The two-man band with Dave 1—guitar and vocals—and Pee Thug—synthesizers, talk box and bass—aided by a vintage drum machine, hit stardom with 2007’s Fancy Footwork, but they’ve been pumping out ’80s-style dance tunes since signing a record deal in 2001. Now, Chromeo’s musical agenda is to enlighten the masses about the music they missed, wrote off as cheap electro-glam or weren’t yet alive for, all while not being too pretentious. “It’s like a reference book we have in our heads about every band and every style post-’70s. That’s our little pot where we have influences, riffs and ideas. We try to raise up the best of it and not make it too serious. We’re going to keep it light-hearted,” P-Thugg says. Their rise to fame was perfectly timed with the past decade’s hipster-scene’s deep connection to music blogs and desire to ride the crescendo to “the next big thing.” That, apparently, was to be sweat- and soul-drenched, dance-floor-ready funk.
However, P-Thugg says the duo was often ridiculed for their musical sensibilities and subsequent sound, pulling from Hall & Oates, The Time, Rick James and New Edition, among others. “People thought it was funny,” P-Thugg says. “It’s not funny; Rick James is a musical genius. It was hard to make people take Midnight Star seriously and Hall & Oates was still very tongue-in-cheek, but from the beginning, we said these are great songwriters
“Retro music comes back in trends and doesn’t always reflect what was happening when that music came out. For example, disco in the early ’80s,” says P-Thugg, who, despite criticism, persisted in reintroducing synth-heavy electro-funk to the mainstream. “Now it’s very high-brow and intellectual, but back then it was music for guidos—like trance today. The perspective changes with time, and to put a tag on certain music is ridiculous.”
By sticking to their vintage sounds, they’ve captivated an audience and garnered respect from peers. Two years ago, Chromeo performed a two-day session on Hall & Oates main man Daryl Hall’s web series, Live From Daryl’s House—the duo’s first encounter with their idol. That led to a combination performance earlier this year at Bonnaroo, where they alternated songs from both catalogues. “Just to be on stage playing those huge hits they have ... replacing the choruses with my talkbox (on “No Can Do”) and Dave singing with Hall (on “Adult Education”), it was surreal. We owe a lot of our songs to [Hall], so it was cool to hear him playing ‘his parts’ in our songs,” P-Thugg says.
Playing with Hall helped shape their upcoming September release Business Casual. Hall’s ability to piece harmonies quickly and effortlessly inspired the band. And P-Thugg began to delve further into chord progressions, while both musicians started scrutinizing song structure like never before. “There’s more work musically, more progress, on the album, but without losing our candidness. There’s more ballads, too,” says P-Thugg.
New material’s slowly seeped out at Chromeo’s live performances of nonstop dance music, which will be no exception at this week’s Twilight Concert Series. Although growing up fully engrossed in the style, Chromeo has never opened for a hip-hop artist, and P-Thugg says he’s excited to see what happens when they are paired with Big Boi. The W Lounge after-party DJ set might be even livelier, as well as more sweaty and intimate. “We go on with the ’80s hits ... you have to keep the crowd dancing,” says Pee-Thug, who, varying from nontraditional club songs to classics on their laptop, takes cues from the audience during DJ sets.
w/ Big Boi
350 S. 300 West
Thursday Aug. 19, 7 p.m.
358 S. West Temple
Thursday Aug. 19, 9 p.m.
$10 adv./ $12 Door