave 1] have recently been snapped spinning records alongside your brother, A-Trak. Will we be seeing a future collaboration? 

Chromeo: It’s funny, because we’ve only done that twice. We’re doing it tonight again actually, at the Fools Gold holiday party. A lot of people have been talking about it – maybe we will – but I’m such an inferior DJ to him [laughs]. I don’t know what I could bring, but people seem to get a kick out of it, so maybe we’ll do a small tour in the future.

Format: Do you ever feel the need to compete with each other? 

Chromeo: Nah man, not at all. If anything, we’ve gotten closer and closer. He’s got one foot in hip-hop, and one foot in electronica; that’s kind of my background, too. I’m an artist and he’s a DJ – they are very compatible professions.

Format: Chromeo’s sound is incredibly unique. How did you decide to fuse the various musical elements? 

Chromeo: It was trial and error, because we got a deal before we even knew what we were gonna do. We didn’t even know what electronic music was. We were hip-hop kids. We started toying around demos, and realized that we had a bunch of 80s records that we loved listening to, so we started drawing inspiration from that. Then P-Thugg started getting into the whole analog synthesizer thing, and that’s how it kind of came together. 

Format: Why use a talk-box in the age of Auto-Tune? 

Chromeo: We’ve been using a talk-box since our high school band, back when we were 16 years old. It has always been P’s thing, since he’s a big fan of Zapp and Roger, West Coast hip-hop, and all that. It’s a big part of our live shows, because not a lot of people know how to use one properly. On our album we actually use the talk-box, Auto-Tune, and a vocoder. It’s hard to tell which is which though, because we do it in a more subtle way than some of the R&B guys on the radio.

Format: Describe for us an experience that had an impact on your music, be it positive or negative. 

Chromeo: During my formative years, probably seeing Michael Jackson at the Motown Awards. Seeing him moonwalk at ten years old – it was mesmerizing. That was when I fell in love with pop music as an extension of soul and funk, and everything we do is kind of attributed to that. When I was 15 or 16 years old, I saw that movie “Wildstyle.” Up until that point, I was into classic rock, some jazz stuff, and even prog-rock. After I saw that, it was like, “This culture… this art form is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen in my life.” I don’t think I ever practiced my guitar after that day; I started making beats, and my brother became a DJ. 

As far as Chromeo, I’d say when The Beastie Boys asked us to open for them, because they were my idols growing up. I used to dress like them; I knew all the liner-notes by heart. They were the first hipsters in a way; they made it cool for nerdy white kids to listen to Curtis Mayfield records. When they asked us to open for them though, I hadn’t been following them recently, and it was a huge surprise to see them on the side of the stage singing along with our tracks; Adrock is a super-fan. Also, this summer, Daryl Hall asked us to play at his house with him. We came to his house and recorded eight songs – that was huge. [Hall and Oates] had a huge bearing on how Chromeo makes music; they were one of our biggest influences, if not the biggest. 

Format: Can you speak on the concept of romance? Is it dead? 

Chromeo: I wouldn’t say it’s dead, but right now I’m seeing the bad end of it. It’s fun to talk about in a track though; we try to in a way that’s naïve, but not cheesy or ironic. I don’t think about it too much though – just write the songs and make the connections. We’re also inspired by a lot of R&B, like Ne-Yo and The Dream. That Dream album is the best of the past year, and nobody knows it. Honestly though, if we made music like they do, it would sound contrived, so we make our own version, [featuring] a nerdy Jewish kid [on vocals].

Format: What do you look for in a perfect woman? 

Chromeo: Obviously if I were to say “smart and good-looking,” that would be a cliché [laughs], but they should also dress well and be very nurturing. Quite a handful…

Format: Hey, we asked you to describe your perfect woman; you’re allowed to be picky! Thanks so much for your time. Is there anything else you’d like to address?

Chromeo: We just want to shout out the people that have been supporting us; without them, we’d be no one. I just hope they’ll be patient and wait for our next album to drop.

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Andrew Rennie

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