Chromeo probably isn’t the first electrofunk duo fronted by a Barnard College French professor, but it’s definitely the most successful. Dave 1 and P-Thugg have released three albums, beginning with 2004’s audacious She’s In Control. The duo broke through in 2007 with Fancy Footwork and released its best-selling album to date, 2010’s Business Casual. Chromeo is hoping to up its profile even further with one of its biggest tours to date, sharing the stage with nu-soul crooner Mayer Hawthorne. As he packed his bags to hit the road, Dave 1 talked about following the Strokes, getting paranoid on the road, and how Prince speaks for himself.
Chromeo is like the funnest band ever, right?
I don’t know. You tell me.
Well, I’ve always had a high opinion of your ability to make people happy.
I think we’re always looking to make people dance and smile, and sing along with our music. We try to emanate positive energy and joyous vibes that hopefully show some of the fun we have making it.
How do you translate that to the live setting?
The live set focuses a lot on the sing along choruses. We add a lot of break downs, where P and I are doing some fun things with percussion or playing some really epic guitar solos. We have a pretty elaborate light show that accentuates all the moments of the live set. Obviously we also try to perform with as much charisma as possible, and try to work in a lot of who we are. A lot of bands try to hide behind a mask of production while they’re on stage. We really couldn’t do that if we wanted to.
Tell me about a time things didn’t really work out, and you played kind of a bum show?
A couple of weeks ago we were playing a festival in Italy that was just one stage. The headliner was the Strokes, and we were playing right before them. We’re not very well known in Italy to begin with, and this was clearly the Strokes’ crowd. Our music is such a huge contrast from that; it was weird playing before them. The crowd wanted to see that band, so I can’t really say that was one of our best shows.
How do you deal with that as a band after the show?
We try to laugh it off. Sometimes if I’m tired I think I’ll get overly bummed, but most of the time we can move on pretty easily.
Is it harder to get a bad record review or have a bad show?
I don’t know. We’ve only put out three records, but we’ve played so many shows. The bad shows are going to happen, so you have to learn to deal with them.
Would you rather have a rave review or a really good show?
Again, it’s a numbers game. It really depends where the record review comes out. If I could trade a great review in Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, or Prefix Magazine– Actually, did you guys shit on our last record?- for a so-so show in Kazakhstan, then I’m probably going to make that trade. Taking the wider view, though, we shouldn’t really be concerned with the reviews. The shows are where we have direct contact with the fans, so it’s more important to establish a great track record of shows. Reviews are pretty fickle anyway. We shouldn’t focus too much on them.
Tell me about the absolute best show you’ve ever played.
The best one in recent memory was Sasquatch Festival. We were on the main stage, but I must say that the slot was kind of early. It was three in the afternoon, and there was nobody there when we showed. The change over was only twenty minutes, but in that time the whole gorge miraculously filled up. Right as we started to play, it was like Exodus in reverse. People were coming from everywhere. The crowd response was perfect; we were tight. The energy was there. It was a perfect time. Coachella was amazing too, but this one had a surprise element to it.
What’s the feeling after one of these transcendent show experiences?
You’re just really grateful and humble, and honestly I just start reviewing the set with P, and we see what we could have done even better. I don’t start doing shots or anything like that; we just keep looking for that one place where we could make some improvements.
Is there any weird perk for you on tour? Do you like to sleep in hotels or something?
I guess, but I sleep in more hotels in a year than most people do in their entire life. It’s tough when you get that much of it. It’s like the kid who works at McDonald’s. You start getting used to it, and it doesn’t feel special anymore. Obviously when the hotels are really fancy it’s a plus, but right now I’m in Montreal for a couple of days and I’m sleeping in the basement of my parents’ house. That’s kind of cool in a way.
Is there any part of touring that’s a specific drag?
The not sleeping combined with the grueling travelling schedule- the sleepless nights are tough. When you finish playing a festival in Spain at three in the morning and lobby call is at six, it’s tough. It affects your mood. You get cranky and extra sensitive. Lack of sleep really fucks with you. You get super paranoid. It’s strange.
What do you get paranoid about when you’re on the road suffering from lack of sleep?
I get into fights with flight attendants. It’s some real Larry David shit. I start insulting people. It’s so uncool. I don’t want to be that person. Like when there’s a baby crying on the plane, I’ll yell, “You see, that’s why I’m pro-choice!” Just stuff like that.
How do you maintain your academic schedule and your touring schedule?
It’s really tough. I’m actually not going to do it this year. Up to this point, I was playing whenever I wasn’t teaching. I would teach two days with one day of office hours. Every other day I was on the road. In terms of planning classes or correcting papers, I was doing that from wherever I was at the time. I was never late, though; I always handed in the finals on the next day. Hence the lack of sleep. Sometimes when one gets too demanding, you have to let the other one fall off.
What artist would you pay full price to see?
Why is the sky blue? He’s the best guitar player and the best vocalist, and he’s back on the road doing shows. He’s a great artist and has so many of my favorite songs, and he plays for three hours. I mean, why not?
Prince is perfectly fine. I think we need a little elaboration. What if one of your students gave you a one-word answer?
I think Prince is a perfectly fine one-word answer. I would give the student an A+.
Fill in this sentence: The next Chromeo album will be ___________________________.
Our best work ever. We’ll be starting work on it in December and January when the tour’s over, but I already have some ideas for it. I’ve got a keen awareness of the areas in which we need to improve, and I’m looking forward to proving anybody who has ever doubted us wrong. It’ll be good.