Photography by Mr Jacob Sutton | Styling by Ms Tracey Nicholson
Words by Mr Dan Cairns
He is the man who, when asked what he hoped heaven would look like, replied, “The 50% off sale at Saint Laurent”. And, yes, as that remark suggests, Dave 1, AKA Mr David Macklovitch, loves his clothes. One half of the Canadian electro-funk duo Chromeo, he can talk as eloquently and passionately about a white shirt as he can about the music of Prince and Hall & Oates. For him, fashion and music are equal partners in a relationship that also encompasses literature, cinema, food, photography – indeed, anything that cuts a sharp aesthetic and artistic dash. The care and attention to detail that he and P-Thugg (Mr Patrick Gemayel, the other half of Chromeo) bring to their music is mirrored in his approach to assembling a wardrobe. “For men,” Mr Macklovitch argues, “it’s really about the essentials. What’s cool about men’s clothing is that normally, if the quality is right, the piece ages really well. So, you just have one beautiful piece of each: a biker jacket, a couple of perfect pairs of boots and perfect jeans. And then, look, you’re Bruce Springsteen.”
It should be noted that not a bar of Chromeo’s music sounds remotely like the work of Mr Springsteen – but that’s sort of the point. For Mr Macklovitch, distinctions are meaningless in the face of the timelessness of style, of music, of art. “A perfect suit: you’re Robert Palmer,” he continues, with passion. “It’s all about revisiting the canon. The mistakes in your wardrobe occur when you ignore those rules. Men’s style exists in this sort of parallel to fashion and the consumer side of it because it just revisits the classics. It’s like, ‘Ok, so this season we’re going to do nautical’, but that goes back to 19th-century France. Or the biker jacket: that’s Brando. Or the double-breasted suit: Bryan Ferry. Or the skinny suit: Yves Saint Laurent. Or the Bohemian pirate thing: Johnny Depp took it from Keith Richards, back when Keith was wearing his girlfriend’s clothes. That’s the mix. You’ve got your Steve McQueens, your Dylans, your Woody Allens. Woody Allen – massive! Mr Corduroy. What P [-Thugg] and I enjoy are those signifiers. When I see a big parka with a fur hoodie, it’s Coppola; the shlumpy corduroy trousers: Woody Allen; the puffy shirt: Jerry Seinfeld. Those paradigms and icons. They’re unarguable.”
With a new major-label record contract (with Parlophone) in their pockets, Chromeo look set to finally reap the rewards of 10 years spent releasing music whose retro stylings, knowing humour and dance-savvy sheen suddenly sound, in the wake of Daft Punk’s globe-conquering “Get Lucky”, bang on the money. Hit singles and albums – including “Needy Girl”, Fancy Footwork andBusiness Casual - have maintained Chromeo’s high profile, but the first two singles from their new album suggest they are about to go stratospheric. “Over Your Shoulder” is a super-fly dance track on which Mr Macklovitch exhorts his girlfriend to stop stressing about her body image (“You worry about your size, it’s nonsense, it’s not a contest, and besides, if it was a contest, you’d win it. I want to take a bath with you in it”). “Sexy Socialite”, by contrast, is a more pounding affair in terms of both tempo and content, with the titular object of the singer’s scorn rapping back at him, “Why you coming at me, homie, with so much acrimony?”. That these lines are set to music that will surely be unavoidable in 2014 is evidence of Chromeo’s ability to ride the two horses – of commercial immediacy and lyrical complexity – with such casual, deceptive ease.
White Women, the Mr Helmut Newton-referencing album they will release in April next year, is chockfull of such examples. For Mr Macklovitch – until only recently a moonlighting lecturer in French literature – art, style and culture are matters for enquiry and investigation, not elitism or narrow-minded dismissiveness. “I see what we do as super, super highbrow, and super, super lowbrow,” he says. “Sometimes the latter is what might reel you in, and some people may just enjoy it for that. But as long as it has that other layer, then I think we as adults can feel fulfilled listening to, or making, that kind of art. It’s all one thing. With Chromeo, it’s a game of references. We started out as hip-hop producers when we were teenagers, all that sampling from old records and recontextualising things. I remember growing up, looking at people such as Biggie Smalls, and he’s wearing the same sweater as my grandfather, that Bill Cosby Coogi thing, and I was like, ‘Wow, that’s so postmodern, this rapper is dressing like an old Jewish guy in Florida’. Or you have Wu-Tang mixing army fatigues and [Clarks] Wallabees – which is an old man’s orthopaedic shoe. To me, that was humorous. And the idea became to do the same thing with music, to make Hall & Oates-inspired tunes but to feed them to a blogging, electronic music generation – to blend aesthetics in a similarly unexpected way.”
That blend hasn’t always received an approving reception. To their detractors, Chromeo remain what Mr Macklovitch calls, with a sigh, “the kings of kitsch. But you can’t prescribe people’s reactions – you don’t want to be that person. You can’t control it. I come from a literature background, and, look, we never had Proust telling us how to read. I can’t be there telling people how to interpret our songs. I have to silently sit back and hope that because of some sort of zeitgeist awareness, people discover this other layer that we’ve always had, and which, in our new material, I think is even more developed.
“P and I are always trying to aim for that, we’re always going to try to tackle things from another perspective. That’s where our term ‘Larry David funk’ comes from. I can’t convincingly sing ‘Baby I love you, I wanna sleep with you’; I’d rather say, ‘Why d’you like my friend better than me?’. So, you know, ‘Over Your Shoulder’ addresses girls and their insecurities, and then ‘Sexy Socialite’, by contrast, is saying: ‘Man, why are you at Shoreditch House every night?’”
And with that, Mr Macklovitch is off (not, one trusts, to Shoreditch House), a blur of perfect leather jacket, snake-hipped jeans and well-worn brown leather boots, his mind already on the next white shirt, the next unstoppable pop song, the new French film he plans to see. “You can’t let the effort show,” he says, when I compliment him on his look. “The minute you do, it’s game over. My biggest bother is not looking bothered.” And, it has to be said, he doesn’t. Remotely.
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