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Chromeo keep at what's proven a successful recipe
words Sven CarlssonChromeo: Don't Turn The Lights On
With Business Casual, Chromeo’s third album and second successful mainstream release, the Montreal duo showed that their flashy, pop-tinged funk is here to stay. Beatnik caught up with P-Thugg, one half of the group, during their recent North American tour.
When Tiga, a legend of the Montreal music scene, asked his friend Dave 1 to make a record on his Turbo label with his long-time collaborator P-Thugg, the music that resulted took a few steps away from the underground hip-hop, Superrappin’-type cuts they had been making until that point.
Their 2004 debut She’s in Control was a tribute to 80′s funk—its sounds, melodies and vocal effects. Aside from the all-white, retro aesthetics of the video, the album’s single ‘Needy Girl’ contained the whole package; a talk-box chorus, synth jingles and a thumping slap bass. The album was so stylized that many thought it to be a fad, or even a joke.
“We try to keep it multi-layered. Your mother and your grandmother can enjoy it, but if you’re looking for musical references and deeper stuff—more than what the avid listener will recognize—there is that too,” says P-Thugg from the bus that moved them across North America for their Risky Business tour promoting their third album Business Casual. “We try not to make it just empty stuff that is catchy. There’s a lot of substance to it and a lot of work. If you’re a music nerd, you’ll recognize all the references and the little jokes here and there.”
P, the man behind the talk box and the group’s sonic perfectionist, agrees that there is an element of humour in Chromeo’s music. But the group, now three albums and several globally-spanning tours deep, has also shown a sincere appreciation for a genre they love. Comedy cannot take the upper hand.
“There are two layers. When you start and have that initial idea… then if it’s catchy, it’s a good idea. And after that you start knitting around the idea and add musical references. But what’s important is that the actualy song cannot be a big joke. What’s around it, how the song is built with the references, can be fun. But the core of the song has to be a good idea. Then you can work around that.”
Do you have one favourite reference?
“It’s hard to say. There’s the song ‘Grow Up’ where we tapped into the 50′s/80′s thing. In the 80′s, a lot of artists incorporated elements of 50′s music into their work. I think we approached that with a lot of care in the song ‘Grow Up’. That’ll be our contribution to music theory [laughs].”
The duo’s fruitful partnership, which has Dave 1 work mostly on melodies and lyrics while P-Thugg cooks up the signature synths and guitar riffs, has seen them jump from Vice Records to Atlantic; from ‘Needy Girl’ being a one-off track on their debut to having hits such as ‘Hot Mess’, ‘Night by Night’ and ‘Don’t Turn the Lights On’ all on their latest release Business Casual. As P-Thugg says, Chromeo have proven that “you can do a lot with” 80′s music — enough to keep them occupied, at least.Chromeo: Hot Mess
“It’s become very time-consuming so it’s hard to say it’s a side-project. But we try to not let it take over our lives, because we like to do other things too. We just need to find a balance. If you let it take over your life, then you start not enjoying it as much. You need a good balance and to do other stuff. This is the only music thing we do. The rest is… well, Dave’s in school studying literature, I do the accounting for the band.”
With gigs at the Brixton Academy and at the 02 Wireless Festival to come in 2011, P-Thug sees no reason not to carry on his and Dave 1′s immensely successful project.
“As long as people want to hear the songs and see us play we can keep going. If it stays the same and everybody’s happy, why not? I think we can keep going for a while. The coolest thing for us is to become sustainable and not necessarily cross over pop charts or anything. It started as a side-project for the fun and the art, and that’s how we want to keep it.”
Buy Business Casual