CHROMEO opening for the BEASTIE BOYS at the ACC (40 Bay), Friday (September 21), 7:30 pm, $37.25-$57.25; and at the Sony Centre (1 Front East), Saturday (September 22), 8 pm, $56.50. www.ticketmaster.com Rating: NNNNN
It says a lot about Chromeo that being contacted by Hall & Oates is one of the first breaks in their career so far that actually makes sense.
Originally discovered by Montreal electro-house kingpin Tiga, they never really had much in common with the hipster dance world they fell into. Opening gigs for acts like Bloc Party created odd matches as well. Sure, you can dance to both bands, but there's nothing indie about Chromeo's 80s-inspired yacht funk, and they're much more likely to cite Hall & Oates as influences than any obscure no-wave punk-funk band.
"We're only at the step where they've contacted us and told us they like our music and want to get together, hang out and work on some stuff. Just the fact that they've contacted us as fans is amazing to us. Not even in my wildest dreams. We're on a first name basis!" gushes P-Thugg, aka Patrick Gemayel, from his Montreal home as visiting cousins from Lebanon chatter in the background.
You can picture Hall or Oates googling themselves and stumbling across the many descriptions of Chromeo as "Hall & Oates meets Prince." It's the kind of sound that comes across as a joke if you try to describe it, but to childhood pals Dave 1 (David Macklovitch) and P-Thugg, it's serious business.
They do know that the 80s synth funk they're emulating is often funny and cheesy, but the desire to play it comes from genuine love. This is humour without the contempt or critique inherent in irony - admittedly a hard concept for some to grasp.
"Everyone takes from something. Why would hiphop sampling the 70s be better than us recreating the sounds of the 80s? Why are obscure jazz funk records so highbrow while Rick James funk is so dirty and laughed at?
"We're trying to bring a bit more credibility to the music of that era. Rick James isn't just a cokehead who says, 'I'm Rick James, bitch.' He's a fucking musical genius. I seriously don't think Marvin Gaye is that much better than Rick James; they're both great musicians and great writers."
Regardless of whether people are laughing with them or at them, Chromeo's recently released second album has enjoyed an even better reception than their debut, and that success has been taking them all over the world.
They like to describe themselves as history's only successful Jewish-Arab partnership, but it doesn't look like they'll be playing in the Middle East any time soon.
"My cousins tell me we can't really go, because Dave would have problems getting into Lebanon and I might have problems getting into Israel.
"It's kind of anarchy over there."