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Chromeo Aim for 'the Total Package' on 'White Women'

Fashion-conscious funk band's fourth album will feature Solange, Ezra Koenig, more

Dave 1 and P-Thugg of Chromeo perform in New York City.
Taylor Hill/FilmMagic
October 18, 2013 12:05 PM ET

When funk lords Chromeo write new songs, they put themselves through the "American Apparel test." "You know, cute retail hipster girl, fun music," explains singer Dave Macklovitch, who goes by Dave 1. "It'll play between a Toro Y Moi remix and a Vampire Weekend record, or a Disclosure song." Adds musical partner Patrick Gemayel (a.k.a. P-Thugg), "On a Saturday at 3 p.m., and the mom will be like, 'I want to buy that record!'"

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It's no accident that Macklovitch chose those artists as examples: both Toro Y Moi's Chaz Bundick and Ezra Koenig of Vampire Weekend appear on the New York-by-way-of-Montreal Chromeo's upcoming album, White Women, their fourth full-length, due out in 2014. They'll welcome a panoply of guests, from Solange and former LCD Soundsystem drummer Pat Mahoney to singer Tawatha Agee of Mtume, whose 1983 hit "Juicy Fruit" was sampled for Notorious B.I.G.'s "Juicy." Such a collaborative approach was inspired in part by Kanye West's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, which came out around the time of Chromeo's 2010 album Business Casual.

White Women explores what they're dubbing "Larry David funk" – "a combination of sexy, funky, macho music with neurotically love-torn lyrics," as Macklovitch puts it. They've always taken a lighthearted approach to their music, and he says the lyrics onthe new album are some of the funniest he's ever written. Yet the duo hopes to engage listeners on a deeper level as well.

"It's ambiguous – ethnic guys [Macklovitch is half Moroccan, Gemayel is Lebanese] making a tribute to black music with an album called White Women. We felt it was a challenge to this super conservative climate we're feeling in America these days," says Macklovitch, citing in particular the nation's polarized response to "Blurred Lines." "We just wanted debates like this to be engaged. It's interesting that the music we make can branch out into these conversations."

Chromeo have been branching out in other ways, too. They recently hosted an all-white art installation at Milk Studios, one of the hubs of New York Fashion Week, which was a spin-off of their Wild West marriage-themed video for "Over Your Shoulder," and in January Macklovitch and Gemayel will launch the "Chromeo Collection," a line of leather jackets they designed for the French boutique and creative studio Surface to Air. And that's just the beginning.

"For us on this record, it's the total package," says Macklovitch. "The art is going to be really interesting, the remixes, the videos. It's about injecting more stimulating elements and expanding the Chromeo universe."

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Song Stories

“Try a Little Tenderness”

Otis Redding | 1966

This pop standard had been previously recorded by dozens of artists, including by Bing Crosby 33 years before Otis Redding, who usually wrote his own songs, cut it. It was actually Sam Cooke’s 1964 take, which Redding’s manager played for Otis, that inspired the initially reluctant singer to take on the song. Isaac Hayes, then working as Stax Records’ in-house producer, handled the arrangement, and Booker T. and the MG’s were the backing band. Redding’s soulful version begins quite slowly and tenderly itself before mounting into a rousing, almost religious “You’ve gotta hold her, squeeze her …” climax. “I did that damn song you told me to do,” Redding told his manager. “It’s a brand new song now.”

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