Listen to Austin 360 Radio

Chromeo pulls on power of past musical duos for their unique sound

Patrick Caldwell

Patrick Gemayel and David Macklovitch better known as P-Thugg and Dave 1 individually and Chromeo collectively might bill themselves with a smirk as "the only successful Arab/Jewish partnership since the dawn of human culture," but as a snappy electrofunk duo they're in surprisingly good company.

Gemayel and Macklovitch first dabbled in the music world as hip-hop producers in their hometown of Montreal. Before long they took a sharp turn, piling on keyboards, synthesizers and a talk box — the odd effects unit contraption that famously tripped out Peter Frampton's voice on "Do You Feel Like We Do" — and releasing three albums of groove-saturated '80s-inflected funk, including last year's "Business Casual."

A staggering number of the best artists working with electronic music, ranging from '60s pioneers the Silver Apples to Justice to Basement Jaxx to Massive Attack to fellow Canadians Junior Boys, were likewise duos. Ahead of playing Austin this weekend, P-Thugg discussed some of the famous duos that have influenced Chromeo's distinctively funky sound.

Hall and Oates

The style: Blue-eyed soul, new wave-influenced power pop, maddeningly addictive.

The duo: Daryl Hall and John Oates, of course

Note: Chromeo teamed with Hall for an episode of his concert webseries "Live From Daryl's House" in 2008 and took the stage with Hall and Oates at the 2010 Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival.

"They're pretty much at the very top of our list of influences. It's hard to pinpoint why exactly. I guess we were inspired by the way they mixed as many sounds and textures and technologies as they could. They started as this organic soul thing but when all the hits came in the '80s they were using a lot of pretty advanced technology for the time, and I think they got a lot of criticism for that. And I guess we kind of feel the same way, because we got pretty criticized at the start. In the beginning, people just thought we were making fun of the '80s. It took a few years before people realized we were sincere. When you come out in 2001 and you're doing interview shoutouts to Paul Simon, Hall and Oates and Rick James everybody thinks you're being ironic."

Air

The style: Gently cascading, moody, downtempo electronica — film noir music for robots.

The duo: Nicolas Godin and John-Benoit Dunckel

"They're such a great duo. The music they make is never really too dance-focused. I don't even consider it techno or anything. To me, they were sort of like the new Portishead. Their music just had so much incredible atmosphere, and at the same time it was amazing on a technical level. It taught us a lot about atmospherics. It's a pretty obvious choice but my favorite album of theirs is 'Talkie Walkie,' and my favorite song is the single off that, 'Cherry Blossom Girl.' Also, they're French like us, and we have the same love of old synthesizers."

Simon and Garfunkel

The style: Piercing folk rock bolstered by pop's most famous harmonizers.

The duo: Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel, naturally

"... We love how kooky and off-kilter their lyrics can sometimes be, and that's definitely had an influence on how we write songs. And I don't know, they're just such a perfect match together, with those angelic voices. It's hard to separate the Simon and Garfunkel stuff from just the Paul Simon music — Simon's solo songs might be my favorites — but as a listener I actually like Garfunkel better. His voice is amazing."

Steely Dan

The style: A fusion of pop, rock, jazz, funk and soul married to some of contemporary music's most cerebral lyrics.

The duo: Donald Fagen and Walter Becker

"I basically learned to play the piano by listening to Steely Dan and studying all the chords they use. They always have a very high caliber of musicians playing on their albums, so there was always a lot to process, technically. And Donald Fagen himself is a great keyboard player. I think, a little bit like Simon and Garfunkel, they have these kooky lyrics and these weird things happening in their songs, and that impacted us lyrically. I know Walter Becker studied English literature at Bard College, and that's where he met Fagen, and you can definitely tell from the songs that they had some advanced studies."

Daft Punk

The style: The distilled essence of dance — inescapable beats and hooks.

The duo: Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter

"They kind of opened us up to what dance music was. Before we started as Chromeo we weren't really aware of anything in the dance or techno worlds. We were hip-hop heads. Daft Punk showed us that universe and how to flip it and tinker with it. Especially after (second album) 'Discovery,' which was a bit more musical than 'Homework,' which was a very house music style of record. They opened us up to all the technology and the different types of dance music. Plus, we love their visuals. ... They're peerless."