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Electro-funk duo Chromeo on love, friendship and their new album 'Adult Contemporary'

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Adult contemporary can sometimes mean easy listening on the FM dial or R&B ballads from the '70s or '80s. But it's taken on a whole new meaning for the electro funk duo, Chromeo.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "(I DON'T NEED A) NEW GIRL")

CHROMEO: (Singing) I don't need a new, ooh. Girl, I feel so taken by you. And I know I played myself one time or two, ooh.

SIMON: Chromeo's latest album is called "Adult Contemporary." The duo joins us now, David "Dave 1" Macklovitch and Patrick "P-Thugg" Gemayel. Gentlemen, thanks very much for being with us.

DAVID MACKLOVITCH: Hello.

PATRICK GEMAYEL: Thank you for having us.

SIMON: What's that term, adult contemporary, mean to you?

MACKLOVITCH: Well, we always thought it could have been the name of, like, an erotic men's magazine in the '70s. So we tried to play around that double entendre of maturity, but also sexiness.

SIMON: Give me just a moment here to advise our listeners. If their children listening, you might want to divert them. Go ahead.

(LAUGHTER)

MACKLOVITCH: Should I repeat what I said?

SIMON: Oh, no. Oh, no. Don't - no need to repeat it. We got it.

MACKLOVITCH: OK. All right. Well, yeah, so the idea of having something a little bit sultry but also mature at the same time.

SIMON: And what inspires your sound? Why did you want to do this?

MACKLOVITCH: I mean, from the beginning, we've drawn from electro funk music of the '70s and '80s and tried to blend it with, like, contemporary dance and electronic sounds. And so we've been doing this now for 20 years. This new album has come out 20 years to the day since our very first record.

SIMON: Patrick, what would you say? What inspires your sound?

GEMAYEL: I mean, we've always been influenced heavily by funk music. So on this album, we sort of went back to our first two albums' sound with, you know, a lyrical content that's more mature and a little more ironed, let's say.

SIMON: Let's listen to what I'll call a modern love song, "Personal Effects."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PERSONAL EFFECTS")

CHROMEO: (Singing) Look at my phone charger, that's not mine. Curling iron, that's not mine. Hair ties, not mine. She loses her ties all the time. So many reminders, it's not unintentional. And this is why I think she knew just what she was doing leaving her personal effects behind.

SIMON: Dave 1, how is this an example of what you're talking about with adult contemporary modern relationships?

MACKLOVITCH: The idea that you can focus on the trivial and on things that, like, people don't usually glorify in love songs. So in this case, you juxtapose kind of, like, a dancey, funky beat with, you know, talking about the forgotten minutia after a breakup - so a phone charger, a hair tie or curling iron. And we hope that these things are kind of light-hearted and relatable.

SIMON: P-Thugg...

GEMAYEL: Yes.

SIMON: ...Mr. Thugg...

GEMAYEL: Yes, sir.

SIMON: ...You're known for singing with a robotic voice modulator, right? And we hear it.

GEMAYEL: Yes.

SIMON: Well, let's listen to it. We hear it on this song, "Two Of Us."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TWO OF US")

CHROMEO: (Singing) Just the two of us, ambiguous. Lovers and friends don't mix. It's the two of us, ambiguous. Lovers and friends don't mix.

SIMON: So what appeals to you about this instrument?

GEMAYEL: You know, the first time I heard this was on a Roger Troutman record, "Zapp I." And there's a certain song called "More Bounce To The Ounce." That was at the time where Dave and I were starting to discover funk and collect records. You know, we would go on Saturday afternoons and buy old, used records. And when I discovered this song, where the talk box is the main instrument, is the main lead vocal...

SIMON: Yeah.

GEMAYEL: ...That's when I fell in love. You know, we were about 15 years old, and I was like, this is going to be my voice for the rest of my life. And I never let that thing down.

SIMON: Dave, you've been friends since high school, right?

MACKLOVITCH: Yeah, we've been friends since we were 15 years old.

SIMON: Oh, mercy. In Montreal?

MACKLOVITCH: Yeah, we grew up in Montreal. We met at a French lessay. And we were in, like, a little high school band together. And we've pretty much been making music ever since.

SIMON: I don't mean to put you on the spot, but what reached out between the two of you that said, this is a creative partnership.

MACKLOVITCH: It was really the fact that we both discovered this kind of music at the same time. You know, being from immigrant families, our parents did not listen to funk music or even, like, any kind of '80s influenced music. Nobody listened to Prince or Sly and the Family Stone, really. So when we were teenagers, we kind of discovered all these sounds through hip-hop music and the original samples and so on. And we fell in love with it together. And that passion and that fascination never left us. And with Chromeo, the idea was to draw from that to create something of our own.

SIMON: Patrick, has your music changed?

GEMAYEL: Slightly. The references never changed. The music, I think, had the same DNA. But the main core of it stays funk music.

SIMON: Let me ask you about what I'll call an unusual love song, but I think it's something couples will understand. And that's your song "BTS."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BTS")

CHROMEO: (Singing) Came home from a long week. Put a movie on. Lay down, we don't need to speak. Though I want you so bad, I need to confess. Sometimes rest can be better than, rest can be better than sex.

SIMON: What put this song in your mind?

MACKLOVITCH: (Laughter) Well...

SIMON: That's not any of my business, maybe. But go ahead. Yeah.

MACKLOVITCH: This song for us is part of a long list of disco songs about hard work. I'm working 9 to 5. Even the movie "Saturday Night Fever," when you think about it, it's, like, a lot of working-class, blue-collar people who go out and disco dance all the pressures away over the weekend. But in our view, this kind of, like, post-modern, late-stage capitalist, hyper-productive society doesn't even allow for that. So we wrote a disco song about being too tired for any hedonistic pursuits. And basically, when you come home from a long week, you're just going to go to sleep.

SIMON: What's it like to be in the music business these days, at a time when so much is changing?

MACKLOVITCH: Our goal has always been longevity. So we're really fortunate to have been able to do this for 20 years. But I think, yeah, endurance, resilience and managing expectations and finding a way to stay creative and inspired through it all.

SIMON: What's the key to making that work? Because a musical partnership that last 20 years and is still going is extraordinary.

GEMAYEL: It's trust. It's shedding of egos. And at the end of the day, when both people are as hungry, as curious, then, you know, if everything else aligns and you understand how to work through a relationship of that length, then everything, you know - everything works out.

SIMON: P-Thugg and Dave 1 of Chromeo. Their new album, "Adult Contemporary," out now. Gentlemen, thank you both very much for being with us.

GEMAYEL: Thank you.

MACKLOVITCH: Thank you so much, guy.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHROMEO SONG, "BTS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.

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