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Chromeo Goes Business Casual

Chromeo was already a favorite on the electronic and dance music circuits when festivals like Lollapalooza, Camp Bisco and especially Bonnaroo introduced the Montreal-based duo to an entirely new audience. Now, Dave 1 (vocals/guitar) and P-Thugg (synthesizer) are favorites on the rock and jam circuits as well and a direct influence on bands like Umphrey’s McGee (who cover Chromeo) and the Disco Biscuits (whose hit “On Time” was inspired by the band). Chromeo also continues to expand its live show and recently collaborated with ‘80s blue-eyed soul star Daryl Hall for a late-night set at Bonnaroo. On the eve of the release of Business Casual, Chromeo’s first album since 2007, Dave 1 brings up to speed on the band’s new album, new live show and new collaborations.

It’s been about three years since Chromeo released a proper studio album. In that time the band has achieved a new level of popularity outside the club-dance circuit. In what ways did your broadening fan base influence the creation of Business Casual ?

Well, I guess it’s tough because the last record…I don’t know how you define success—it was never like a crossover record, but that’s not the music we try to do anyways. But it definitely exceeded our expectations. So, we sort of had the mentality of, “What do you do after that?” I guess musically we wanted to do a new record that was maybe a little more sophisticated, in terms of arrangements and production and also our vocal performance and songwriting. The idea was to remain spontaneous and fun in our music, but also to try to go as sophisticated as we could with that style. Our song “Don’t Turn the Lights On” is a good example of that. There are vocal harmonies going on and more synth layers going on, but at the same time it’s got a quirky little chorus and stuff. We changed our method of writing songs, too. A lot of times it would just be P and I writing on vocals and the piano, and then producing these tracks afterwards, as opposed to just having the riff and building from that. We used our original approach as well, but we kind of expanded a little into a more classic songwriter approach on this record.

Continuing on that thought, Chromeo has always been a collaboration between two individuals. On Business Casual, how much of the album was written by the two of you together in the studio versus song ideas you reach brought in from home?

It really depends on the song. There are songs where I wrote almost everything and P just helped in with the production a little bit, and there are songs where P wrote the whole music—and even sometimes the chorus—and I just came in and did the lyrics and sort of formatted it into a song structure. So it really depends on the track, and then there are other songs that we wrote together, where P had an idea for the verse and I had an idea for the chorus, and we did the bridge together. More often than not I sort of structure the songs. In the majority of the cases, I’m the one who determines the length and where we put the chorus and how long we do the verses and so on and so forth. But on this record P wrote a lot of the choruses. I’d change a word here and there ‘cause that’s sort of my area, but he wrote a lot of the choruses—maybe half of them or so. So it really changes on every song.

Did the band’s mixture of sophistication and playfulness inspire the album’s title, Business Casual, or that just a coincidence?

I got the idea to name the album Business Casual last summer. I had a girlfriend at the time and I just made a reservation at a restaurant that I knew was a little bit cheesy, but I kind of felt like trying anyway. And on the message it was like, “And dress code is business casual,” and I was like, “Wow, that’s so ‘80s sounding. That could be a great title for something.” And it worked on so many levels, ‘cause the way we dress, P is more casual and I’m maybe more business, and then it has a very strong hip hop reference, ‘cause it could have been an old school title too. So, it resonated on many levels – it was funny and it was cool – so we went with it.

Especially in early interviews, you guys talked about how you musically came from very different backgrounds. You are Israeli and P is Palestinian. In fact, you were once jokingly described as the only successful Israeli/Palestinian partnership. You also came from very different musical backgrounds: P was more of a hip hop guy and you were more of a rock guy. At this point in your career do you feel your musical tastes are inline or are you still turning each other onto new styles of music?

I don’t know. I mean, P and I became friends over listening to the same kind of music. We just discovered funk music together and started buying records together when we were in high school, and that’s how we bonded. But, you know, obviously, with Chromeo we’re part of more of an electronic music scene, so we listen to that as well. And we’re always listening to new stuff. I am really into R & B, and I just bought the new Grace Jones record and I know P is going to love it. The records that probably have the most influence on us musically, in terms of recent, contemporary music not before we were born, is R & B music.

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