Chromeo Keeps 'Casual' for Major Label Debut
Chromeo continues its journey into the creamy center of retro-'80s electro-funk on "Business Casual," the Montreal duo's third full-length and the follow-up to 2007's "Fancy Footwork," which earned Chromeo slots at Coachella and Bonnaroo and has sold 58,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Out today on Atlantic, "Business Casual" finds singer/guitarist David Macklovitch, also known as Dave 1, sharing his thoughts on hot messes and knights in shining armor over typically crafty arrangements by synthmeister Patrick "P-Thugg" Gemayel.
The video for "Night by Night," which the band made in conjunction with Mountain Dew's Green Label Sound, has racked up more than 1 million views on YouTube. Billboard spoke to Macklovitch about the band's nontraditional route to success.
"Fancy Footwork" went a long way toward raising Chromeo's profile beyond your in-the-know hipster fan base. Would you call the album your crossover effort?
"Breakthrough" would be better. It's tough for a band like us: We really belong in the new model, where YouTube views and blog presence count more than record sales in terms of awareness. It happened right during the last record. I remember when "Fancy Footwork" was about to come out, our manager was like, "Man, I got this thing called Google Analytics, and you guys are blowing it up." And I was like, "What does that mean? Who cares?" [The attention] was completely unexpected, and for us a lot of things that were our wildest dreams really happened: playing Coachella, playing "Conan," doing our first sold-out shows at [New York's] Bowery Ballroom. It gave us the motivation to keep going and try to adapt to the new reality of the business.
Are the two of you more involved in the group's extra-musical affairs than most musicians are in theirs?
It's hard to say, since I only know our own experience. It's like me as a guy, I've seen a lot of vaginas. But penises I don't see as many of; I'm not very penis-proficient.
But you guys do a lot.
We're extremely hands-on. [Gemayel] went to business school, so up until a year ago he was our tour manager. After every show we'd go to the hotel, open Excel, do the accounting. Now he still oversees a lot of that stuff; he's on the phone with our business managers all the time. As far as what I do, everything that's sort of the meta-artistic direction, that's more my department-album title, song titles, album sequence, all that. While he was preparing our last European tour, I was in London mastering the record. We keep our manager to meet with the record label and our booking agent and our publicist.
"Business Casual" is your major-label debut. What do you expect Atlantic to do for Chromeo?
Nothing. To be honest with you, it's more about what we can provide them to make it easy for them. All I asked them was, "Guys, please don't shelve our record. And work within your means so you don't lose money." Our last record made money-Atlantic gave us a royalty check [through the label's relationship with Vice Records]. Which isn't a testament to how well the record sold; it's a testament to how OK the record sold against how little they spent to get there. So I was like, "That's what I want on the new one. Let's be super-conservative. All I need for you guys is to put it out." And they were like, "Yeah, cool." I mean, they do have steps in place to give us a push so we can get from selling 70,000 records to maybe 100,000.
Do you have clear-cut commercial goals for this record?
No. That's a recipe for disappointment. I have clear-cut artistic goals, I'll tell you that much.
I just want to maintain and improve on the channels in which we exist: extensive touring, an entertaining live show, a super-big blog presence and really progressive, quirky, innovative videos done at a reasonable budget where everybody's like, "Wow, how'd you guys do that?"