Courtesy of the artist.

Entertainment

Blu DeTiger & Chromeo On Indie Sleaze, Myspace, & The New York Hustle

The artist and electrofunk duo reminisce on the timeless parallels of trying to make it big.

Blu DeTiger and Chromeo have more in common than you might think. Though the burgeoning TikTok-famous bass player and artist and Canadian electro funk duo share an age gap of 20 years, their beginnings were eerily similar: inexorably shaped by the unpredictable and incomparable experience of hustling in the New York City music scene. This past May, DeTiger and Chromeo discovered they were sonically compatible, too, releasing two funky dance tracks — “Blutooth” and “enough 4 you” — that are as much a generational bridge as they are a passion project between friends. Below, over a recent, leisurely phone call, DeTiger and Chromeo’s Dave Macklovitch and P-Thugg reconnected to reminisce on their come-ups, New York’s indie sleaze scene, the advent of Myspace, and the timeless parallels of musicians trying to make it big.

Dave Macklovitch: I guess we never crossed paths in New York ... This is one thing we have in common, that we both really did the New York grind. Obviously, P and I, it was a long time ago, but I was looking at this the other day. Our first ever headline show was at Cake Shop. I don't even know if you remember.

Blu DeTiger: Oh, my god. I remember Cake Shop. That was the OG New York —

Macklovitch: Indie sleaze, indie sleaze temple.

DeTiger: It was super indie sleaze. I saw this band, Super Cute, there. It was such a cool trio and I've seen their shows at Cake Shop. And now, Cake Shop is the club called Kind Regards.

Macklovitch: Oh my god. That's what that is?

DeTiger: Yeah. Isn't that so funny? Really shows you how New York has changed.

Macklovitch: So we went from indie sleaze to...

DeTiger: It went from indie sleaze to a club. Yeah.

Macklovitch: Well, I don't know, whatever. The sleaze is there, but it's less indie.

DeTiger: The sleaze is there, but Cake Shop was sick. Pianos is still there, heavy, but it's very ... Oh, my god. I played at Pianos probably 20 times.

Macklovitch: Right. So did we, is the crazy thing.

DeTiger: That's crazy. I didn't know. So that's how you guys came ... You guys were just doing that shit?

Macklovitch: Basically, I moved to New York 20 years ago and we only had four songs. And we had played one show in Montreal and then our second show was we were opening for this band, The Streets. Actually, Dana [Meyerson], our mutual publicist, was there. And so we opened for this band, The Streets, at Bowery Ballroom and that went over really, really well, considering. We got signed the next day to Vice Records, but then they tried to, quote unquote, develop us and they were like, “Well, let's have you guys play shows in New York.” What followed was three years of abominable shows in front of five people ... a real grind, real, real grind.

P-Thugg: Yeah, where Cake Shop and Deno's [Party House] were the highlights, actually. We had such weird shows in random places, like Midtown, like, “What is this?” It's not even a club. It's a supper club with a-

Macklovitch: With a trapeze artist.

P-Thugg: Just weird shit.

Macklovitch: And then opening for indie bands, but back then, the indie sleaze didn't understand anything. They didn't like dancing, indie kids. This is pre-bloghouse era.

P-Thugg: It was pre-funk knowledge, too.

Macklovitch: Yeah, exactly. It went over terrible. Actually, we thought this Cake Shop show was our peak. We were like, “Yo, we sold out Cake Shop. This is almost 400 tickets and it went over great.”

P-Thugg: That's before they got strict on the capacities. Sweat was dripping from the ceiling.

Macklovitch: It was amazing. And we were like, “This is it. We're good now.” And obviously, we put out “Fancy Footwork” and things started going better, but there was three years of grind and humiliation. So what was your New York grind like?

DeTiger: Mine was similar. I played at all those places, but the thing is I was just playing bass for people. I wasn't going around playing my own music until I was 19, which is kind of a different path, but I played at CBGB when I was really young.

Macklovitch: Everybody knows you. In New York, everybody’s, like, “Oh, you guys are working with Blu? I know her. I went to camp with her.”

DeTiger: Wait, really? I didn't go to camp. Maybe they're talking about School of Rock or jazz camp or some shit. But yeah, born and raised in New York. I feel like, when it's your hometown, you end up meeting everyone, but I was really, really on my grind. Since I was really young, I did all the CBGB stuff through School of Rock and then, when I was in middle school, I had a band with [my brother] Rex and two other people and we would play around at all different events. When I was in high school, I was playing with all the NYU kids and all the New School jazz kids. I would play at Bitter End. For 100 bucks, I'd play Arlene's Grocery a few times.

Macklovitch: 100 bucks is a lot.

DeTiger: It was a good rate. And then I went to NYU and I started ... Well, I started DJing my last year of high school. Do you guys remember that place, Riff Raff's?

Macklovitch: Of course.

DeTiger: We did Riff Raff's.

Macklovitch: With the teepee, by the way. Highly politically incorrect place.

DeTiger: It was an iconic place for face paint. Everyone knew it for the face paint, but I DJ'd there because I was really into DJing and I learned open format. I could cater to any crowd. I was just learning it all.

Macklovitch: What was the deal with bringing your bass to a DJ set? Because there's a lot of DJs out there that have blossoming careers without bringing a bass. I don't know if it occurred to you that you don't even need the bass, really.

