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Chromeo on the music industry’s sellouts: It’s “the norm

Canadian electro-funk duo, Chromeo, has been around for years, but they’ve only recently blown up in America. As America loosens up, again, Chromeo’s style of giant ice luges and tributes to famous photographers is exactly what we’re after. Are they “selling out,” though?

Oh, Chromeo. Oh, Chromeo. O where for art thou, Chromeo? That depends on the day… sometimes the hour. Hailing from Canada, the boys of Chromeo are two of the hardest-working guys in the business, constantly putting it all out there in an effort to take their music further, make their fans happier and share a little love with their heroes and friends. After a night of performing alongside a record-breaking ice luge for a Johnny Appleseed event, Dave 1, one half of Chromeo, took a little time to answer some of our questions and give a little love where it had been earned.

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The guys are always a little cheeky and they made no exception when naming their newest album. Where did White Women come from? Oh, you know, just a super-famous photographer who challenged a lot of the art world’s misconceptions on what is “art”: Helmut Newton.

“I was at a retrospective of his in Paris and saw the titles of his individual monographs,” Dave 1 explained. “This one caught me: It could have been a great Bowie or Roxy Music or Van Halen album title. So, why not us? It’s catchy and controversial, but underneath it all lies our sincere admiration for Mr. Newton’s work. He broke down boundaries between art and fashion, between lowbrow and highbrow. He was pigeonholed as a photographer and misunderstood as an artist. And yet, he’s behind some of photography’s most iconic images. Our album artwork aesthetic owes a lot to him.”

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That aesthetic has a lot to do with legs. You’ll find an enviable set on the cover of White Women and, during every concert, the guys stand behind instruments propped up on another set of sleek women’s legs. It’s the sexiest, most unique band “symbol” out there. But, Dave 1 was quick to give credit where it was due, sharing how they ended up with those symbolic gams.

“They were suggested to us by Surface To Air, our Paris-based art directors,” Dave 1 explained. “They got the idea from the ZZ Top video for ‘Rough Boy,’ which features a walking table on women’s legs. Every band needs a symbol!”

With such luscious legs so prominent in their album and stage design, we wondered if the smart, talented duo also just happened to be “leg men.”

“Not the least bit!” shared Dave 1. “We enjoy women of all shapes, sizes, backgrounds, body types — you name it. As I say in ‘Over Your Shoulder,’ it’s those little imperfections that make beauty in our eyes.”

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We’re supposed to be professionals, but we can’t help but swoon a little. Between Newton and ladies everywhere, Chromeo shelled out a lot of love throughout the interview and Dave 1 didn’t stop there. Chromeo is notorious for making songs that are easy to remix and for releasing individual song tracks to help DJs do their own thing with Chromeo music. With so many professional and amateur DJs out there, we didn’t expect Dave 1 to have any particular favorites, but he proved us wrong.

“So many [remixes] came out dope,” he said. “I think my fave might be DJ Hoodboi’s take on ‘Jealous.’ But, everybody killed it, from Boys Noize to Dillon.”

The love continued when we talked about their music video for “Jealous” and their latest partnership with Johnny Appleseed Hard Cider. If you keep a close watch on music, you might recognize a few familiar faces in the video for “Jealous.” One of those faces belongs to the lovely French performer, Soko, who Dave 1 was quick to compliment. He also had an interesting approach to how Chromeo shows their love for their fans by partnering with other brands.

Plenty of bands have sold their music to brands for commercial use and there are always haters who want to throw the “sellout” card at those performers. It can be frustrating for people who understand how the music business (and life) works to hear ignorance being spouted at musicians for just doing what they have to do to pay the bills. Ever the laid-back Canadians, Dave 1 pointed out that the hate doesn’t bother them. They make the choices that best improve their lives… and that will benefit their fans most.

“It’s just the way the music business works now; it’s the norm,” Dave 1 said. “Now, you have bands that do it tastefully and others who don’t. For the Johnny Appleseed campaign, we wanted there to be more than just a synch in an ad: That doesn’t necessarily feel like an organic partnership. When we do a party like [last week], where fans can come see us for free, then we feel like we’re giving back, like fans benefit from this, too.”

The party Dave 1 is talking about is last week’s massive (and, yes, free) concert in Boston. The duo performed alongside a record-breaking two-story drink luge made of ice. The party was held to promote the new drink (and their new business partners), Johnny Appleseed Hard Apple Cider, and the event went off without a hitch. Once, again, Chromeo delivered big for their fans. And all those haters? They missed out on a free concert.

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