Generally speaking, the role of the continually acclaimed artist is viewed as serious business. It might include hefty concept albums bearing the weight of the world, lengthy hiatuses, a sometimes-antagonistic relationship with fans, and no small degree of brooding.
Then there’s David “Dave 1” Macklovitch.
“Our goal when we play live is to be at the intersection of... contemporary art and Spinal Tap,” Macklovitch tells New Times without a trace of irony. As one-half of the electro-funk duo Chromeo, the guitarist and singer has made a career of repeatedly establishing his musical bona fides in the most tongue-in-cheek manner possible. Composed of Macklovitch and his nearly lifelong best friend and talk-box authority Patrick “P-Thugg” Gemayel, Chromeo has spent 15 years releasing pristinely produced tracks that are received as well on intimate dance floors as they are at immense festivals.
The pair will perform at the latter Saturday, November 10, as a headliner for the third edition of House of Creatives Music Festival, alongside M.I.A., Little Dragon, and other acts.
In addition to marking a long-overdue return to the Miami stage (despite playing plenty of DJ gigs, Chromeo has not performed a live set in the Magic City since Ultra Music Festival 2015), the group’s forthcoming show will be its last of 2018, capping off a year of vigorous touring behind Chromeo's newest release, June’s Head Over Heels .
“I already have my sights on the next thing we're going to do,” Macklovitch says, adding that neither he nor Gemayel has a tendency to look back or rest on his laurels.
This inclination toward constant forward momentum might account for Chromeo’s current live setup, a stunning all-chrome, all-reflective stage show that’s comparable to little else on the touring circuit.
Macklovitch says the present iteration of Chromeo concerts was refined from the live language and techniques developed while touring for the duo's previous record, 2014’s White Women.
“So many bands use LED screens and visuals, and we wanted to do the opposite of that and have hardware, like an actual sculpture that lights up and that interacts with us,” Macklovitch says, noting he and Gemayel looked to the bombastic stage productions of the '70s to give audiences “something more theatrical than video-based.”
And theatrical it is, including everything from a reflective guitar that shines light back onto the audience, back-to-back shredding, and expertly executed pauses and blackouts that can work an already-passionate crowd into outright mania. Their performance of set standout and career highlight “Fancy Footwork” might be the only time concertgoers will be overjoyed to hear police sirens accompanied by blinding blue and red lights.
Although it’s been some time since Chromeo has properly graced a Miami stage, Macklovitch says he and Gemayel visit Miami “five times a year at least” and have “countless memories” of local mainstays such as Purdy Lounge on Sundays and Overthrow’s Hard 2 Leave parties.
“We've been going to Miami since Winter Music Conference was a thing — we used to get a cheap hotel room off Collins, and [Gemayel] and I would share a bed and do random little DJ sets [around Miami],” Macklovitch explains. “There's deep roots there because my brother [DJ/producer and Fool’s Gold cofounder A-Trak] and DJ Craze have such a bond and they go way back, so there's a really strong sense of an extended family.”
Given their House of Creatives date and the end of the Head Over Heels Tour on the horizon, Macklovitch is mindful of both how far Chromeo has come as well as everything the pair still wants to achieve.
Reflecting on blog house — the mid-to-late-2000s electronic scene that preceded EDM and in which Chromeo first built a following — he says it was a period “where a lot of people in America discovered electronic music.”
“I think blog house is when [electronic music] really resonated with a moment in youth culture, almost in the way that SoundCloud rap resonates with youth culture today,” Macklovitch says. He remarks that it was one of the first times when music became truly thought of as free due to the proliferation of MP3 blogs.
“Streaming hadn't kicked in, algorithms hadn't kicked in, playlisting hadn't kicked in; there was a massive gap in the music industry, and, I think, at that point, the internet became the place for musical counterculture,” he adds. “Print magazines wouldn't write about groups like us, but blogs would champion us, and blogs would share and proliferate the music we made. And it was complete anarchy because no one was buying records and there was no way for the music industry to monetize off of downloads. So record sales meant nothing.”
“I think that was really interesting counterculturally,” he adds. “Whereas now streaming is completely monetizable, record labels of course are thrilled because they're making money off [recordings] again. But... to me, blog house embodies the kind of electronic-music alternative that could thrive without the major-label music-industrial complex.”
Even a decade onward from Chromeo’s breakthrough moment, Macklovitch and Gemayel continue to put in the legwork, in addition to the "footwork," to ensure their musical longevity. That includes branching out into producing for younger artists and assembling a multimember live Chromeo band, which Macklovitch describes as “straight-up New Power Generation”-esque. Following their recent debut during Chromeo’s first NPR Tiny Desk appearance, he says more shows from the group’s new multimember unit will be announced next year.
“I think that comes with self-reinvention,” Macklovitch says of the band’s post-Head Over Heels projects. “I think that Head Over Heels embodied the biggest and cleanest and boldest [entry] of the Chromeo story that began with Fancy Footwork. And that's why the cover kind of harks back to Fancy Footwork, but in a way, it goes full circle.
“Moving forward, we feel a lot more freedom to experiment with different sounds, different tempos, different sorts of styles. There might just be a 20-minute instrumental space-funk album or space project, you know? There's a lot more things we can play with now after the statements of Head Over Heels."
House of Creatives Music Festival. With Chromeo, M.I.A., Pond, Little Dragon, and others. Saturday, November 10, and Sunday, November 11, at Virginia Key Beach Park, 4020 Virginia Beach Dr., Miami; 305-960-4600; virginiakeybeachpark.net. Tickets cost $79 to $239 via hocfest.com.