Chromeo Goes Business Casual
Speaking of influences, you recently performed with Daryl Hall of Hall & Oates and members of his band at Bonnaroo. The collaboration built off an episode of Hall’s web series Live from Daryl’s House that you taped at his house. What lesson did you take most from that Bonnaroo experience?
Well, that performance was really fun but musically I actually don’t think we took much from a performance level. Playing with a live backing works for us. We tried at one point to play with backing musicians and it sounded really cheesy, so that doesn’t work for our kind of music. It works when we do stuff with Daryl Hall ‘cause he makes it sound like a band. But, I mean, don’t forget we got one foot in Daryl Hall and one foot in Daft Punk, so we gotta keep the electronic side as well. But, at the same time, the stuff we did play was more was picking his songs apart and trying to get deeper into his songwriting techniques. He has these amazing vocal harmonies that we are trying to incorporate into our music. I think for the bigger shows we’re gonna have three backup singers that are gonna be dressed as go-go girl and stuff like that, too. Stuff that makes the show more visually appealing.
But festivals are the best way to gain new fans because there are a lot of people there who have never seen us before and will hopefully discover you. Sunday we played the Lovebox festival in London, and then right when we finished playing, Grace Jones was on. I’ve never seen Grace Jones live, it was unbelievable.
Shifting back to the production side of Business Casual. It’s been three years since your last record. Can you walk us through your creative process during that period of time?
We actually started working on the record about a year and a half ago. “Night By Night” was the first track we did, and we released it early on. But we had demos for a lot of other songs too like “I’m Not Contagious” and “The Right Type.” P does demos regularly, and he just sends them to me and I decide what we should keep or not. And then I just write songs on my own. I remember I wrote this French ballad back in early 2009—we were just writing to write. But it was really just this year that we sat down in the studio and put it all together. I sit down and write the lyrics in the studio, like right before we’re about to record a song.
I don’t even think about it, it’s just whatever sounds good, you know? This past March I was going through some stuff with this chick so maybe that shows in the lyrics, I can’t really tell.
Lyrics are more important for us than most electronic music groups. I think that’s how we stand out too—in the electronic music world—that we’re very, very lyric-driven. That’s what makes us more like songwriters than anything else: songwriters in the electronic world.
Before Business Casual, the last project you released was an installment in the DJ-Kicks series. Could you explain a little bit about what that series is about and how you selected the songs you helped curate?
DJ-Kicks is this very serious, very credible compilation series for electronic music. And they’re German, so it’s everything you think about a German mix CD series—minimal artwork and very dance-oriented. I remember when I was in college I showed up at a girl’s house and she had a DJ-Kicks single, and I was like, “What the hell is that?” I was a hip hop kid, so I has never heard of that but it was amazing. They actually approached us to do that, and we thought it was great because we were could totally submerge into the series and make it into something else by focusing on our funk side and making it more playful, more funny. We also wanted to show people that we were series record collectors too. So we put together all types of just obscure records. We put a bunch of French Quebec records on there and they really let us re-appropriate it and change the sort of profile of the release to sort of suit our quirkiness. We’ve been making mix CDs every couple of years—that’s nothing new for us. We became friends, P and I, at 15 or 16 years old by just digging in at record stores every weekend and making mix tapes. We wanted to show everyone that we have deep crates.
You have also started playing a little with your brother A-Trak. Do you plan to turn that into more of a formal project?
He’s phenomenal. He’s a pretty successful touring DJ as well with Kanye West and some others. He played right after us at a recent festival. We always collaborated but it’s behind the scenes. He hears all of our demos and stuff. We did a show at Brooklyn Bowl which was us playing records, like we’d do at a house party or something. We live across the street from each other in Brooklyn so whenever we are both home we will hang. We are really close.
How has distance changed your relationship with P?
He lives in Montreal and I live in Brooklyn. But you know, he came down and lived in New York for three months when we were doing this record, and then I go up to Montreal to see my family, and I go to the studio with him. We’re pretty much together every day now: we’re in touring mode, so we are still very close. It’s funny, we feel like nothing has changed since we are teenagers. It used to be me and P lip-synching George Benson’s “Give Me The Night” in front of the mirror when we were 15. So we feel like nothing has changed.