Since Chromeo's formation almost a decade ago, the band has become a leader in dance music with its innovative, modern take on funk. Most notably, the group's third album, 2010's Business Casual, released hits like "Hot Mess" and "Don't Turn the Lights On."
Chromeo's fourth studio album, White Women, is set for release on May 12. The duo already has released a few tracks from the album, including "Come Alive" (featuring Toro Y Moi) and "Sexy Socialite" (featuring Pat Mahoney of LCD Soundsystem). Along with the album release, Chromeo is on the roster for some of the world's largest music festivals this year, including Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, and Glastonbury.
Up on the Sun spoke with half of the duo, Patrick Gemayel, a.k.a. P-Thugg, a.k.a. P, before he headed to Coachella this past weekend to play the main stage.
When was the last time you were in Phoenix?
I think it was on the last tour in 2012, I believe.
Do you have any memories of the city? Anything that stood out to you?
[Talks to someone in the background] What was the club we played in Phoenix?
[Background voice:] The one where you broke the skateboard.
Yeah, I remember the Marquee. I think there were a lot of cool records there. I spent a lot of the afternoon record shopping.
Did I hear that you broke a skateboard?
[Laughs] I broke my wrist trying to skateboard. One of my crew members had a skateboard and, of course, I'm trying to be the smart ass like always. So I hop on the skateboard, and I'm like "Look at me, I'm going to jump on it from this table, and land on the skateboard" and then I fell and broke my wrist, that's what I remember from Phoenix -- records and breaking my wrist.So going back a bit with you, what are some of your earliest music memories?
Hmmm. Let me put it to you this way. You know all of the funk and stuff that we reference. It's not all -- actually, none of it is nostalgia. Because I never really lived through the '80s as a child in America. I was born in Lebanon. So most of my life, I was just exposed to Arabic music and Middle Eastern stuff.
I moved to America when I was 8 years old, and I had never lived through the funk years, I had never even lived through Michael Jackson. So I remember specifically when I moved, one of my first musical memories is rap music.
My first record I ever bought, at 8 years old, was LL Cool J. Later on, when I turned 13, 14, I started getting into funk music. I started reading the credits on the records I would buy or listen to; I would find out what the samples were. So I started collecting vintage records. That's how I discovered it, through rap music.
All of my early reflections as a child were hip-hop music, basically. I didn't grow-up in America, so I didn't have an uncle who had a record collection or anything like that. Those aren't memories for me, that's like pure nerding out: buying records, reading the credits, who's playing with who, playing on what, what instruments, you know what I mean?
Yeah, definitely, do you think that being from a place where didn't have entertainment and all of these options when it came to music made you a little more appreciative of it when you went out and discovered these things? Absolutely, because most people who kind of grew up here and were exposed to this music really young, to them it resonates as their parent's music. Right?
For most people, funk music was like "Oh my, my uncle listened to that when I was a kid. He has a funk record collection and blah, blah, blah." To me it was mostly about discovering, like, what it is it? This is music from the future, you know what I mean? I wasn't used to that. So, in a way it made me appreciate it more. So you guys have been at this for a while, before the whole DJ electronic music boom, before that made what you do cool. How do you guys continue to stay fresh among the masses of similar artists now?
We try not to dwell on things we've done or accomplished. We try not to stay narrow-minded or narrow-sided with our music. We are definitely not one of those dudes who are like "Man, what was done in the past was better, people had more blah blah, people had more soul." To us, that's bullshit. Every generation has their own way of expressing music and what they do. Just because there were so many great things in the '70s and '80s, doesn't mean nothing good came out after. People complain about "pure music, and people don't play instruments anymore, blah blah blah." It doesn't fucking matter to tell you the truth, really. You can hear in every generation, there are great artists -- people who speak for the fans, people who have new ideas, they have their own worlds -- that's really important. So we follow everything, new bands, we get influence off of, maybe not their music exactly, but the production, even just aesthetics. The look is very important to us: when we put shows together, what it's going to look like -- production, lighting -- all of this is really important to us. Every album has to be a new album as if it was your first album ever written. People get lazy. You start to think you've accomplished everything, then you get lazy.
Your new album drops in May, your fourth -- congrats on that. How do you two work together? Is one person stronger than the other at something, balancing you out? What's your process like from idea conception to the finished product?
We both have our strengths and weaknesses. I'm not good at writing lyrics; I'm just not. Dave is really strong with lyrics. On the other hand I'm more fluent in music and harmony and stuff like that. We definitely complete each other. That's really important. If you both do the same thing, then you're bad news. Then you only have one layer. We definitely try to complete each other and split apart some of the layers that we need to make a good song. You need good music, good arrangements, good lyrics, good presentation and we're definitely a team that completes each other.
We have the same vision, and we have different goals but we can move forward. If I have something to say Dave listens to me, if Dave has something to say I listen to him. We trust each other and move on. That's key, no ego. When you're in bands and there are too many leaders, or people do the same thing you end up breaking-up after the first album. We're on our fourth album, already that's a huge accomplishment, to stay together all of this time.
Right, it's almost like a marriage in a way. Picking your battles and all of that.
Yeah, exactly. That was kind of the point that visually we are trying to make. If you've seen the record cover, you see it has a bride on it.
Yeah, that was another question I had. That makes sense now.
In some way, that's our way of dedicating ourselves to Chromeo. We always saw Chromeo as a Plan B or a side project. When it became really serious, we were like, "Let's do this for real." I moved to New York; we used to write from different cities. I lived in Montreal and Dave lived in New York. We used to just send each other samples back and forth. On this record, we were like, let's focus 100 percent. I moved to New York, we were in the studio every day, 12 hours a day. That's dedication. It's like getting married.
So that's what the wedding theme is with your trailer and the "Jealous" music video?
Yeah, it's one of the layers. We got way deeper into this that we originally expected.
I saw that you guys announced the album release date via Craigslist ad, then shortly after decided to do an AMA session on Reddit. Why did you guys use those platforms instead to of more traditional outlets like Facebook or Twitter?
Reddit is way more direct. On Reddit you're right there, face-to-face with the fans. It's super direct. We like to keep it as close to the fans as we can. We like to stay as transparent as we can. The Craigslist thing was funny, because it was a Missed Connection.
Yeah, in Minneapolis.
Yeah, Minneapolis missed connections, so it was kind of funny. You know those Mised Connections are so funny to read. All those stories -- "Hey girl, saw you on the subway today" -- that's really funny. So we decided to put an ad on there.
Why did you guys decide to name the album White Women?
Because of a Helmut Newton book. His first book was White Women, and we're huge fans. We take a lot of pride in our visuals and artwork. We decided to pick something that really resonates with us. We also wanted to push people's thoughts a little bit because the title is controversial. We wanted to see talking about race, gender, white women, the objectification of women. We wanted to open that dialogue.
Chromeo is scheduled to perform Saturday, April 19, at the Marquee Theatre in Tempe.
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