That’s “So Chromeo”: The Duo Talk Making an Impression and Staying Funky as Adults

They call themselves “Funklordz,” go by the monikers “Dave 1” and “P-Thugg,” and are rarely seen without their signature dark shades: this is Chromeo. As the riotous early 2000s era that propelled them to indie superstardom becomes the stuff of legends, the Funklordz approach a new chapter with their groove intact.

A duo of thirty-year collaborators and best friends, Chromeo and their visual signatures make lasting impressions — from the cover shots of their six studio albums to the stage design of last year’s Coachella performance, the impact is memorable and consistent.

Chromeo released their most recent album, Adult Contemporary, on February 16, 2024. The album deals with themes of mature relationships, the Millennial gaze, and “staying funky as an adult.” Speaking with David “Dave 1” Macklovitch about the album and its place in Chromeo’s catalogue, it’s clear that his connection to the band’s creative vision is as strong as it was twenty years ago. 

The subject matter of this album is new territory for Macklovitch, but he describes it as an authentic offering from a duo of close friends and collaborators.

“The theme of a mature relationship came naturally because P and I have been in a relationship for 30 years,” he says.

Chromeo’s first album, She’s in Control, released in 2004.

What is the band’s secret for longevity? Listening to Macklovitch describe what’s under the hood, it appears to be fuelled by fervent, consistent, obsessive intentionality. 

“We patented ourselves after musical acts that impacted us, whether it was the Beastie Boys, ZZ Top, or even Wu-Tang,” Macklovitch explains. “[These bands] had an aesthetic and a backstory that were just as important as the music.”

Enchanted by the effect of something feeling, looking, or sounding “so Wu-Tang,” Macklovitch set out to define what “so Chromeo” might look like. The duo’s resulting visual language, having achieved what Macklovitch intended, exudes coolness and ease.

“Making something look effortless is what takes the most effort. It’s like bed hair. Right? Like, that takes six hours and a 400-dollar hairstylist.” Macklovitch jokes, “I think people can probably tell we put an enormous amount of work into everything we do. But it has to seem effortless, and even more so, it has to feel natural.” 

Chromeo’s second album, Fancy Footwork, released in 2007.

That natural feeling is what has resonated with audiences around the world since 2002. As the creative vein that they tapped as teenagers continues to proffer, Macklovitch looks back on the initial spark between himself and Patrick “P-Thugg” Gemayel.

“The concept of the band stems from a passion that we developed for this kind of music during the formative years of our life,” he reminisces. “It’s not hard for us to keep being entranced by [funk] music, and wanting to pay tribute to it. . .it not only changed our lives but catalyzed our friendship starting when we were 15 years old.”

Chromeo’s foundation is rock-solid: Macklovitch and Gemayel found in each other best friends as well as excellent business partners. 

The warmth in Macklovitch’s voice when he explains his partnership with Gemayel is endearing.

“I do all the creative direction, but P weighs in at every turn. I always love having him there to give me feedback.”

It almost sounds honeymoon-y, even after all these years: “P’s super visually and artistically inclined, and we just agree on everything.”

Chromeo’s third album, Business Casual, released in 2010.

This visual orientation is central for Macklovitch as well, which becomes quite clear as he describes his fascination with European graphic design and the specific style of Swiss typography that inspires him in his creative direction for Chromeo’s record label, Juliet Records. 

“The art and the visuals are as important as the music,” Macklovitch muses, “sometimes even more important. Like, I’ve never really heard an Iron Maiden song in my life. But I think they’re one of my favourite bands, just because of the T-shirts!”

He draws a parallel to another legendary band with lasting imagery: The Grateful Dead.

“Their visuals always made me curious about them, and made me respect them more.”

Chromeo’s fifth album, Head Over Heels, released in 2018.

This visuals-first, music-second stance may be an uncommon one, but if that is the order of Chromeo’s priorities as Macklovitch describes them, you can’t deny that it’s effective.

“Every time somebody asks me for advice for an aspiring musician, I always say the most important thing is people need to be able to dress like you for Halloween,” says Macklovitch.

Chromeo spent a large part of last year on tour, promoting singles leading up to Adult Contemporary. They took to the stage at Coachella and brought the heat with stage design: they played in front of massive, chrome synth towers styled after The Original New Timbral Orchestra (a.k.a. TONTO). TONTO is a giant synthesizer that was built in 1968 by music producers Malcolm Cecil and Robert Margouleff, and is featured throughout Stevie Wonder’s catalogue; most iconically on the bassline for “Superstition.” These days, TONTO is housed in the National Music Centre’s living collection. 

The choice to offer an iconic but somewhat obscure reference to such a mainstream festival is an expression of something deeply “Chromeo.” It’s a quality of theirs that tracks through humour, lightheartedness, accessibility, and depth.

“If you know TONTO, it provides you with one kind of pleasure, but you don’t have to know TONTO to think it’s dope,” Macklovitch explains. 

This tactic is not new to the band.

“If you know that Helmut Newton’s first book is entitled White Women, and we call an album White Women and our visuals are very influenced by Helmut Newton, then you’re like, ‘Ah, this is sick.’ But if you don’t know who Helmut Newton is, it doesn’t matter.” The depth is there if you want it, but in Macklovitch’s words, “It doesn’t have to be interpreted. If your stuff transcends, everybody will enjoy it for some reason.”

Chromeo’s fourth album, White Women, released in 2014.

As for Adult Contemporary, the easter egg is a little more subtle.

“It’s a millennial album,” proclaims Macklovitch. “On the one hand, it’s a play on adult contemporary, the most boring genre of music. But ‘Adult Contemporary’ could have also been the title of an erotic magazine in the ’70s.” The album cover, which features a nude portrait, betrays this double entendre. “It’s like, how to be a sexy adult.”

“Adulthood is trending. Why do you think Gen Z is calling everybody ‘mother’?” Macklovitch has theories about this, alluding to a lost puppy generation that can’t remember life before the internet. He concludes on a heartening note: “Being an adult is not boring. Being an adult is taking on the idea that you have to inspire and motivate younger people. And then everybody finds their place, you know?” 

As for us Millennials, Dave 1 has a comforting message: “Don’t worry, you’re the trendiest thing in the world. You’re indie-sleaze.”

Chromeo’s sixth album, Adult Contemporary, released in 2024.