Electrofunk duo Chromeo returns to the Roseland Theater (along with these amazing keyboard stands) to play their old classics and five brand new songs on Monday, April 14—ahead of the release of their new album, White Women, on May 12.
Using vintage analog synths, guitars, and a talkbox, Chromeo's brand of 80s-inspired funk is occasionally funny, often danceable, and always irrestistably catchy. (Seriously. Just try listening to this and not tapping along with your feet.) We caught up with Chromeo's Dave Macklovitch (aka "Dave 1") to talk about the new songs, his PhD in French lit, and lusting after brides.
Tickets start at $25, but we’ve got a pair of tickets to give away to one lucky reader. To enter, tell us which Chromeo song is your all-time favorite and why in the comments below. We'll pick a winner at random at noon on Friday, April 11.
On the Town: Your music obviously has a very retro, nostalgic vibe. How much of that did you absorb while you were growing up?
Dave 1: None. Not when I was a kid. I was too young. We discovered funk and soul when we started getting into the records that hip-hop people were sampling. So we went from '60s records to '70s records to '80s records, which I vaguely remembered from being a kid and watching music videos. What we liked about '80s records is they had that analog, synthesizer technology and used drum machines. Ten years later that still inspires us.
Are you something different on this album than your previous albums?
Yes and no. The everlasting Chromeo themes are still there: the humor and the quirkiness. I think in terms of production, we've stepped it up. It is definitely a slicker record. It's more disco. There are these cinematic ballads, there are a lot of orchestral themes, and there is maybe a more live feel to certain tracks. So yeah, it does go different places. I would say it's more ambitious.
Why the title, White Women?
It's the title of [photographer] Helmut Newton's first book, who’s a huge influence on us. If you look at all the photography we use on our album covers, there's a big nod to that '70s erotic photography that he popularized.
I was at [Newton's] retrospective in Paris and I saw that that was the title of his first book, and I was like, man, that would be a really cool David Bowie or Roxy Music album title. Then I was like, well, we should use it! Obviously at first we were like, okay that's going to be controversial, but once you explain it and once you see that it works on many levels because there is also like the whole bridal theme, you know with the album cover and the trailer for the album, so the white women are like the brides as well. It's cool because you can interpret it on many different levels. At the same time it's kind of a funny little mindfuck.
Where does the bridal theme come from?
That was the idea of our art directors. They were like, why don't we make the white women brides? So we were like, oh yeah cool, funkadelic—like Parliament had the Bride of Funkenstein, like that's always been a very funk thing to do. The bride is always a huge object of desire, but she's the woman you can't touch. You know, everyone always wants to fuck the bride. She's the hottest chick in the room. So we figured we'd do this weird marriage where P and I run off with the same girl. You don't know if it's P and I getting married together or if it's a weird three-way marriage, it's just impossible to tell. That's the theme of the album cover, and as you saw in the "Jealous" video it's present there as well.
It's hard to describe your music as anything but fun. Is that something that you self-consciously try to do?
We make sure there is that humor and that danceability, but at the same time there is a lot of nerdy stuff going on. On top of the stylish, outlandish, humorous aspect, there's a very technical, musical, equipment side to what we do. Obviously all the music is synthesized, and we use a lot of old vintage keyboards and drum machines.
It is a tricky balance because we don't want to go pretentious all the sudden because that would totally alienate our fans. We also don't want to go full on Lonely Island, either. Lonely Island is dope, but it is comedy over music. We model ourselves after a band like ZZ Top, where if you're a real guitar and blues afficiando, Billy Gibbons is a god. If you just think they're funny and cool and their videos are cool, then it can be just that, too. It's highbrow and lowbrow all at once.
You have a PHD in French Literature from Columbia. How does that play a role in your life?
I was an academic for the larger part of my adult life. But I stopped teaching a couple of years ago to devote myself to music full time. Up until then I was teaching and doing the music thing. I really miss it, and there's still a chapter left that I have to finish in my dissertation. So that's on hold right now.
But as Chromeo evolves, I can satisfy more of my intellectual and artistic ambitions with this band. It's not just like, oh, I have a band. Chromeo has become more of this all-encompassing art project. Whether it's doing our own videos, designing our artwork, doing art shows like we did last fall in New York and treating the tour like an artistic enterprise as well in which we are super heavily involved. When we do that it becomes really satisfying, because obviously it's more than just the music, it's an art project. I wouldn't call it that because it sounds pretentious, but when you really think about it, that's what it is.