At the time of our interview, Chromeo’s David Macklovitch, a.k.a. Dave 1, happens to be in Minneapolis, a coincidence that’s too rich for him to avoid pointing out. As Chromeo’s latest release is billed as a tribute to funk music, one can hardly imagine a better place than Prince’s hometown to bring up the subject… “What’s more,” the singer adds, “our show is taking place in the very venue where Prince is performing in the Purple Rain film! Let’s just say that there are phantoms lurking around…”
The ghost of Prince is one of the many references jumping out at your ears as you listen to Head Over Heels, particularly on “Bad Decision,” a song whose slap-bass and nervy chords offer a clear tribute to the late singer. “It’s one of the songs that best represent the colour we had in mind for the album,” says Dave 1. “We wanted to keep the electro rhythms that are part of our DNA, while at the same time bringing a more human feel. Actually, we wanted to try to re-create the energy of a 1970s rock band.”
To that end, Dave and his partner, Patrick Gemayel, a.k.a. P-Thugg, moved into a Los Angeles studio – where they’d invited an impressive array of guest musicians, a departure from their usually rather insular universe. “Honestly, I’m not very fond of the L.A. atmosphere – we went there mostly for logistical reasons,” says Dave 1, a proud New Yorker. The artists, of varied generations and backgrounds, who collaborated with the duo ranged from French Montana to DRAM to Rodney “Darkchild” Jenkins and The Time’s Jesse Johnson (another nod to Prince).
“The artist we wanted the most was The-Dream,” says Dave 1. “Pat and I are hard-core fans of his work [Editor’s Note: he produced Rihanna’s “Umbrella”] and we were thrilled to have him with us to sing on ‘Bedroom Calling.’ Throughout the process, we were feeding on our collaborators’ energy, in spite of the fact that, in the case of Amber Mark, who can be heard on ‘Just Friends,’ it was actually a long-distance e-mail collaboration. We left in the song the little note where she’s talking directly to me, saying “Here’s what I can offer you, Dave, call me back if you need anything else,” to keep a spontaneous feel.”
Despite their obvious wish to bring a breath of freedom into their work, the Chromeo guys are remaining faithful to their sound, and to their control-freak perfectionist leanings. The same approach applies to the album visuals, with a cover that offers a fun variation on a known recipe. After using (and objectifying) disembodied women’s legs on all of their previous album covers, the male pair now reverses the visual dynamics by appearing on the Head Over Heels cover wearing fishnet stockings and high heels, a calculated choice that introduces a new element while respecting a graphic approach that was established from the outset. “The visual presentation is paramount for us,” Dave explains. “In some ways, it can be more important than the music itself! Most of the groups that have helped shape us, from the Ramones to Daft Punk, have a very strong and unique image. Take KISS, for instance: I could hardly name five of their songs, but I know exactly what their shows looked like.”
For their Head Over Heels tour, the band indulged in gleaming scenery that includes chrome stage-set elements, instruments, and other objects. The glitzy stage direction and festive approach – tailored for music festivals – provides the duo with the background they need to shed some light on our troubled times.
“Patrick and I are living in the U.S. in 2018, so it’s absolutely impossible for us not to be politicized!” says Dave 1. “And since we’re not shy about sharing our opinions, whether it’s on social media or during interviews, we don’t feel the need to make socially committed music. For us, making music for the sole purpose of making people happy is, in and of itself, a political gesture.”