Chromeo Comes Alive: Dance-funk duo takes the world by storm

by | Aug 28, 2014 | MUSIC

Start with catchy bass lines, add elaborate stage shows and girl loving hooks, and you’ve got the band that’s ripping through the chart this year: Chromeo. Their 2004 debut, She’s In Control, set the table for the next decade of dance music, with their 80s influenced tracks being played in clubs around the world. Their rise has continued with their newest record, White Women, which hit #11 on the Billboard album charts powered by infectious singles “Come Alive” and “Jealous (I Ain’t With It).”

Start with catchy bass lines, add elaborate stage shows and girl loving hooks, and you’ve got the band that’s ripping through the chart this year: Chromeo. Their 2004 debut, She’s In Control, set the table for the next decade of dance music, with their 80s influenced tracks being played in clubs around the world. Their rise has continued with their newest record, White Women, which hit #11 on the Billboard album charts powered by infectious singles “Come Alive” and “Jealous (I Ain’t With It).” This year, Chromeo have taken their fame to new heights and onto the covers of almost every music mag in the country.

In-between their set at Coachella this year and their recent night at The National, during which they worked Richmond into a dance party frenzy, the more vocal half of the duo, Dave1, took a moment to talk with me about touring, playing huge festivals–and of course, women.

How’s the tour going?

It’s good! Good, really good so far. We’re doing a college show in Chicago right now, and then tomorrow we go back to New York.

That sounds exciting. I came out to Coachella that first weekend and caught your set.

Yeah, that was pretty big!

How was it playing in front of that many people?

We were shitting ourselves. Not gonna lie to you.

Yeah, you probably got a lot of nerves before you went up there, huh?

A lot of nerves, yeah. You know what it is, though? I’m cool with playing in front of a big crowd. That’s not a problem. There’s two things that make it tough for Coachella. Number one is you have 20 minutes to change over. So basically, to bring your whole equipment onstage. And we’ve got a pretty elaborate light show, and it takes a lot to get that to work. That’s not easy in 20 minutes. And then secondly, the crowd was so far away from us. They were almost 50 feet away from us. When I was doing the call and response, it would take forever to hear the echo of the crowd back to me, because they’re so far it came at a delay. It was kinda crazy, but it’s all good. It was just a wonderful experience. A total blessing. We’re so happy we got to do this.

I know you’re a hip-hop fan. How was it playing right before OutKast?

It was cool! I mean, you know, obviously like everybody else… Aquemini, ATLiens, but even like their older shit like “Hootie Hoo,” I’ve been a fan since day one. So… it was dope. But at the same time, it’s also heartbreaking sometimes, cause like–I mean, it’s hard for me to say this but I think sometimes you could tell… I don’t know what you think, but couldn’t you tell that they’re not really close anymore, when you were looking at the show?

Yeah…

And it’s tough, especially being in a duo myself, and you grow up listening to those great duos like A Tribe Called Quest and OutKast. Then they break up, and it’s bittersweet when you see them together again.

On that subject, do you ever worry about that with your partnership, your duo? Like seeing into the future?

No, I mean… no. We’re… I don’t wanna… I mean, we’re married, man. We’re not going anywhere.

[Laughs] Yeah, you guys definitely seem like you’re one unit, especially on the new album. Watching the videos, I feel like I’m being pulled into your art project, you know, like, this project you guys been working on forever.

Yeah, definitely, that’s what we want.

When I was watching OutKast, after I’d just heard you guys, I wondered if it would ever possible for you and Andre 3000 to ever do a collab.

That’d be cool, right? That’d be so cool. I mean, who knows–one day, right? With this new album, we’re definitely reaching out to collaborators more and more so… so yeah. You never know; I mean, I hope so. And if not Andre, somebody else, you know. There’s so many people we wanna work with.

Yeah? Anybody high on that list?

I’d love to work with Future. I would love to work with Maxwell. We’re going to work with Haim, we just never made it in time for the record. But we’re probably going to do something with those girls, ’cause we’re friends. But yeah, Haim are like super high on the list of people who I want to work with. Todd East, that would be great. Blood Orange would be great. You know, a bunch of people.

Were there any bands you were hoping to see at Coachella?

