GNARLS BARKLEY with the FLAMING LIPS, ALEXISONFIRE, EAGLES OF DEATH METAL, the DEARS, the HIDDEN CAMERAS, BUCK 65, PHOENIX, STARSAILOR, PLASTER, MASSIVE ATTACK, the RACONTEURS, the SAM ROBERTS BAND, WOLFMOTHER, THRICE, K'NAAN, ZERO 7, JOSE GONZALES, WE ARE WOLVES, MICKEY AVALON and others as part of the Virgin Festival at Toronto Island Park, Saturday (September 9), festival runs to Saturday (September 10), from noon. $57.50-$104.50. 416-870-8000, www.virginfestival.ca. Rating: NNNNN
It takes every fibre of my being not to burst out laughing at Cee-Lo Green's first words.
"Have some melon," he says, smiling.
Poised perfectly on the opposite couch, the evangelical soulster and ex-Goodie Mobster gesticulates grandly toward the plate of hotel cantaloupe between us.
Garth to his Wayne, producer Danger Mouse (who still can't get mentioned in an article without a reference to his infamous Grey Album) is much less chipper. Slouched somewhere to Green's left, he tells me they're both operating on very little sleep. The jet lag's not helping.
One might say their current schedule is making the two - who together form Gnarls Barkley - feel a little bit... er, Crazy, which happens to be the title of the single that made them stars, one of 2006's only breakthrough rap-to-pop "songs of the summer."
What a track. That key change in the second verse? Killer. The melodramatic classical strings dropped in on the hook? Amazing. Narrated in Green's adenoidal falsetto, this spiritual record would have been a hit without any of the costume gimmicks and annoying "Gnarls Barkley Is Crazy!" posters (replete with gun imagery) that were everywhere for months.
Then the track went all Hey Ya! Suddenly, you couldn't walk into a retail outlet or health food store without hearing it. One clothing company even ripped off the Crazy video's Rorschach-inspired visuals for its marketing.
Green (who teamed up with Ciara producer Jazze Pha last year for the long-delayed Happy Hour album) says he and Danger Mouse never expected the song to get so popular.
"We knew there would be highs and lows with this project. We just weren't exactly sure about how high the highs would be."
Nine weeks at the top of the UK charts was high enough for the Barksters, where the song had been riding since April (it was released in Europe first). They retired it in June.
"We wanted to make sure it was still our record," grumbles the auteurish Danger Mouse, who's got some albums in the works but doesn't want to say anything about them until after they're completed.
But the song's still huge in North America, thanks in part to MTV's support. Gnarls Barkley performed Crazy (in full Star Wars regalia) at the station's Movie Awards in July, and the video won for best editing and directing at the August 31 Video Music Awards. Over the past few months they've also had about 6 million licensing deals pitched at them. (The pair dance around the question of who the wannabe clients were and whether they're entertaining any offers.)
Mostly they're hoping people listen to the rest of the single's accompanying album, St. Elsewhere. The whole record's produced beautifully and sounds like the ideal vehicle for the philosophically eccentric Green, though people who bought it on the strength of Crazy will be let down by the lack of other catchy tunes.
"I think St. Elsewhere is like an island of music and psychic sounds," says Green of the album. "And it talks about going there via a royal path men created for travelling to and fro.
"But it reaches out into other uncertainties, so getting there can be an act of faith. And there's a tension there because you can never be entirely certain about the outcome."