Self-described "funkateers" Chromeo have been translating their funk and yacht rock influences into dance floor hits for the film-a-concert-on-your-iPhone generation for over a decade now, but they've never worked as hard as they did on their upcoming LP, "White Women."
"We spent double, triple, quadruple the amount of time on everything for this album," Dave 1 (real last name Macklovitch) says of his and Patrick "P-Thugg" Gemayel's efforts this time around. "We came into it with a chip on our shoulder: we wanted to improve."
A good chunk of that energy, as Macklovitch explains over the course of emailed responses to HuffPost Entertainment's questions about their first studio album in four years, means bringing in as many collaborators as possible. Among the drafted talents was Chazwick Bradley Bundick, who produces as Toro y Moi.
"Let me start by saying something: ladies love Chaz," Macklovitch writes. "Every girl I know listens to his music. I got familiar with his latest album and was like, 'this dude is a total new school funkster, like us.' We reached out, turns out he was a fan, he was down to collaborate, we had a track in mind for him, got together in a studio in L.A., wrote together and there you have it."
In the below behind-the-scenes video from the making of "Come Alive" music video, Bundick co-stars alongside Macklovitch and dancers who transform from mannequins to real-life dancers. The song marks the first time Bundick has sang on another producer's track.
In the clip, which is premiering exclusively on the Huffington Post, Macklovitch says he wanted to "combine a kind of really credible aesthetic quality to the image, narrative and concept -- and obviously some humor." That's a sort of founding thesis for Chromeo, which is at its best when it's dancing on the line between camp and authenticity. We asked Macklovitch to go deep on that nuance -- and to explain the album's title as more than just a reference to Helmut Newton.
In an interview a few years ago, you told me people sometimes think you guys are being ironic, and that you're not 100 percent serious about the type of music you make. Do you think that perception of you has changed?
I think our consistency and dedication have silenced many of the early naysayers. You still have a lot of people who perceive us as being cheeky, which is fine because we are! We're serious and arch at the same time. Here's a quote from Donald Fagen's book, about the genesis of Steely Dan: "We started writing lyrics and music together, mostly on an upright piano (…). One of us would come up with some clowny idea and we'd bounce it around until we were so convulsed with laughter that we'd have to quit. For whatever reason, the combination of the funky grooves, the jazz chords and the sensibility of the lyrics (…) really cracked us up."
This is an accurate description of Pee and I in the studio. The fact that we have a sense of humor doesn't make us a joke band -- neither are the great Fagen and Becker.
"Over Your Shoulder" and "Sexy Socialite" have such classic funk sounds, with those Nile Rodgers-esque licks. What were you listening to as you started putting together this album?
Some Nile, for sure. This was in 2012, before his massive comeback. I was reading his book as well, trying to understand his guitar moves -- some of them are so complex! We were listening to some different areas of disco and funk, stuff we hadn't drawn inspiration from in the past: Bee Gees, Paul McCartney, Abba, Robert Palmer, ABC. I think the "Looking for Clues" intertext in "Sexy Socialite" is pretty obvious. We always listen to modern stuff as well. All the new R&B: Drake, Beyoncé, Jeremih, Solange, Blood Orange. Random Scissor Sisters album cuts. You'll laugh, but we even peeped some random Maroon 5 album cuts for a minute. Early Calvin Harris album cuts, too. As you know, there's no such thing as a guilty pleasure for us.
You've spent a lot of time toeing the line of the dance music community, whether it's performing at dance music festivals or doing DJ gigs. But your focus on mood this time seems even more removed from straight up electronic dance music. Do you think your immersion in the dance world sharpened your taste for more subtle sounds?
Not really. Even back in 2007 when we were playing alongside Justice and MSTRKRFT our sound was different. We've tried to grow and refine our sound, but on this album, we actually also wanted to keep things fun, light hearted and dancey. Our goal was to hone the subtlety you're talking about, but also have some straight up simple bangers…bring it back to the blog house Myspace days when you'd play a mashup in a little bar and everybody would jump on tables. You'll see, the album starts out really peppy and then it goes into some deep stuff ... and then there's a victory lap of funny, funky dance tunes.
It's a pretty great time for analog nostalgia, with the Daft Punk album and all. What did you do differently, production-wise, this time around?
Even though we use analog synths and draw inspiration from the '70s and '80s, we don't consider our music fully nostalgic. Our sensibility is firmly grounded in the present. We're in a dialog with contemporary musicians, whether it's Harry Fraud on twitter or Ezra Koenig in the studio. "Over Your Shoulder" speaks to girls who spend their day on Tumblr. And we're on Tumblr too. It's about creating a dialog with the past, not just missing it.
We wanted to change our sound a little, to flirt with pop on one hand, and to go even deeper in orchestration and arrangement on the other. We opened our studio to co-producers, which we had never done before. Oliver, the nu disco duo on Fool's Gold, worked with us on more than half the album. We had people come over and vibe for an entire day, like Illangelo, who did all the Weeknd mixtapes. That was totally new to us ... and we loved it. Super inspiring.
You've said that the title "White Women" is a throwback to the Helmut Newton collection, and of course he inspired the leg stands that are a part of your brand at this point. But take me in a little more on how you plan, as you've said, to "blur boundaries between gender and race."
Like we've said before, we're a duo of ambiguously ethnic men writing songs that are heavily tributary to Black music and calling our album White Women. Yes, it's an homage to the high-brow/low-brow photo-genius Helmut Newton, but there could be more to it. Clearly, the idea that gender is a continuum (Prince already thematized that), that race is a continuum (French people are hesitant differentiate between races at all) isn't new, but we felt it was topical to encourage discussions about it. Look at the backlash against Beyoncé's Grammy performance: that's racist conservatism. That's the climate we still bask in, culturally. Daryl Hall broke down boundaries, Prince did as well; without being overly militant or heavy handed, we need to somehow carry the torch.