When Chromeo first started jacking ’80s synth riffs and half-jokingly opening their hearts to craft a brand of sexed-up electrofunk, it began as somewhat of a novelty. Since then, they’ve not only become the pimps of the nu-disco/electropop scene; they’ve embraced their inner Klymaxx, and are now exploring just how far they can take it.
“We try to make it sound effortless and really light, but there’s a lot of work involved in doing that,” says Patrick “P-Thugg” Gemayel, one-half of Montreal-bred Chromeo, talking to us from Quebec City. “There’s definitely a lot of attention paid to detail. When you re-create stuff from the past, whether it’s ’70s, ’80s or ’50s [music], you want to avoid just re-creating what’s really obvious.”
Indeed, ’70s and ’80s funk/disco influences permeate the treasure trove of boner jams filling the band’s latest, Business Casual. Take “You Make It Rough,” with its gut-grabbing synth stabs that sound straight out of Revenge of the Nerds … Breakin’. Vocalist Dave “Dave 1” Macklovitch (brother of champion DJ A-Trak) switches from Cameo-like bedroom raps to Andy Gibb-worthy melodies, all with a polished pop flair. Along the way, there are car horns, dreamy keyboard arpeggio lines, funky bells and of course, P-Thugg’s trademarked talk box-laced backing vocals.
The result is an electropop party on wax that would have inspired as many drunken makeout sessions at ’80s Kenmore Square club Narcissus as it will at the House of Blues.
“When you think about the ’80s, people think about bands with colored hair, fluorescent shirts and polka dots,” P-Thugg explains. “But we tried to avoid those clichés … and we try to find what is, what was, objectively, really good in the ’80s and late ’70s, and we get inspired by that. We’re definitely students.”
They embrace the cheese of the era and deliver it with a dose of irony, while maintaining an unbridled honesty and enthusiasm for quality pop. The uninitiated could spend a lot of time trying to figure out whether it’s really from the ’80s or if it’s some kind of inside joke, and miss the point that it’s near-perfect pop in any era.
“We’re truly two friends from high school having a blast, and I think people like that,” P-Thugg says. “And it helps that the music’s good, also.” Their knack for syrupy hooks, vintage Moogs, Survivor-esque guitar solos and classic drum patterns landed them a much-coveted spot on the webisode “Live at Daryl’s House” with their hero, Daryl Hall of Hall & Oates.
“It was incredible. I just pinch myself when I watch it to make sure I’m not dreaming,” P-Thugg says. “Just to be there with one of your idols and have him play one of your songs and sing a chorus you probably copied from him anyway. And for me to play songs like ‘No Can Do’ … it’s not like a cover band. It’s the real thing.”
They might not be selling records like Hall & Oates (who is, right?), but they’re selling out shows and have seeped into the mainstream, even landing on Letterman.
“To me, this hasn’t happened overnight. It’s just hard work paying off,” he says. “I guess what people also see is the dedication behind it. We’re very strongly influenced by the ’80s but we re-appropriate it in today’s terms, and I think people recognize the sincerity and the work behind it.”
WITH MNDR, THE SUZAN
HOUSE OF BLUES
15 LANSDOWNE ST.