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Chromeo’s retro-inspired electrofunk grooves are sure to get the shyest wallflower’s hips swaying. The duo, Dave-1 (David Macklovitch) and P-Thugg (Patrick Gemayel), also has a sharp sense of humor and recently put out a video for “Night by Night” featuring Solange Knowles, in which women spontaneously become pregnant just by listening to their music. You get the impression that these guys, no matter how inspired they are by the '80s, live by a much older credo, the ancient Greek one about wine, women and song (OK, I'm not sure about the wine). St. Louis Magazine called Dave–1 before Chromeo’s concert at The Pageant on October 24 to talk about French, hipsters, and the real man behind the suave crooner.
St. Louis Magazine: How is your dissertation coming along [he’s a grad student at Columbia]? What’s it about?
David Macklovitch: I wrote about half of it already. It’s about realizing the pleasure of reading in early modern France.
SLM: When you meet French speakers from France, do they consider your Canadian French the same?
DM: Well, in my case, it’s a little particular because actually my parents aren’t from—I’m a second-generation immigrant. My dad is actually a native English speaker, and my mom is from Morocco, so it’s a little bit different.
SLM: She speaks French, though…
DM: Yeah, but they don’t speak it with the same accent. But for French people from France, they still feel I have an accent even though I can kind of neutralize it depending on who I talk to. It’s really just an accent thing.
SLM: You also teach. Did you ever have anyone come to your class because he was a fan?
DM: I think so. They’re usually pretty discreet about it, but sometimes they’ll tell me after the semester.
SLM: So you collaborated with Solange Knowles on your Business Casual album. How did that come about?
DM: We wanted a female vocal for this track. First of all, we didn’t have any female vocals on this album and the chorus was really high for my range. I couldn’t sing it, so we thought about her. She’s friends with my brother, who is also a musician. So it was pretty easy. We just asked her. She was already a Chromeo fan.
SLM: So, you’re married right?
DM: Me? No.
[Okay, brief interruption. Watch the beginning of this video. I knew she wasn't really pregnant, but I thought she was really his wife (I guess he means wife in the video?).]
SLM: Oh... But your brother is A-Track [probably best known as Kanye West's DJ] right?
SLM: Are your parents in music?
DM: My parents... actually they’re now both... well my mom is retired, my dad is going to be retiring soon. My mom was a translator, and my father is a linguist.
SLM: Are your parents surprised that their only two kids are in music?
DM: I think so, yeah. I think they were. It’s hard to tell, because we both have been doing music since we were quite young, so I don’t know if they're still surprised now. I mean, I guess they’re just happy that that’s what we’re doing.
SLM: What do you want people to take away from your music?
DM: I don’t really care, to be honest. Whatever they want to take from it, you know. Whatever makes them happy. I don’t have to impose an interpretation of my music. If they want to see it as something fun, cool. If they want to see it as something really nerdy, cool.
SLM: You don’t worry about people’s perceptions?
DM: Yeah, of course I do, but you can’t control that. You can’t control how people perceive what you do, so better not worry about it and just concentrate on making the best music you can possibly make.
SLM: That’s a good attitude.
DM: I hope so.
SLM: Were you always like that or did that come with fame?
DM: It came—I don’t know about my fame, but it came with experience, certainly. When we first started making music with Chromeo, we were really adamant about being taken seriously and about showing people there’s more to us than just humor in our music, and so on. But then as we became more successful, we just got a more gracious attitude towards all of it. Anytime anybody enjoys our music for whatever reason, it’s really a blessing, and we’re fortunate to be in that position. Once you put it out there in the world, it’s not yours anymore.
SLM: I get the impression you really like to dance.
DM: Uhh, that’s actually not true. I’m actually a really lousy dancer and if "The Night by Night" video [see below] is what you’re referring to, you should know that’s not me dancing in there. [I'm actually thinking about this.]
DM: Yeah, sorry to break that to you. I hope your crush on me remains.
SLM: Umm… yeah, no… well, my crush on you? Is that what you said?
DM: Yeah. That would be a great way... when you type it up that should be the last line.
SLM: Yeah, it—it'll catch people off guard… Uhh... well, how would you describe yourself then? I feel as if I have an image of you and it may not be 100% true.
DM: What’s your image of me?
SLM: Umm… I guess… don’t take this the wrong way…
DM: No it’s fine. I’m sure… you can insult me. It’s fine.
SLM: I was going to say you seem like a hipster. I don’t know if that’s insulting, though.
DM: No, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with hipsters, really. People seem to think it’s kind of negative, but it’s kind of hard to define what a hipster is, though. Do I wear tight pants and leather jackets? Yes. But I don’t know. I don’t have tattoos. I don’t—I’m not a vegan. There are a lot of hipster clichés that don’t apply to me. You mean, how I would describe my style, or how I am as a person?
SLM: How you are as a person.
DM: I’m pretty neurotic. I don’t know. I’m pretty neurotic. I’m pretty passionate. I’m pretty dedicated. I’m generous to the people who mean a lot to me and I think a lot… all the time.
SLM: Have you gone out of your way to create a certain image for Chromeo?
DM: Nope. No. I think our whole thing with Chromeo was to show—I mean, the whole crooner thing like that was totally part of how I am, too. It mostly comes from the fact that when I grew up, those were the guys I was really looking up to on TV, like the Robert Palmers of the world. Those were the guys I grew up listening to, and wanting to emulate, but my Chromeo persona is a little more nerdy and goofy than those dudes. That’s reflected in songs like “Mama’s Boy” or “Night by Night” there’s a bit of humor. I can be a funny dude, too. I don’t know. It’s hard to talk about yourself, but the hipster thing...I don’t know about that. I don’t mind being called a hipster at all. I don’t care about these things.
SLM: Well, I didn’t mean it negatively at all.
DM: I don’t think it’s really a negative thing. It’s negative when it becomes like a cliché, but I don’t think that would apply to me. But yeah, if you’re a cliché of any kind of type it’s a little corny.
SLM: Is there anything you want to add?
DM: Umm, that we’re looking forward to coming to St. Louis and that I like your accent. You’ve got a southern accent.
SLM: I do? [I don't—at all]
DM: Yeah. It’s cool.
Did Dave-1 just flirt with me? I think I’m pregnant.