April 17th, 2024

Montreal duo Chromeo says music industry has been failing their funk heroes

By David Friend, The Canadian Press on February 19, 2024.

Chromeo - David "Dave 1" Macklovitch, right, and Patrick "P-Thugg" Gemayel, pose for a photo in Toronto, Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024, as they promote their forthcoming album "Adult Contemporary." THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

TORONTO – Two decades into their mission to funk up the world, Chromeo says they’ve still got lots of juice left in their tank.

With the Montreal duo’s sixth studio album out last week, David Macklovitch and Patrick Gemayel have a lot on their minds, particularly about the continued lack of appreciation for funk in the broader music industry.

“All our heroes haven’t gotten their proper recognition,” says Gemayel, Chromeo’s keyboardist and talk box operator.

“Why is there not a funk category in most musical award shows?” adds Macklovitch, the lead vocalist and guitarist who performs as “Dave 1.”

“Where’s the Bootsy Collins or George Clinton lifetime achievement? These people need to get honoured.”

This is only the tip of Chromeo’s frustrations over how the genre’s history is slighted by the wider music community that’s paid much lip service to righting the ship of historical representation.

They point to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame mantle, which includes a few funk inductees such as James Brown and Parliament Funkadelic, but not Rick James.

“When is (he) going to have his name on a pedestal like Brian Eno?” Gemayel asks, referring to the ambient music pioneer inducted as a member of Roxy Music in 2019.

Even Netflix’s deep catalogue of music documentaries doesn’t have one dedicated to funk history or any of its most prominent artists, he adds.

Talking about those omissions gets both musicians energized early in a conversation about what keeps Chromeo purring along today.

Sitting in a repurposed Toronto industrial studio decorated with salvaged furniture and shelves of used books, they acknowledge the band could’ve easily fizzled out as a novelty act of the internet blog era they came up in.

Instead, they rose above their critics and landed their biggest chart hit in 2014’s pop-synth ditty “Jealous (I Ain’t With It),” which climbed to No. 12 on the Billboard Canada Hot 100.

A decade later, Chromeo seems as determined as ever to honour the subset of music history that gave them their sound.

“Even if, funk is back today in pop music, it’s only really a sliver,” explains Gemayel, who goes by “P-Thugg.”

“There’s whole other facets that people haven’t seen yet.”

“Adult Contemporary” marks the latest chapter in Chromeo’s funk odyssey and their first proper album in six years. Like the ones before it, the songs are drenched in playful nods to their funk ancestors, except this time they’re carrying a pinch more maturity as two men deep into their 40s.

“(I Don’t Need A) New Girl” opens the record on a notably serious tone, a drum-machine declaration that one guy’s wandering eye is finally under control. Several tracks later, “Lonesome Nights” gently drifts through a reflection on distant lovers.

There is still room for Chromeo’s goofy observations on relationships. They hit their stride on “Personal Effects,” an ode to the mind games of a breakup when one person leaves their stuff behind as a reminder to their ex.

They describe “Adult Contemporary” as a return to their roots after their largely collaborative 2018 album “Head Over Heels” relied more on input from other musicians and writers. The new album sees only U.K. singer La Roux, best known for 2009 synth-pop hit “Bulletproof,” among the featured artists on “Replacements.”

“We wanted to do everything ourselves like we did on our first album,” says Macklovitch.

“But keep all the techniques and all the tricks that we’ve learned.”

Chromeo embarks on a concert tour of the U.S. and Europe over the summer before playing various Canadian dates in the fall.

It comes at a time when their unity as an Arab-Jewish Canadian musical partnership is juxtaposed against the Israel-Hamas war, which brings up the question of where they stand in the conflict.

“We’ve always stood for cross-cultural solidarity,” Macklovitch says.

“It’s building bridges, finding commonalities and treating other cultures with respect.”

Adds Gemayel: “We’re referencing Black music from the ’80s; I’m a Canadian Arab; Dave’s a Canadian Jew. It’s the same thing, an exchange of culture.

“If there’s none of that, there’s no Chromeo. There’s no peace in the world. There’s no nothing,” he adds.

“It’s all the same discussion at the end of the day.”

While their partnership holds strong, Chromeo says they’re charging ahead with their continuing quest for funk appreciation. They insist there’s much left to say and explore before Chromeo ends its story, as Gemayel puts it.

“I don’t even know how the story finishes,” Macklovitch adds.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 19, 2024.

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