Classic album: Chromeo on Fancy Footwork

David Macklovitch takes us through their 80s-inspired sophomore success

Chromeo Fancy Footword
Chromeo's Fancy Footwork: "A lot of the lyrics are true stories."

When Fancy Footwork dropped, it represented the new wave of the Chromeo crusade. They'd had success with their debut, She's In Control, yes, but now Patrick Gemayel and David Macklovitch had really begun to hit their stride in the studio

The magic on the wax comes from the effortless blend of the old and new. Over the course of its 11 tracks they resurrect the slept-on grooves of 80s Minneapolis space funk, and seamlessly fuse them with the harder electronic beats people like Justice and the DFA roster were carving out at that time. The results were unlike anything else on the record shelves.

"We felt like we were the only people drawing influence from that era and bringing it up to date," says Macklovitch. "We were really into people like The Time, Prince, Jam & Lewis and Mazarati… All those groups. And at the same time, we were also listening to a lot of LCD Soundsystem and French Electro. We were really looking for ways to mix the two together."

The bulk of Fancy Footwork was produced in Paris, where Macklovitch was living, with Gemayel jetting back and forth from Montreal, armed with new bits of kit that were essential for capturing their sound. "I'd buy old keyboard magazines, and pore over the backs of Herbie Hancock record sleeves to trainspot vintage gear which I'd spend all my money on," says Gemayel. "I had to have the exact machines my heroes had, be it a Prophet-5, Jupiter-8, or a Memorymoog; plugins just didn't do the job."

With this analogue army behind him, Macklovitch got to work writing lyrics, drawing influences from everything from ex-girlfriends to teenybop R 'n' B. "A lot of the lyrics are true stories," he says, "and others were influenced a lot by old tracks like [Bryan Loren's] Lollipop Love or [New Edition's] Cool It Now, with a kid singing about his high school crush. It all fitted with the Fancy Footwork concept. We had it all mapped out. This is the album where we hit on the Chromeo blueprint for everything that would follow."

Here, David Macklovitch talks us through Fancy Footwork, track by track.


Intro

"This might have been the last thing we did on the album. I remember we were finishing up the drums in my apartment in Paris on Pro Tools on my dining room table. It came from a demo that Pee [Patrick Gemayel] had done, then we switched it right round. I'd always wanted to do an intro like that, with the chanting. I wanted it to be like a Roc-A-Fella, Cam'ron beat.

"The drums are real hip-hop drums. It's our show intro, too. We wanted something majestic and badass. It's us saying, 'You thought it was a joke when we did our first album, but we're back, and stepping it up a notch.'"

Tenderoni

"I just had that word going round my head. It was something you'd hear in Rap tunes, or in a Bobby Brown song. Funny thing is, I never thought much of that song. A lot of electronic DJs really, really like this one. I remember Tiga playing it a lot. He really liked that song - it was his thing. Xavier from Justice loved it too.

"It started life on the demo as a basic funk groove. We were just looping it and dancing around the studio in the basement. Then I had the idea to put 'Tenderoni' in there and all the other vocal parts.

"It has this kind of modal, one-note Funk thing going on. This was us making that sound modern. We wanted to take that old-school funk groove we loved, but mix it up with the electronic French music we were digging at the time."

Fancy Footwork

"Pee started this track. It was him going for an almost James Murphy type of record, then it got transformed. I brought in the lyrics and melodies, then some of the arrangements, and the solo stuff at the end. I also brought in the percussion breakdown.

"I was always really proud of that song. It was really badass. On MySpace, people were loving that. And at the shows, too. This was the first time we had a banger.

"I had a friend from Montreal who had a great voice called Ozzie; he's always popping up on our stuff. It just all came together so spontaneously. We were just stacking synths and it turned into a badass track."

YouTube : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ZKq2ptu7qw

Bonafied Lovin (Tough Guys)

"Truth be told I was dating a girl ten years younger than me at the time in Paris. That gave me the concept for the track - her making me feel old [laughs]. I thought it was funny.

"I felt like the album was lacking the kinda stuff that made up the demos, so we put a lot of work into this to bring something new to the record. I'm also very proud of the guitars in the intro. I played Pee a reference from a DJ Quik record and asked if he could come up with something like that and he came up with that riff and I loved it. There's a little interlude at the end of this - there are a few throughout the album. Those were demos that Pee sent me that we didn't use."

