Chromeo: It’s About More Than The Music, But It’s Still About The Music
Photo By Clayton Woodley
Electro-pop funk artist. French literature professor. Fashion icon.
David Macklovitch is all of these and everything in between.
Meet one half of Chromeo, the electro group you’ve known about forever, and that isn’t going anywhere.
For a self-proclaimed underdog, it’s hard to believe that David Macklovitch has ever been anything other than cool. Known for his work as Dave 1 of electro-pop funk duo Chromeo, his interest spans from academia—”I loved teaching Baudelaire to my students,” he said of his time lecturing at Columbia University—to pop-up shop events with Fool’s Gold, the label he founded with younger brother, who you may know as A-Trak. He does it because he loves it, because as he says, “It’s more than the music, it’s about creating a whole environment and everything that goes along with that.” With 3 album covers designed by Surface To Air, he’s also become synonymous among fans with the image of the classic fashion icon; tall, dark, handsome, decked out in Saint Laurent. Just now finished with a tour across the United States, he’s heading off to Jamaica, but David Macklovitch checked in with Galore to discuss exactly that—where he came from, and where he’s going.
You’re French Jewish Moroccan from Montreal—what was your ‘scene’ growing up?
Well, I grew up in the ’90s, you know, when the hip hop scene was in its golden era, as many people say. I was 15 or 16 years old, writing graffiti, basically experiencing this total zeitgeist moment, which we fully embraced and fully identified with at the time. What you listen to influences everything you do, especially at that time, so it really affected the lifestyle we lived. That was my scene.
Did you feel you were able to identify that moment in time as the ‘golden era’? Sometimes it’s hard to identify the zeitgeist while it’s happening.
Yes, I think we really did. It’s because there was a sense of urgency surrounding music—there were new albums coming out every week that we were just dying to buy.
What were your favorite albums? What did you listen to growing up?
I liked Hell on Earth by Mobb Deep, Liquid Swords by the GZA, and Illadelph Halflife by The Roots. At home, my parents listened to Fleetwood Mac, Bob Dylan…all that normal hippie-ish parent music.
“We’re still hungry. We’re still the underdog. We haven’t won a Grammy, we still have something to prove, so we still put the same pressure on ourselves.”
Do your parents listen to your music?
Oh my God, they’re literally the biggest Chromeo fans. They read every YouTube comment, comment on everything, watch all our videos—back in the 2008, our Myspace page went down, and my dad calling me, freaking out, saying two things. First, he was like, “I bet it’s Justice that did it,” and I was like, “Dad, no! They’re our friends!” and then he said, “You need to get your Myspace back up right now, because I have nothing else to look at on my lunch break.”
Wow, that’s so cute. Was Myspace a big part of the way you guys came up?
Myspace totally blew us up! I mean, we came out in 2004, and really, nobody was fucking with us at the time. The only thing people wanted to hear was LCD Soundsystem and The Rapture. We were like, that shit is so white! Then came out with our Lionel Richie, Rick James-influenced type shit. Then we put out our first album, and people gravitated towards it, because our Myspace was thriving, and there was this whole youth driven music scene that was starting to move online.
How has your music changed since then?
Well, we’re a little bit more pop now…I think everyone is a little more pop now…but I don’t think we’ve changed that much, actually.
You don’t think fame has largely affected the way you guys write? I always wonder what it’s like to write music after blowing up, when it’s hard to be as hungry—
No way, we’re still hungry. We’re still the underdog. We haven’t won a Grammy, we still have something to prove, so we still put the same pressure on ourselves. We certainly have our own following, but we’re still hungry.
And so how did your time teaching at Columbia inform your music? Did it help you?
I wouldn’t say it helped me. It was such an important part in my life, being in academia, because I had always thought that music was only going to be a hobby. So it was who I was at the time, and it was a part of my life, and sometimes it felt like a nice balance to regroup and curl up in a library, to be really intellectually stimulated. But now I get that in so many other places!
In terms of intellectual stimulation, what are you reading right now?
It’s crazy, because I’ve missed out on a lot of pop culture…you know, I’ve spent so much time reading French literary theory. Now I’m trying to alternate. I’ll read one high brow book, and then a low brow, or dumb book…or maybe not dumb, but like investigative journalism. I have “Under the Banner of Heaven, which is about Mormon fundamentalism. It’s not dumb, but it’s not the most high brow.
So if you don’t have beach reads, what do you read on the beach?
I don’t know! Not normal beach books!
God, I’ll have to send you some then! On the other hand, what are you listening to these days?
Please do. I’m listening to the new A$AP Rocky album. I like it better than his first album. Lil Wayne’s verse on A$AP Rocky’s album, and his verse on the album is the best verse I’ve heard all year.
Who’s your favorite rapper?
“The font on an album cover is just as important as the song title.”
That makes sense to me. You guys are both interested in the space where fashion meets music. What’s the appeal to you in owning a record label?
My brother (A-Trak) and I started Fool’s Gold because we’re interested in being patrons. So at first it was like, Fool’s Gold brought you Danny Brown, Kid Cudi, Duck Sauce, and now Fool’s Gold brings you BOSCO, and Brenmar, and Leaf. These kids are fucking amazing, and that’s the future! And then it’s also about other things we do, little openings, like Daniel Arsham at Milk Studios, for example.
So, for you, it’s important that an artist you like represent a lot of different things? As in, it’s really more than about the music for you.
Yeah! I just love all aspects of the process. For me, the font on an album cover is just as important as the song title. I love the nerdy studio technical aspect of it, the video aspect of it, the lyrical aspect…music is so multi-dimensional for me, I need all of those qualities to be fulfilled.
And if they’re not, that kills it for you?
Yeah! A great example is Drake—I always loved and respected Drake’s music, but I never loved his album covers until this year, until If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late came out. I think it’s so genius. And it really did something to me, so it’s my favorite Drake album!
Do you have a favorite song of yours?
I like “Old 45” right now. It always changes though.
What’s your favorite love song?
Anything by Barry White. Oh! Or “Nothing Can Come Between Us” by Sade.