Canadian duo Chromeo cannot be defined. When members David Maklovitch (aka Dave 1) and Peter Gemayel (better known as P-Thugg) come together, the end result is eclectic, with an electro-funk-pop-dance explosion of sounds. Last month, they released their fourth album White Women, which debuted at no. 11 on the Billboard 200 charts and at no. 6 in Canada. While they were on their way to Boston to perform at the the Johnny Appleseed World’s Tallest Ice Luge event (June 19), VIBE caught up with lead singer Dave 1 to talk about their growth since their debut album a decade ago, the meaning behind White Women, working with Solange and more.—Tanay Hudson
How did Chromeo partner with Johnny Appleseed?
They used our song “Jealous” in a commercial so when that happened, we wanted to have more of a partnership ‘cause I just feel like when you have a brand that uses a song, it doesn’t feel organic but when there’s an event and fans can actually participate, it’s more genuine. It makes for a more credible partnership and that’s what we ended up pursuing.
Do you drink their apple cider?
I like it. It’s a little bit intense but it’s good. It’s easy to like.
It’s the 10th anniversary of Chromeo’s first album She’s in Control. How have you guys grown from that album?
It’s a huge evolution. When we first started, we didn’t really know what we were doing. We were still learning and when you look at our first record, which was a totally misunderstood cult album, it’s got pop radio play, which we’ve never had in our career before. We’re doing our biggest live tour so we’re really blessed because it was quite hard at the beginning and it was like a long, slow evolution. It definitely feels better to evolve this way than to blow up out the gate and fall off or to have trouble, following up. We just stayed humbled and knew that if we kept working hard this was going to come so it kept us on our toes. I don’t even look back at the fact that its been 10 years. I feel like if we did that, we would be aging ourselves. To me, this is a new beginning. Maybe after 25 years, we’ll look back but right now we’re just grinding.
You guys named your current album, White Women, after a book by Helmut Newton. Why that particular book?
His photography is a big influence on us. When I saw that he had a book called that I was like ‘Man, I wonder how people would interpret it in America if you came out with an album that was called that?’ Would people immediately think its about race, you know? I just felt like it would get people thinking and talking. People were like ’oh, you like white women?’ and we’re like ‘Not even! It’s about a book by a photographer.’ If you look at the album cover, the girl is not even white. In a weird way, we just felt like it gets people thinking. We’re not necessarily a band that talks about social and political stuff in our lyrics but as a project, we think it’s our duty to make people think with stuff that’s thought provoking and artistically challenging.
You guys produce your own work but do you have a dream list of producers?
If we did, it would have to be organic. We’re friends with people like Pharrell and Kanye so its like if we get up in the studio with them its gotta just feel organic and gotta feel right. Moving forward were definitely open to collaborating more. At the same time its really fulfilling when you have an album that breaks through the way this one did and you know that you did all of it yourself. Like Drake said, ‘All me for real’ you know?
Whose work do you enjoy, producer wise?
I actually love Drake’s guy, 40. I love Kanye. Mustard right now is having a moment which I think is cool. We’ll always remember that as the summer of 2014. I grew up in the ’90s so when I grew up, it was Pete Rock, DJ Premier, you know? Those were always my favorites. J. Dilla, rest in peace, I always thought he was the best. I like a lot of electronic producers. Guys like Disclosure are really really good. I think the guys from the Black Keys did a really good job on that new Lana Del Rey record too. I didn’t like the production so much on the first Lana Del Rey record but the new one is beautiful. I like all the new kids who are doing Jersey Club Music. I really like that. It feels fresh.
How was working with Solange on this latest album? Did you guys get to record together in the studio?
Not only did we go to the studio, we went to her house. We spent the night at her house. It was dope. I’ve been friends with her. I’ve known Solange for years.
How did you guys meet?
We met through my younger brother, A-Trak. He introduced us and she was a fan already. She had actually done something on our last album but she just sang the hook but on this record, I wanted her back, like on a duet. We spent the night at her house, started writing at like 10pm and then left at like eight in the morning. It was really a fun night. I’ve hung out with her a lot since then and she’s also a really inspiring person because she’s a mom. To be a solo artist and at her age and be a mother is really admirable. It takes a lot of courage and a lot of discipline to do what she does.
You have a PhD in French Literature. As a musician, what inspired you to obtain that?
I was actually doing the academic stuff before I was doing music. I always thought that music was going to be a hobby. I was always in school and I did music on the side and even after the band started, my friends and my family had to force me to stop teaching. I was still getting classes in college. They were just like ‘You gotta stop. You can’t teach and be on tour at the same time’ and I was like, ‘Yes I can.’ I was losing my voice and flying like 13 million times a week and at one point I was like ‘You know what? Let me just go ahead and do the music thing.’ It’s funny how life surprises you and throws a curve ball, you know?
What music are you listening to right now?
I’m listening to this music out of Chicago called Bop and it’s like this party music that I’m really feeling right now. It has an irregular tempo with a lot of party chants and dances. I just like regional stuff. I like going on YouTube and getting lost for two hours just listening to stuff from Chicago, or St. Louis or New Orleans. I feel like I’m traveling, you know what I mean? The last thing that I’ve been playing non-stop is that thing Drake put out last month ‘0 to 100.’ I still listen to that everyday. That’s gonna be hard to beat. I love that song “Yayo” with Snootie Wild and Yo Gotti. Everything A$AP I really like. I mean, those are my homies. I love what they do.
Yeah. A$AP Ferg is in our “Jealous” video. Those are my guys. I love those dudes.
That would be a good collaboration.
Let’s see. You never know. They brought a good energy to New York.
What’s up next for Chromeo?
We will be touring all summer. In August, we’re be doing basically every major American festival: Lollapalooza, Oceana in Montreal, Outside Lands in San Francisco. We’re doing our very own show at the Red Rocks. We just announced that on September 12, we’re going to be headlining our own Central Park show and there’s going to be another single in September then we’re gonna go back out [on tour] in the fall. We’re gonna stay busy until the end of the year non-stop.