My Girl Is Calling Me (A Liar)

"This song was actually meant for the rapper Nate Dogg. Right after She's In Control came out, we got in contact with Nate Dogg's manager saying, 'Yo! We want to get Nate Dogg on a song'. He asked for the song and we sent him this. We eventually made it to LA and got to his house. He'd recorded about 16 bars for it. He had a hook and part of a verse. It was amazing. We took pictures and hung out there. We were psyched to have him on a track. Then his manager said, 'Alright. I want $100,000'. And we said, 'Are you kidding?' Then he dropped it to 70. We were like, 'Er, never mind…'.

"Maybe there is a Pro Tools version of this around somewhere with Nate Dogg's vocals on it. It's a shame. He worked so well over these Roger Troutman-type beats."

Outta Sight

"This is that textbook Minneapolis shit. It never gets old. We've just done some new material on that tip. Not enough people went back there, I think. It's so classic.

"We did this song in one day, in the last days of writing that record in early 2007. We just went, 'Right. Let's do some Minneapolis shit' [laughs]. It came really fast. It was easy.

"We used to start our shows with this. It's kind of a random one, but it's a deep cut. We recorded the vocals in Paris later on. It was cool. We had a good engineer [Cassius' Philippe Zdar]. We had fun out
there. It was a great moment laying this down."

"We did this song in one day, in the last days of writing that record in early 2007. We just went, 'Right. Let's do some Minneapolis shit'."

Opening Up (Ce Soir On Danse)

"This was influenced by freestyle music. People like Debbie Deb were early references. This track was an early one for Fancy Footwork. We thought this was going to be a single, then we played it to people and
they were like, 'Yeah. It's alright, whatever'. I think it was too 80s for people.

"I nearly forgot the drums! We had some on the track that were like, whatever. Then I was in a taxi and I heard Gloria Estefan's Conga. I was like, 'Yo! We should do a pattern like that. That Latin groove'. We put these new drums in and Pee put a little freestyle sample in there. When we brought it to Philippe Zdar, who mixed the album, he didn't know any of the references I just mentioned. He said, 'To me this sounds just like Scritti Politti'. I didn't even know who they were. It's fun when your mixer hears something in the track that you didn't."

Momma's Boy

"This is like a different vibe altogether. It's one of my favourites, though. Originally I didn't even want it as a Chromeo song. This was entirely me. I had it in my head and I would just sing it to Pee and my brother, A-Track, just to make them laugh. I could sing the piano and the vocals and all the riffs at once. They thought it was so funny. I thought it was cool, but way too Weird Al Yankovic to put on a Chromeo record.

"Pee forced me to put it on. We were almost done. It was the last phase of the album in early 2007. We were giving it one last push. We were feeling like the album wasn't strong enough, So Pee said, 'Put Momma's Boy on!' I got on the computer and got a Rhodes plug-in and grabbed some drums and said, 'Let's go!' I produced that song in two hours, man. When we were tracking the guitar in, the engineer thought it was so cheesy he couldn't stop laughing. It was done so quickly, too. He's just left the boards up off the previous song. He pressed two buttons - that was that."

Call Me Up

"This has Melisa Young on [soon to become Kid Sister]. I just needed her to do a little spoken word thing at the start. She was dating my brother at the time.

"You can definitely hear a French Electro influence to this track, with the aggressive drums.

"This track was in the Tenderoni fashion, with the one-note riff - that really modal funk, you know? Again, one of the last tracks we laid down for the album. It just added some much-needed swag to the record. We used to play it live, too. People liked that song. It was like a banger."

Waiting 4 U

"If you listen to the song Love Is Alive by Gary Wright, there is this little bass riff in there. Pee used that as an influence. Pee did 90% of the music on this one. I just came in and did the top fill.

"I did the vocals, obviously. It has that little Hall & Oates thing going. I don't know why I did that. I think Pee went out to get food and I added some bits in to make him laugh, and we kept it in there. It's definitely an album track, but to this day it's one of my girlfriend's favourites of ours. I don't know why."

YouTube : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_L1zqyUwefs

100%

"There is a sax solo on every one of our albums. There was one on You're So Gangsta from the first album. 100% was the one here. It was one of the earliest songs I wrote. It mostly came from me, in terms of music and lyrics.

"It also sounds like Get It On Tonite by Montell Jordan, on that smooth tip. The bassline also sounds like Beat It. It's got a mix of influences. I thought it was some smooth shit.

"This song set the tone for the silk bedsheets/Miami vibe that we went on with on the following album, Business Casual. We took that sophisticated, casual, romantic vibe up a notch with the next album."

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