POSTED ON OCTOBER 19, 2011:
Flashback, Flash Forward
Chromeo learns from the past to create something fresh for the 21st century
When you first listen to electro-funk duo Chromeo, it's hard not to do a quick double take. While the music is new and has a fresh energy, you could easily mistake the band for a forgotten gem from the 80's. Electronic drums and decidedly retro-sounding synthesizers dance alongside rubbery bass lines and electrified vocals.
Is it the soundtrack from some forgotten 80's flick, lost tracks from older acts that were recently recovered or something new altogether? In Chromeo's case, it's something new and fresh that not only gets dance floors hopping now, but could have also been a huge hit 25 years ago.
Bouncing bass lines and funky guitars drive the songs, awash in a wall of synths and electronic drums, while vocals alternate between soulful and talk-box enhanced lines that border on nearly robotic. If you can listen and not be inclined to dance, you just don't have any dance in you.
As Chromeo's current Night Falls tour continued to run across the U.S. and back, I got a chance to catch up briefly with keyboardist and talk-box enhanced vocalist P-Thugg (born as Patrick Gamayel) to discuss what sets Chromeo apart from the current music scene. Obviously, there's a retro vibe running throughout the music, but how did that come out so blatantly in 2011?
"We started off as friends in high school," P-Thugg explained of his relationship with vocalist/guitarist Dave One (born David Macklovitch). "We discovered funk together and began collecting records together when we were 15 years old."
"When you have that retro fiber in you and you dig into stuff from the past, not just the stuff on the radio, there's a wider range of music that you're exposed to," he said. "I think that gives you an objective vision of what's really good and what you like, as well as what you don't like -- not just what you're told is cool."
"We don't really appeal to radio," he said. "They've done a really good job at predicting what people will buy and listen to, but it's all become very calculated. It used to be all about the music. There were bands like the Doobie Brothers because people actually like the music, not because there was mastermind with a formula writing the songs."
"I think that translates in our music," P-Thugg said. "There was honesty to music back then and we try to keep true to that, and that even extends to the equipment we use."
Although there are plenty of patches and plug-ins to make the newer, digital keyboards emulate the sounds of old '80s gear, there's still a digital harshness to the sound. That's exactly what Chromeo consistently steers away from.
Even the songwriting process takes a more traditional approach for the duo, with a focus on building verses and a bridge for most songs, instead of focusing primarily on finding a big chorus and building the song around that.
When asked what he considered as the band's true influences, he named acts like Cameo, Klymaxx and Midnight Star, but surprised me by also referencing acts like Fleetwood Mac, The Eagles, Michael McDonald and The Doobie Brothers.
"It's mostly funk, but we are also heavily influenced by classic rock, bands that were more concerned with writing great songs," he said.
That classic approach also extends to Chromeo's current featured support act, Mayer Hawthorne. Although Hawthorne has a background in rap acts Athletic Mic league and Now On, his solo career has departed on a vintage soul path that recalls classic R&B artists like Al Green, Smokey Robinson, Bill Withers and Curtis Mayfield. Together, the two acts are kindred spirits, representing two sides of the same coin.
Of course, listening to a CD is one thing, but delivering in a live setting is something else altogether. Fortunately, as fun as the recordings are, Chromeo has built its reputation on an engaging and high-energy live show. When asked what to expect, P-Thugg said "It's a mix of a concert and a huge dance party. I guess part of it is watching me and Dave interact and act like a couple of fools," he added with a laugh.
Sonically, the band straddles the fine line of creating something fresh and danceable, while recalling many of the classic dance and funk acts of the mid-80s. Visually, the band stays consistent with recurring images and themes that float from album to album and single to single.
Mostly, however, the band's appeal comes from an authentic love of the music, which keeps it from being merely gimmick. It's something that translates from the records to the stage to the dance floor, making the Chromeo's stop at Cain's Ballroom this Friday night, Oct. 21, the party you won't want to miss. Tickets are still available for $27 and the party starts at 8pm with Breakbot and Mayer Hawthorne opening the show.
Send all comments and feedback regarding Music to email@example.com.
URL for this story: http://www.urbantulsa.comhttp://www.urbantulsa.com/gyrobase/Content?oid=oid%3A43585