BYT Interview: Chromeo
cale | Dec 27, 2010 | 11:00AM |

Originally published July 26th 2010

Chromeo, also known as “the only successful Arab/Jewish partnership since the dawn of human culture”, also known as Dave 1 and P-Thugg, also known as the best 80s electro funk revivalists on the planet because they never left it behind, are playing at the 9:30 Club tonight (7/26/2010). I reviewed their show last time (sort of) which you can check out here.  To say it was a fun time would be an understatement.  I had attempted to interview them prior to that show but they never got around to it.  I’m pretty sure it was the PR person’s fault, cause after the show I talked to them about it and they were like “dude, just email us directly next time”.  My point being, these two guys are humble and cool.  So, fast forward a couple years later and it’s time for another interview attempt, the tour is about to start, and Business Casual, the followup to the break out record Fancy Footwork, will be out in a couple months.  I end up locking down 15 min on a conference line with P-Thugg, the reigning indie king of the synth and talk box.

Here’s how it went…

P-Thugg: Hello?

Cale: Hey, is this P?

P: Yes it is.

C: Can I call you P?  Or is it Mr. Thugg?

P: Nah, just P.

C: Hold on, let me adjust some settings on the phone here, I can barely hear you…. while I was waiting there was some amazing hold music.  Kinda sounded like Chromeo doing smooth jazz.  I’m almost tempted to hang up on you so you can hear it.

P: (laughs)

C: Ok, let’s see if that’s better.  So what are you up to today besides doing interviews?

P: (incoherent mumbling)

C: Man, I’m having a real hard time hearing you.  I’m gonna call you back on another phone.

P: Can you just call me directly?

P gives me his cell number.  See, what I mean, these guys are solid…

P: Is that better?

C: Yeah, I think so, so what are you up to today besides interviews?

P: (incoherent mumbling)

God dammit.  I seriously can’t understand anything.  What do I do?  Tell him to enunciate?  Sounds like he’s talking into a box of gym socks.  Maybe he left his talk box on… whatever, I’m just gonna go with it, I’ll transcribe whatever I can understand…

P: We’re premiering a new show, new lights, new setup, new songs from the new album so we’ve been doing a lot of rehearsing and stuff.

C: So you’re hitting up Washington DC first on the tour, does that mean you like us the best?

P: ha, 9:30 is actually one of my favorite places to play, I think it’s one of the top venues in America.

C: You’re doing the tour with Holy Ghost, Neon Indian and Telephoned right?

P: Right, but not all at the same time, most of the tour is with Holy Ghost, and (incoherent mumbling)

He’s giving me thorough and informative answers here, it’s not that he’s not into this interview, I think he’s just a mumbler… or this is his cell phone:

C: Who do you think is gonna have the most backstage drama out of all those guys?

P: Backstage drama?

C: You know, like demanding all red M&Ms and stuff…

P: (laughs) None of em!  You know, we’re not like that, and we know all of them pretty well, so everyone is just happy to be there.

C: I see you guys are also on the bill for Virgin Fest.  Are those big festivals fun to do or are they a clusterfuck?  I mean, as an audience member sometimes they’re more hassle than they’re worth.

P: Yeah, yeah, well you know, it’s a balance between like very high changeover time till the next act is on stage, not having a proper soundcheck, and then being in front of 20,000 people that may not know you, so there is potential exposure versus a nice show in a room the size of a womb?  did he say a womb? with a million hours to setup so you can actually go to a movie (there is a good chance he didn’t actually say that) so at the worst it’s a clusterfuck like you said, but at the best your equipment gets dirty and you fartOk I can’t possibly be hearing this correctly.

C: Right (I pretend to comprehend) If you had an unlimited budget for your stage show, what special effects would you add?

P: Oh man, we would have like giant legs on the stage that light up.  Probably like a big mothership coming down from the sky.

C: So tell me a little bit about the new record Business Casual.  Is it Fancy Footwork Part II?

P: Well we tried to make this one a notch cooler, a notch more perfect.  A bit more attention to songwriting and melodies.  A little bit more harmonies.  Incoherent mumbling

C: I’m sorry, I missed that last part

P: Oh, I said Incoherent mumbling


P: We keep exploring how to record our vocals, and we put a lot more work into chord progression, bridges, and song structure.  There is more of a late 70s feel classic rock style.

C: I’ve heard the two released songs Night By Night and Don’t Turn the Lights On, they sound great, maybe a little denser than the last album.

P: Yeah, but we still have 4 or 5 just straight up funk tracks incoherent mumbling/there is still a lot of oatmeal on the record

C: We’ll stream those two songs with the interview, can you give me a little blurb about each?

P: P gives a detailed narrative about how the song came about, unfortunately I couldn’t understand any of it, except this: You know like a classic rock band would attempt to do a disco record in the late 70s or early 80s?  Cause they felt they had to?  Rolling Stones, Rod Stewert, but they’re always like very um… how do you say it… I could say it in French… (please don’t) you know, it’s not exactly disco, you can hear it’s a rock band trying to do it, so that’s what we tried to capture.  The drumming is not really on time, it’s just got a weird feel to it.

