“Yeah, I’m walking around in my underpants, trying to figure out what jeans I’m going to wear,” says the 36-year-old musician, also known as Dave 1, who makes up half of the band Chromeo. “I’m pacing around. I’ve got my socks on, my underpants on, and I’m like half groomed and half not.”
He’s on his way to the studio and he’d probably be listening to Chief Keef or Nicki Minaj’s “Truffle Butter” if we weren’t talking right now. “I listen to the same shit as everybody else,” he says. “I also drink water and sleep.”
The fact that Macklovitch listens to hip-hop is both surprising and not. For more than a decade, he and his Chromeo partner, Patrick Gemayel, have been making ultra-funk dance jams that are heavily saturated with synthesizers and reminiscent of the ’80s. And yet, when the duo first started making music in the early ’90s, hip-hop was what they listened to — so hip-hop was what they made. “I grew up with hip-hop,” says Macklovitch, who met Gemayel at a private school in Montreal. “Hip-hop was really a vehicle for us to discover music.”
Rap’s reliance on beats and samples from the ’80s, ’70’s, and earlier decades caught Macklovitch’s young ear and got him into the habit of searching out old music. He would go digging for soul, jazz, and funk vinyl at records stores, and pretty soon, he’d built a hefty collection. When he and Gemayel got tired of making hip-hop beats, they had enough material to segue into other genres and create their own unique sound, which is exactly what they did. Thus, Chromeo was born and then unleashed on the world, when they came out with debut album, She’s In Control, in 2004.
Over the course of the last decade, the Chromeo guys have released four full-length records, one EP, 17 singles, and dozens of remixes. They’ve been interviewed by the New York Times and GQ. They’ve even designed a clothing line. And they’re now bigger and better than ever, Macklovitch says, which is a feat, considering they’ve been around for so long.
“I saw so many bands just drift away,” he points out. “And I think that’s been the biggest challenge.”
As for how Chromeo has survived through the years, Macklovitch believes it was a combination of luck, consistency, and creativity.
“We really tried to establish a sound and a visual identity that people could trust,” he explains.
Though Chromeo has branched out in recent years to collaborate with artists such as Toro y Moi, Solange Knowles, A$AP Ferg, and Haim, the duo’s sound has mostly remained the same: still cheeky and playful, still danceable, and still apparently using the same Pentium II computer from the ’90s to produce some of their music.
The only thing that has changed is they now collaborate with other artists. Featured musicians were non-existent on the duo’s first three albums. “We did everything in a vacuum by ourselves,” Macklovitch says.
But with their latest album, 2014’s White Women, he and Gemayel tried something different and followed what Macklovitch calls the “Kanye School” of making music. They started adding artists to both their songs and videos, which Macklovitch believes can help make “the music feel modern and of the moment.”
Soon, Chromeo will be embracing another new experience: playing Ultra Music Festival in Miami, alongside EDM and house greats like Skrillex, Tiësto, and Steve Aoki. The pair had come close to appearing at the fest in 2011. But when the group got offered the chance to play at the Juno Awards (“the Canadian equivalent of the Grammys,” Macklovitch explains), there was a scheduling change.
Nevertheless, Ultra, Macklovitch says, has been a festival that he’s wanted to play for a while now.
“Finally!” he recently wrote on the band’s Facebook page. “Been meaning to play Ultra Music Festival Miami for years. B.Y.O.V. (The V stands for v-neck).”