DeTiger: I know. And it's crazy because I don't think I've ever really done a set without it, unless it's a wedding gig or something where it doesn't really make sense or whatever. But even those, I'll bring it. My first set ever was at Elvis Guesthouse, another iconic spot. I brought my bass to that and tested it and people went crazy and people loved it. So that became my thing.

Macklovitch: One thing that a lot of people on the outside don't know is that DJing, aside from being a scam, in and of itself, and I'm sure my younger brother would concur, but there's a lot of downtime while the song is playing. So you have to either pretend to do stuff with the EQs that nobody really cares about, but you have to entertain yourself or you have to do these really cheesy movements with your hands.

DeTiger: Yeah. I never really got into that.

Macklovitch: Having a bass saves you because you don't have to do any of that corny shit. It's actually really amazing. It gives you something to do the whole time.

DeTiger: I think I was just practicing while I was doing it, too. I got way better at improvisation and my ear got way better because I was playing bass over songs I didn't know the chords to, but I just was playing random stuff. I would just have to figure out what sounded good on the fly. And then me and Rex started doing these experimental sound garden-type sets where he would bring his crazy drum he had from Switzerland, this steel drum, and I would bring my bass, all these pedals. We knew all these people from New York like Graham [Fortgang], who started Matcha Bar. He had this two-day party upstate at this farm, and we went and did this sunset to sunrise experimental set.

Macklovitch: Right. Everybody got Lyme disease.

DeTiger: At that party is where I met the guy who was throwing all the warehouse parties. And that guy was also booking Happy Ending, that club downtown. So then I started doing a residency at Happy Ending and then I met the guy who booked Public Hotel. I just met all these crazy people.

Macklovitch: Jokes aside, you're giving us an oral history of downtown New York club land circa the late 2010s, circa 2015.

DeTiger: Yeah. I think the New York grind is really special. It's obviously such a huge city, but I feel like I would just meet so many people. You know when you're young and you're in that mindset where you're like, “Any one of these people can change my life,” or whatever? It was just that energy where I wanted to meet everyone, not in a weird hustle-y way, but I was just genuinely curious about all of these New York characters because everyone's so interesting.

Macklovitch: It's so funny because P and I tried that, but everything led nowhere. We led nowhere. But then, I swear to god, Blu, the internet happened, and Myspace happened, and then everything changed for us. We played this show at Cake Shop in September, and there was 400 people, and then we came back in June, the following month of June, and it was two nights of 1,200 people sold out. Literally, we didn't do anything. It was just Myspace. That's another parallel because your shit blew up on TikTok.

DeTiger: I know. I'm really curious about the Myspace wave. How does it even work? I'm not really familiar.

Macklovitch: Well, I think it's just a way that people shared our music. The thing is, [Myspace] was a human-created algorithm, so you could see what the people you follow liked.

P-Thugg: It wasn't an algorithm. It was literally, you're on somebody's page, you see his favorite eight songs or eight artists, and that's how it goes. It's way more organic, in a sense.

DeTiger: Was it fast or was this over a year or something? How fast was this?

Macklovitch: I left in September and then, when we came back in June, we could sell out everything that we wanted to sell out. I remember, in January of that same year, we had done a remix for Feist, and my manager called us and he was like, “Man, this remix you just did for Feist, it's on all the blogs.” I was like, “What do you mean, on all the blogs?” I still thought a blog was a web log of people talking about their things. He's like, :No, there's music blogs.” “Really?” “Yeah, yeah. They share music and your remix is everywhere.” I had no idea.

P-Thugg: Something that really changed for us was the alternative press. We really hit it hard with that because the traditional press didn't give a shit about us. They didn't get us. And then you have the younger journalists or even students, they would love to cover us. That definitely helped us.

Macklovitch: I just looked at our press from our first album. We actually got crazy press on our first album. We got the New York Times, but really, it did nothing for us. Truly, no one cared. And then when these, like you said, P, these amateur alternative journalists on blogs wrote about us, then everything changed, but it's very similar to you, Blu, where it wasn't the gatekeepers. It was TikTok and a very organic groundswell that led you to really, be known as a solo act, right, if I'm not mistaken?

DeTiger: That's true. Wow. We're really similar, you guys. I guess I was just doing the New York grind. The pandemic was obviously a unique thing that is different for everyone, but I guess TikTok was my Myspace.

Macklovitch: There's not a lot of avenues for artists who come up to get schooled on how touring works and how record deals work and management deals work. With sports, they have all this infrastructure around them to help you ... You've got doctors and you're within a system, but I feel like, when you're an artist, you get thrown into there, into that world and there's not a lot of resources to help you navigate through the intricacies of whether it's touring or press or record deals or different deals. And so, I don't know, when we hang out, because our career was so quirky and anti-heroic at times, it's fun for us to share that.

DeTiger: Totally. I think having mentors and people in your life for that is so important.

Macklovitch: I feel like you guys are our mentors.

DeTiger: It's hard out there. I teach you guys how to use 0.5x camera on the iPhone.

Macklovitch: Oh, my god. 0.5x camera, social media, Be Real. Wordle. Heardle.

DeTiger: We've got to get our start on Heardle. We should also plug our songs. Go check out our songs.

Blu DeTiger and Chromeo’s “Blutooth” and “enough 4 you” are out now.