Laidback and dapper as fuck, lead singer and flying vee lover Dave One is on the line ahead of the release of Chromeoâ€™s latest funk-fuelled excursion into space, â€˜Business Casualâ€™, and an impending Australian tour.
Speak to Dave even for a minute and you just know heâ€™s a clued-in cat, quick with a funny response and attuned to specific cultural subtleties, including the better-than-ever-disguised Australian bogan. Not surprising for a guy who was so far ahead of the curve when it came to appreciating 80s AM soft rock and pop for what it was - an exercise in ingenious songwriting.
My first dalliance with Chromeo came at Good Vibrations two years ago, where Dave One and P-Thugg hit the stage in the late afternoon and managed to lift flagging, sick-of-same-same-DJs spirits by the short and curlies, causing some serious moves to be busted throughout the crowd and putting a smile on most dials. Such is the power of Chromeo.
â€œIâ€™m in downtown Dallas, Texas. I donâ€™t know if itâ€™s beautiful, but itâ€™s hot. All the preconceptions are pretty much true when it comes to rednecks. As long as we have fans and can put on shows, Iâ€™m happy.â€
Is that sense of infectious fun something that the duo aims to create everywhere, every time they tour?
â€œOf course; with the live aspect, definitely. When weâ€™re in the studio, itâ€™s more about disciplined hard work, but the live aspect is all about having fun. That infectious sense of fun - of course,â€ he says.
â€œThat Good Vibrations tour was alright. We were on the same bill as Q-Tip and The Pharcyde and that was cool. Every time we do a big summer tour in Australia we have a great time. We met a million bogans. A lot of bogans are actually Chromeo fans, so thatâ€™s OK. You guys have, like, undercover, hipster bogans who wear neon shorts and fluoro headbands, but deep down I can tell they work out and they go tanning. They like The Presets, but deep down theyâ€™re still bogans.â€
Chromeo are in an interesting spot. They channel the best of the 80s (think Toto, Hall & Oates and Chicago) like few others, but ask Dave about the dreaded â€˜joke musicâ€™ tag, and youâ€™ll understand quickly that he takes his music very seriously indeed. This, to someone who grew up in the 80s learning every word to pop songs from the radio, is heartening.
â€œGrowing up, that was what marked my childhood, watching those videos and being mesmerised by those peopleâ€™s characters and also, later on, just coming to realise the pop perfection of their production. For me thereâ€™s no joke value there, itâ€™s perfect pop music, music that combined mass appeal and really interesting technical innovation and experimentation. It came at a time where rock and soul musicians were starting to experiment with machines and computers and synthesisers and the genres were really blending. Disco was blending in with orchestral movie soundtrack textures and for me it was really interesting, and we pay homage to that with sincerity that is so earnest that people think it might be ironic, but itâ€™s not. Even though thereâ€™s a dose of humour and a modern element.â€
I tell Dave my first sex might have been to Robert Palmer.
â€œYour first sex to Robert Palmer? Wow, that was early. I had my first sex to â€˜D.A.N.C.Eâ€™ by Justice. I had my first sex to the last Midnight Juggernaut's single (laughs).â€
Then I remember that it was actually 10ccâ€™s â€˜Iâ€™m Not In Loveâ€™ for me.
â€œThatâ€™s great. 10cc! My shit was probably hip hop. Probably a slow jam, like an Aayliyah song or something.â€
Itâ€™s at this point I have a confession to make to Dave. You know when you get song lyrics wrong? Like, publicly wrong? Yeah, well I thought the chorus of Chromeoâ€™s hit from 2007â€™s â€˜Fancy Footworkâ€™, â€˜Tenderoniâ€™, was â€˜Youâ€™re my tenderloinâ€™. Iâ€™ve been singing it like that for years. I also thought that â€˜Start Me Upâ€™ by The Rolling Stones was â€˜Pistachioâ€™. Has Dave ever done that?
â€œâ€˜Tenderloinâ€™. I like that a lot. We were speaking French growing up, so it was all a big mystery to us. I remember I couldnâ€™t understand what Sade was saying in â€˜Smooth Operatorâ€™. It just sounded like â€˜Smooth Opalalaâ€™ (laughs). And then that bit - blink a blonk, LA to Chicago (laughs). Chicago was as clear as day, but the rest of it ... all of Michael Jackson. Itâ€™s mainly gibberish. â€˜Keep on with the force .. donâ€™t stopâ€™. Really? The force? Thatâ€™s what he says? You get to karaoke, you pick a Michael Jackson song because you think you know what he says, and you read the lyrics and you end up making a fool of yourself.â€
Chromeo have made a solid step up with each album to date, and â€˜Business Casualâ€™, mixed by Cassiusâ€™s Phillipe Zdar, is no exception. Dave explains the process behind the recording and what Zdar brought to the table.
â€œWeâ€™re bringing ideas to the table and stuff that we each had started or weâ€™d worked together in a very preliminary sort of way. We had narrowed down the ten or so songs that we wanted to have on the album, it was just a question of putting them together. We had more to prove. A song like â€˜Donâ€™t Turn The Lights Onâ€™, for instance, which is a little more sophisticated ... weâ€™ve had kids now, so I canâ€™t be doing a million songs that sound like â€˜Tenderloinâ€™ ... (giggles) ... we got string sections, weâ€™ve got seven-minute songs, weâ€™ve got ballads in French. It was a record that was uncharted for us and it did take a lot of work. Even the way Iâ€™m singing is a little different.
â€œPhillipeâ€™s the architect of our big sound, heâ€™s the reason our music has that big, analogue, Quincy Jones-type flavour. I go to Paris, he mixes the songs and I tell him what I think, but he gives his advice. Have you heard the album? A song like â€˜You Make It Roughâ€™, he was like â€˜We should make it even longerâ€™, so we extended it for a minute. He helped us make the French ballad shorter. Every chance we get we big him up and thank him for it.â€
â€˜Business Casualâ€™ is out September 17. Chromeo plays Summafieldayze at Doug Jennings Park, the Gold Coast on Sunday January 2, 2011.