Canadian Funk giants Chromeo need no introduction. Their career spans over twenty years, and their slick iconic style has been a staple since the beginning. More recently, the duo has been determined to continually develop their musical style. With the new record Adult Contemporary, Chromeo are returning to their roots, whilst brining the polished production they have been working on in recent years.
According to duo, Adult Contemporary is a product of Dave 1 and P-Thugg being quarantined together in the studio for two years – and you can really hear it. It sounds like two best friends having fun together, whilst also taking the time to be intimate. The record is a “new adult thematic adventure”, which somehow hasn’t lost the sexiness which was so central to Chromeo back in the Fancy Footwork days. We had the chance to speak to them, discussing the more sophisticated and cohesive arrangements, as well as their wider lives.
Hello Chromeo, it’s great to be speaking with you! Congratulations on the record, Adult Contemporary. Am I right to say the record is a kind of new adult or mature take on the playful dance and funk music you have become so popular for trademarking?
Dave 1: Totally. We feel it’s our slickest album in terms of production and arrangement, and our most thematically cohesive. But at the same time, it’s reminiscent of the Fancy Footwork era where the beats were more electronic and, let’s say, primitive. Electro, even. You can hear that on tracks like New Girl and Lost and Found. We were listening to a lot of 2000s electro and finding inspiration from it, missing it. What’s why we got Morgan Geist of the seminal group Metro Area to mix the album. So yeah, new adult thematic adventure, sexy mature arrangements but raw dance beats.
What has changed in your lives since releasing your last full-length Head Over Heels (2018), and how do you think this has affected the music?
P-Thugg: We were off to a good start with Head Over Heels. It was a great two years touring the album, then Covid happened, which delayed our usual cycle of 4 years maximum between albums. I guess we could’ve had enough material to release an album sooner, but we weren’t quite ready so we gave everyone a bit of comic relief with Quarantine Casanova. We started our own label, Juliet Records. Produced for other artists. I’m happy we took our time.
Dave 1: Pee and I spent so much time in the studio, literally quarantined together for two years. It developed the feeling of intimacy you find on the new album. It’s two best buddies back to their original formula - but lo and behold, they’re adults with moustaches and double-breasted suits now.
It appears you are taking care with the lyrics on Adult Contemporary, commenting on your evolving lives and adulting, whilst still maintaining your funk and dance image. I would therefore just ask about your writing process. Do you tend to create the music, and then add the lyrics, or is it more of an ever-changing process where the words come with the music?
Pee: It’s never predictable. Some songs happen in 10 minutes and come already finished in Dave’s head or mine and it’s just a matter of voicing it out and producing it. Some songs are more of a production challenge to find the best possible version. It could be a pitch change, could be a tempo change, a complete style overhaul. Sometimes I send demos to Dave to which he writes lyrics and melodies to, and sometimes he sends me melodies that I’ll conceptualise into a demo with a clear musical direction.
Dave 1: That’s what makes things fun: there’s no recipe. But usually the lyrics and the concepts are my department. I run them by Pee and if he smiles and laughs and says “yeah that’s Chromeo”, then I know we’re good. Conversely, the spends countless hours in the studio designing sounds, making drum banks, setting up new synths so that when I arrive, we’re ready to cook right away. Lastly I’ll say this: I write a lot of my lyrics in the shower or on the toilet. Seriously.
In a similar vein, what have you aimed to capture with the upcoming record? As always, you are delivering a retro funk spirit, but is there something specific this time around which you would say differentiates this LP from your others?
Dave 1: Like we were saying earlier, thematic cohesion and a sophistication in the arrangements. We never did horns before. Never had live drums. Never had a talkbox solo song. Never had a 14-track album with interludes and multiple long musical outros. We indulged. In the last two albums, as we forayed into a poppier sound, we sort of forgot the kick drum. Morgan Geist helped bring out a four-on-the-floor kick that’s present in every song.
Is there a track or moment on Adult Contemporary which you are most proud of or pleased with? (Feel free to answer separately if you wish!)
P-Thugg: I think for now it’s Lost And Found. I remember that track coming to us pretty easily for the main bass part and we already had a satisfying amount of good songs for the record so the stress level was pretty low. The thing with liking certain [ones] of your own songs when do you this kind of work is that it’s attached to the memory of creating the song and recalling exactly how you felt in that moment.
Dave 1: I like the disco section in BTS with all the string arrangements. Even the choruses in that song make me proud. And I like the verses in Personal Effects, I had fun telling that story (laughs).
I also must ask both of you what it was like performing at Coachella in April of 2023. It was a while ago now, but it must have been such a great occasion. Do you have good memories of the show?
P-Thugg: Coachella was definitely an amazing experience. It’s a really challenging place to play logistically. There’s a lot of bands, it’s a big operation. We love a good challenge and we do everything in our power to give the best show possible to the crowd. That’s really what keeps us hungry. The mission is more than just musical. We love theatrics, precise presentation, a well rehearsed routine — everything outside of the music has to be in perfect pairing with it. We spent months and months designing that stage and every single lighting cue. We’re hands on with everything.
Dave 1: I drew the stage prototype on a napkin and months later Pee was literally at the factory soldering pieces together himself.
More generally, how important are your live shows to your musical identity as a band? What role to the live shows play and do you find them to be an important creative outlet?
P-Thugg: The mission is more than just musical. We’re into the spectacle, a precise presentation, a well rehearsed routine. It’s a total artistic project.  That’s why we take as much pride in the record covers than in the live show proposition, than in the press pictures and overall aesthetic. Everything counts. You build a world.
I have seen a sort of resurgence of funk and disco over the past few years online, whether it be producers creating more funk and dance-influenced music, or high-profile musicians borrowing from the aesthetics of the genres. Have you also observed this resurgence? If so, what do you think of it?
Dave 1: Of course we have. 80s-influenced sounds haver become the lingua franca of pop music. We love it. We’ve been fighting for that musical vibe for twenty years! This resurgence keeps us motivated and inspired — especially when it’s done by pop masterminds like Max Martin and his gang. (Obviously when it’s a little generic and corny and cliché we like it less, but whatever.) Every time we meet the producers and the writers behind those hit songs, they tell us they’re fans, that they’ve listened to us for years. This is a sport: there’s always more things to explore, more techniques to learn. I love the production on Dua Lipa’s Houdini. The second I heard it I wanted to go in the lab and make new tunes. And same goes for underground stuff, by the way.
Outside of music, I must ask P-Thugg specifically about the Ya Habibi Market. Can you tell me a bit about the project, and your involvement in it?
P-Thugg: The project started after we put out the Chromeo-Lebanon t-shirt and sent all proceeds to the relief of the August 4th 2020 explosion in Beirut. I saw the openness and desire of people to participate and I was really touched. While all this is happening, we inevitably reach out to our loved ones back home, and all of a sudden a web of Lebanese and surrounding areas creatives starts forming links between many of us. So I founded YHM and I decided to make something positive out of it, sell products we collaborate on for different charities across the Middle East and North Africa. It’s really a passion project I take to heart.
Finally, what can we expect from your live shows surrounding Adult Contemporary, have you got any big plans?
Dave 1: We’re announcing a world tour. About fifteen dates in Europe and the UK, Mexico City, then over thirty dates in the US. And we’re going to add more to it. Come find us and let’s hang.