Dance duo discuss White Women, racism and not being bothered by Daft Punk
Andrew Trendell

15:56 13th March 2014

More about:

"We try to be weird, more than anything else," shrugs Chromeo's Dave 1 at the suggestion that they are and always have been a 'sexy' band. An electro duo that consist of an Arab and a Jew, pillaging classic dancefloor sounds from throughout the generations and wrapping it all in a modern shimmer to tell tales about fancy footwork and getting down and dirty, you can't help but agree that they've got pretty damn good at mixing the strange with the sexy. 

Except it's not a particularly comfortable time for an artist to to be 'sexy'. All it takes is a twerk of Miley's rear, a hashtag from Robin Thicke or a racy husband and wife dance from Beyonce and Jay Z and the world throws up its arms, calling for the end of days and the erosion of all morality. 

"I agree with the controversy and I think it's actually disturbing to see how conservative a lot of the press is in reaction," muses Dave. "If you listen to the lyrics to 'Brown Sugar' by the Rolling Stones, that sort of thing would never fly today. There's a climate of conservatism."

He continues: "We come from a place that's totally about respect for women, but on another level, I think that the backlash that Beyonce got after her Grammys performance was borderline racist."

"I think for us, the idea is just to do weirder things - it's sexy but in a very, very non-traditional way. It's sexy-quirky or sexy avant-garde."

Those sexy, non-traditional stirrings came about once again when Dave 1 and P-Thugg unveiled the title and artwork of their upcoming fourth album, White Women. Stick it on the cover of any old artist and it could attract accusations of misogyny, racism and God only knows what else. But Chromeo are famously a band of modern gentlemen - turning any notion of sexism on its head - and making it breakdance. 

"The album cover shows both of us marrying the same girl, it's called White Women and clearly the woman is not white," explains Dave. "We just play with sexual signifiers instead of exploiting them. Our album is a nod to Helmut Newton (the provocative and erotic fashion photographer), who was no stranger to controversy who also pushed a lot of people's buttons - if you look at a lot of his work then it looks at stereotypes in a critical way.

"We always had the keyboard leg thing, but we pushed it to a whole other level on this record with a strange and controversial title and this weird either gay or threesome disturbing imagery. We go along those lines to force people to talk to us about it, rather than just having 'a babe'."

And talking about it people most certainly are, just as they're talking about this new fangled 'disco revival'. Brought on by the Studio 54 throwback sounds of Daft Punk, Nile Rodgers, Pharrell Williams, Robin Thicke and a load more in 2013, you can hear the twinking of mirrorballs and syncopated shuffling of feet throughout the charts in 2014. 

One problem, however - Chromeo have been doing this for years. Do they feel as if they may finally been prone to some well-deserved mainstream success now that Daft Punk have kicked the door open?

"People tell us that, but we feel skeptical because we've always had our own sound - so who knows?," says Dave. "We can't really count on whether it's going to translate or bleed over to us. We just keep doing our thing and hoping our fan base grows. But you can be sure that in four more years when people are done with the disco funk revival, we'll still be doing what we do."

P-Thugg chips in: "We don't claim ownership. If somebody is like 'you're copying this and that' then we'll be like 'yo, go back 10 years and you'll see', but we don't claim ownership of anything."

Dave muses: "We reference a lot of stuff from 80s, but everybody copies everything. We don't talk about originality or ownership. The Scissor Sisters were doing disco in the meantime when they had their big hits. Then there was this Nile Rodgers thing and that Bruno Mars record, for us it's just good because it makes our sound less alien to a lot of people's ears. It brings flowers at the door so we can come in and eat what's in the fridge."

Taking the time to invite others into 'the fridge' White Women features an A-list of unexpected but weirdly fitting collaborations including Toro Y Moi and Vampire Weekend's Ezra Koenig. Is there anyone else on their hitlist to work with in future?

"I think BANKS is amazing, fka TWIGS, plus Kelis is coming back with a record that is super left-field," says Dave. "We could still collaborate with her - we've been talking about that for years. But No.1 on our list right now is Neneh Cherry. Her new album is incredible. It's such a powermove on her part."

If you'd have said the words 'disco revival' just a few short years ago, you'd have been laughed out of most clubs. In a decade dominated by dubstep, EDM and autotuned nonsense, the dancefloor has finally been cleared for Chromeo. But it's not too diffifcult to think back to a time when there would be no disco and no one like Chromeo at an event like Bestival. Do they feel as if they have any kindred spirits in the artists following in their footsteps?

"Who's going to be like us at the next festival?" asks Dave. "And the next festival? No one is going to be like us. Bruno Mars has that one 80s song and we're huge fans but this is our whole catalogue. It goes beyond one track and it's what we've been doing . When we started this band, a big thing we wanted to do was help people rediscover records that we thought were great in an era of music that we thought wasn't getting credit.

"When Pharrell brings out Nile Rodgers at the BRIT Awards, that's just an amazing thing for music. Look at all the kids discovering Nile Rodgers. He could be a grandfather - he's not young but he's still popping and now relevant to a whole new generation. That generation can then listen to our music and understand it better. It's a really positive thing."

Wrapping it all up in a wonderfully neat but brutal bow, P-Thugg adds: "This is our shit. That's all there is to it."

White Women by Chromeo will be released on 12 May, 2014, before Chromeo return to the UK to play The Roundhouse in London on Friday 6 June and Parklife Weekender in Manchester on Saturday 7 June. 

For more information visit Gigwise gig tickets

Below: 12 exclusive photos of Chromeo bringing the funk to XOYO, London

Grab your copy of the Gigwise print magazine here.

More about:

Photo: Press