We just saw whoever was on on Friday because we left the next day. In both cases, we had a show the next day.

I caught your little brother [A-Trak] with Duck Sauce [duo featuring A-Trak and Armand Van Helden]. That was so nuts. Is it crazy to see your brother doing such big things at the same time you guys are blowing up?

Yeah, I designed that show [and] worked on [it] a lot with him. So it’s a lot of work too, but it’s great. It’s great to be doing that together, and I feel like the Duck Sauce show was really refreshing in an EDM context, the context that it was almost more like a musical.

I definitely thought it stood out.

Yeah, that’s what we try to do.

Speaking of collaboration, on your new album, White Women, “Come Alive” is one of my favorite Chromeo tracks. How’d you get up with Toro Y Moi? How’d you get him to work on your track, and how was that collaboration?

It was great. I love that kid. I wasn’t friends with him before. We’re friends now, but I didn’t know him that well. All these girls kept telling me about him. For real! I’d be in like a restaurant with this girl on a date and one of his songs would come on and the girl would be like “[gasp] Oh my God it’s Toro, oh I love him!” I got really, like, jealous. I was like, “Really? Man, I really gotta reach out to this dude.” I reached out to him and he was like, “Yeah, I’m a fan, let’s do it.” So we got together and we did it. What I like about it is he sounds a little bit different on “Come Alive” than he does on his own music. Like, his voice is a little different, and I felt like we brought that out of him.

On the video–did the band come up with the concept? It’s like that movie from the 80’s, Mannequin.

That’s actually the director who came up with that. The way it works is like the director will come up with a concept like that, and we’ll add ideas to it. So I’ll say like okay, let’s do that, but we should add a choreography with P[-Thugg]. You know, like P should be this security guard. You know, when we get caught at the end and the girls become mannequins again, just stuff like that. We’ll add little elements, but in this case the director totally came up with the idea.

Speaking of dating and stuff, is it hard to have a normal relationship when you have so many songs about women? They already know all your moves, man.

[Laughs] I guess. I’m kind of revealing a bit of my strategy, but I think it’s just funnier to laugh about it. Like usually, if I’m seeing someone, I might tell her, “Oh, listen to this, what do you think?” And like… what we do, you don’t take yourself seriously all the time. It’s kind of just entertaining anyway. People will ask me about like the ballad, like, “Is that about her? Who’s that about, who’s that about?” It’s not about anybody! It’ll be just be one conversation with one person that’ll bring good ideas to my head, it won’t even be about one person necessarily.

People are super excited to see you play Richmond again. Have you ever had any time to hang out here?

Nope, never, unfortunately. Like the last time we just got in and then we had to leave. It sucks. Touring is not very compatible with tourism, you know what I’m saying?

Yeah. How many days are you touring this year? Are you on the road all year?

Yes. Starting now, yeah.

So Coachella kicked it off for you then? For the year?

Correct. You saw the new show, right? With the big filmers behind us? In that present configuration, Coachella was show number five. We had only done four shows before, to warm up for that. As crazy as it sounds.

Do you ever get starstruck at all? Have you ever met anybody that just like, woah…

The only one that I’ve met that was like “woah” is Erykah Badu because she’s so much more beautiful in person. I mean, she’s pretty in the pictures, but she’s got this kinda weird, very unique look. But in person, there’s a magnetism about her. I mean, for real. And also she’s got a really pretty ass. I was definitely spellbound when I saw Erykah Badu in person. I wasn’t expecting that. But starstruck… I mean like, maybe when I meet Larry David I’ll be a little bit starstruck.

What’s the best dance album of all time?

Uhhhhhh… Daft Punk, Discovery.

Good answer.

Yeah, that’s my favorite. That’s really my favorite for dance music. But I’m not going to lie to you man, I feel like that new Duck Sauce album [Quack] is up there. It’s so conceptual, it’s really interesting. You should really take time to listen to it.

This article is taken from the Summer 2014 print edition of RVA Magazine, out now! Look for copies available for free at your favorite local Richmond businesses. To read a digital version of the full issue, click here.

Marilyn Drew Necci

Marilyn Drew Necci

Former GayRVA editor-in-chief, RVA Magazine editor for print and web. Anxiety expert, proud trans woman, happily married.




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