Quit Your Day Job: Chromeo
Chromeo’s the Montreal/New York electro duo of childhood friends P-Thugg (Patrick Gemayel) and Dave I (David Macklovitch). Gemayel handles keyboards/synths and talk box. Maclovitch, the other vocals and guitar. The Deluxe Edition of their 2007 album Fancy Footwork, aka Fancier Footwork, came out a couple of weeks ago on Vice. It’s a two-disc comp of the original album plus remixes of tracks from their oeuvre by MSTRKRFT, DFA, etc.
The guys are here today because Macklovitch is working on his Ph.D. in French Literature at Columbia. Gemayel’s an accountant. Note: the two call themselves “the only successful Arab/Jewish collaboration since the beginning of time,” but hadn’t seen Zohan (me neither) so couldn’t answer my question: “Your press release claims you’re ‘the only successful Arab/Jew partnership since the dawn of human culture.’ What happens with the release of that new Adam Sandler movie?” They answered the rest. Listen to “Fancy Footwork” while Patrick gives you tax tips.
STEREOGUM: How far along are you in your studies? What’s your focus within French literature?
DAVE 1: I’m in the sixth year of my Ph.D. program. I have one year left. My focus within French lit is literary theory (and within literary theory, rhetoric, theories of reading, aesthetics and semiotics) and 18th Century literature.
STEREOGUM: Do you have a dissertation mapped out?
DAVE 1: Yes. More or less. Working on it as we speak. Literally. This is my procrastination break.
STEREOGUM: Flaubert vs. Balzac. Who wins? Proust vs. the winner of that first battle?
DAVE 1: Flaubert. Although I suspect that preferring Balzac could make for a semi-ironic sort of hipster statement, akin to preferring the Mets. Proust wins over the whole contemporary Western civilization.
STEREOGUM: Does information from your research make it into Chromeo? Like, maybe, “Bonafied Lovin'”?
DAVE 1: Haha. Not so much. My music serves as a counterpoint to my academic research. It’s spontaneous and somewhat anti-intellectual.
STEREOGUM: Are you teaching undergrads while you study? If so, do any of them realize you’re in Chromeo?
DAVE 1: Yes. I think some of them do, but they’re decorous enough not to bring it up during class.
STEREOGUM: Can you talk a bit more about what you teach?
DAVE 1: When you do a PhD in an American graduate school, they usually ask you to teach. So in my case, being that I study French Lit, I’ve taught French language classes, conversation classes, translation classes and even a proper literature course. Groups have ranged from five to 20 or so students.
STEREOGUM: Has the success of Vampire Weekend been good or bad or for other Columbia-based musicians?
DAVE 1: I don’t really know any other Columbia-based musicians. But I’m really proud of Ezra and them. They’re friends of ours. We actually just finished a remix for them.
STEREOGUM: Can I hear it?
DAVE 1: Nope sorry. Not fully finished yet. 😉
(STEREOGUM: Spoken like a true grad student … just kidding.)
STEREOGUM: How long have you worked as an accountant?
P-THUGG: I started when I was 12 years-old, running the cash register at my parents’ deli. I slowly started to close my cash register, then counting the day’s profits, the week’s profit, depositing money at the bank, paying suppliers, etc … I got my experience by becoming the family’s book keeper.
STEREOGUM: What sort of training do you have?
P-THUGG: I have a degree from Montreal’s main business school.
STEREOGUM: Do you have a specific area of expertise?
P-THUGG: I specialize in business accounting, I don’t do much personal taxes. I’d rather work for businesses because it’s what I know best. I tell businesses how to operate efficiently, when to save up money, when to invest, how to work with cash flow, keep tight inventory, clean book keeping, basically I’m what they call a “consultant.”
STEREOGUM: Are you self-employed or do you work out of an office? If you’re self-employed, do you hang out with other accountants?
P-THUGG: I’m self employed and my main office is in Montreal. I have no accountant friends except my own accountant/consigliere.
STEREOGUM: Do you handle the band’s accounting?
P-THUGG: Yes, I do Chromeo’s accounting. We keep control of our money, I’ve heard horror stories about bands going bankrupt because they didn’t really know what was going on with money and how it was spent. This is definitely not going to happen under my surveillance. I got my mind on my money, and my money on my mind.
STEREOGUM: I imagine it gets tough touring around tax time. Is that the case?
P-THUGG: Yes actually, there’s a week or two in April every year where it gets rough. Especially when I’m away on tour and I need to be in my office
signing papers and chasing after bills. But it’s ok, I get through it and it’s done for the year. That’s the part of the year where BTO’s “Taking Care of Business” is on a loop in my iTunes.
STEREOGUM: Any tips to self-employed readers about making proper deductions?
P-THUGG: Yes … LOOK OUT FOR RECEIPTS, whatever you find, keep it. You’re at the gas station and there’s a receipt hanging on the pump, keep it. You’re at the restaurant and you find a receipt on your, or another table, keep it. You’re in a cab, ask a receipt and keep it, they sometimes don’t write the amount so you can put in double your expense. That toll you just paid to get on the highway, keep the receipt, everything is important. Also, keep your bills and receipts in order, because you might need it at the end of the year. Get a good accounting program and keep it up to date frequently, this will save you a lot of headaches. Basically, the more maintaining you do in your books, the better and easier it is to declare proper deductions, and search for that little loophole that will save some major dinero…
STEREOGUM: What’re the biggest accounting error you come across?
P-THUGG: Accounting to settle a show is always very special. On a badly made excel sheet or a piece of napkin, I’ve pretty much seen all the atrocities possible with simple + and – signs. A promoter once gave me a check for five million dollars, all he owed me was $500 … I wonder if he caught up on it… muhaha…
STEREOGUM: When people find out you’re an accountant, do you have to deal with general misconceptions or preconceived notions about your line of work?
P-THUGG: No, I don’t think they really believe it, they usually smile and say “ahaa, that’s we’re all the gold chains comes from”, wink wink. And I’m like “nah, for real.” And they smile again like I just told them I was an “entrepreneur” or some shit … Pretty funny actually. Pretty, pretty, funny.
STEREOGUM: Ever think of crunching numbers in terms of writing music? Vice versa?
P-THUGG: It’s more like vice versa, I often think about music in terms of crunching numbers. Separate bars, count triplets and 1/16th notes, make the song even, calculate delays, tempos, memorizing patch numbers, taking notes on Db levels, amount of memory and seconds left on your sampler… I don’t really see how music could come in handy during inventory count. I do listen to music while I do it, but I don’t think it counts.
07/20 – Toronto, ON @ Rogers Picnic
07/25 – Whistler, BC @ Pemberton Festival
07/26 – Seattle, WA @ Capitol Hill Bloc Party
07/27 – Portland, OR @ Berbati’s Pan
07/29 – San Francisco, CA @ The Filmore
07/30 – Los Angeles, CA @ Henry Fonda Theatre
07/31 – San Diego, CA @ House of Blues
08/03 – Chicago, IL @ Lollapalooza
08/04 – Montreal, QC @ Osheaga
08/09 – Jersey City, NJ @ All Points West
08/10 – Baltimore, MD @ Virgin Mobile Festival
[L to R: student, accountant; photo by Matt Barnes]