P: This is more of a smoother, like, Sade or Barry White direction we wanted to take.  Love Boat style.

C: You and Dave have been friends and business partners for a long time now, how do you keep from killing each other?

P: We get in arguments, but it’s like part of our relationship, we’ll get mad at each other for 7 min and then it’s over.  We’ve known each other for so many years we’re kind of like brothers you know.  It makes things more efficient, because we’re friends to begin with, we can get get over it and get back to working on the record.  A lot of bands are guys that met in college or something like that, and still don’t know each other really well.  They’ll get on each others nerves on tour, but we don’t really have any of that, we’re already way past that stage of getting to know each other.

C: Is Dave still teaching? (Dave is getting his PhD in French literature and teaching at Columbia University)

P: Yep

C: Does he assign a lot of homework or is he a “cool” teacher

P: He’s a cool teacher… he’s just strict on discipline I guess.  I’ve seen him correct papers sometimes… (laughs) he’s fair.

C: Who does mom love more, Dave or A-Trak? (Dave’s younger brother and Kanye West’s DJ)

P: (laughs) I dunno…

C: So was that Dave doing all those dance moves on the Night by Night video?

P: No, it’s a double.  We thought for sure people were gonna notice, the guy is like two feet shorter… but no people are like woah Dave, pullin out the moves.

Ok, I’m just gonna say ‘what?’ a lot more now.  I’ll edit those out tho.

C: How did you guys meet up with Daryl Hall (of Hall & Oats), I’ve seen the Live From Daryl’s House and heard about the Bonnaroo collaboration, pretty surreal.

P: Yeah, so the whole concept of his web show is that he invites bands over every month, I guess we were in the first 10 or 15 bands that he invited.  I don’t know the exact story of how he heard about us, probably something something to do with us bringing him up in every interview we do, probably got to him at some point (laughs).  The show went so well, lot’s of good response to it, and it was the guys at Bonnaroo’s idea to bring it to the stage.

C: Are you going to be doing anything else with him in the future?

P: There might be a couple more live shows, there’s def a good vibe between us.

C: It seemed like there were some pretty monster band nerds at Daryl’s house.  Was it intimidating?

P: Yeah man, it was intimidating at first, but you know what, these guys are on such another level they don’t really care, to them they’re just like, you know, we’re paying tribute and they just love to see younger guys doing their thing.  They were really good at putting us at ease and answering questions like how do you play this chord and stuff.  It was really cool.  The guitar player that played with us live at Bonaroo is the guy that did the guitar part for Madonna’s Borderline.  That’s like huge.  Huge.  We were just like woah.

C: Nice.  I recently purchased the Micro Korg synth with vocodoer, despite the fact that I don’t possess any actual musical ability, any beginner’s advice?

P: um… practice your scales (laughs).  Some people concentrate on chops and playing faster, others are more about the sound, I’m all about the sound you know?  Listen to the records you like, match the sounds, always try to capture the atmosphere of the record you want to sound like.

C: Any tips on dating a younger lady?

P: (laughs) Listen to Rick James’ song Seventeen.

C: Seems like Chromeo was just asking for a hipster backlash that never happened, why do you think it’s so hard to hate you guys?

P: I think the sincerity comes across.  We don’t dress like hipsters.  I don’t have a David Bowie star painted on my face for the show.  We dress like we dress every day, we just love 80’s music.

C: Yeah, it’s obvious you guys have a sense of humor, but harken back to a forgotten 80s not out of irony, but because you have an authentic love for it.

P: Yeah, I hope that comes across.

C: We’re throwing a big pool party next week, if you guys were DJing what might you drop in the set?

P: A lot of funk… Cameo, Parliament, probably that kind of stuff.

C: Let’s play the iPod shuffle game where you shuffle all songs and tell us the first three that come up.

P: Ok let’s do this.

C: No cheating, if something lame comes up you gotta go with it.

P: No cheating (laughs) alright Arron Hull – Don’t Be Afraid, Norma Jean Wright – Love Attack, and Toto – Georgy Porgy… ha, you’re lucky.

C: Finally, we do this thing where we get interviewees to pick one song from their catalog for my mom to review. She’s old and goes to church a lot and doesn’t like movies with too many bad words and listens to top 40 country music and has knee problems, so choose wisely.

P: Oh man, have her review Night by Night.

C: I thought you’d go with Momma’s Boy.

P: um… nah, let’s stick with the new one.

Cale’s Mom: OK….here goes.  I liked it….loved the disco beat and the fact that I could understand most of the words.  I liked the computer/sythesizer parts that had an almost nasal quality (maybe they reminded me of how I sing!)  🙂  Seemed like a fun party song.  Love you, Mom

Thanx mom.  You can download Night by Night here.  Details on the show here.