For Chromeo, a global shutdown shouldn’t mean you still can’t get down. As the US entered hibernation mode in March 2020, the Montreal-founded duo of Dave 1 and P-Thugg opted to shelter in place together at their Los Angeles studio. And while they’re hardly the only artists who’ve kept busy by rush-releasing new music, they are the first to channel pandemic-era anxieties into the world’s only COVID-themed synth-funk concept record. The Quarantine Casanova EP began as an in-studio joke to keep the duo occupied and amused, but after they teased the songs on social media, the enthusiastic response prompted an official release. Overtop the duo’s signature fusion of ’80s electro and ’90s G-funk, Dave takes on the Herculean task of translating the most unsexy aspects of quarantine life—social distancing, disinfectants, sweatpants—into a bottomless reservoir of erotic double entendres. But for all the cheeky references to Dr. Fauci, Zoom meetings, and Teddy Riley’s internet crapping out during his Verzuz battle with Babyface, Quarantine Casanova doesn’t shy away from examining the more troubling aspects of self-isolating. Over its five tracks, the EP charts a journey that mirrors many people’s experience during the crisis, where jokes about peculiar procedures like wiping down groceries give way to more distressing thoughts about psychological survival. “I didn't plan it that way,” Dave explains to Apple Music. “We just put the tracks in the same order as we wrote and released them online. But when I looked at it with some perspective, I noticed that it starts with the goofy, lighthearted stuff and then it gets into the neuroses and the anguish and the claustrophobia and the more mental-health-oriented themes. And I like that, because I feel like it shows us progressively unraveling a little bit.” Here’s his track-by-track guide to navigating the new normal.
Clorox Wipe “My fiancée has a podcast, and she was circulating this quarantine questionnaire online. It had some deep questions and some fluffy questions, and one of the fluffy questions was ‘What would you reincarnate as?' And I was like, 'I would want to be a Clorox wipe right now, because I would feel wanted for once!' And then I thought about that during the day and I was like, ‘You know what—that could be a song!' Our typical Chromeo songs are always about someone feeling unwanted in a relationship, and so the Clorox wipe is a perfect parable for someone who's been undesired forever and then comes out on top. I just like the image of the narrator saying, 'Look, like, I'll just disinfect, I'll just wipe, I'll do the dishes, I'll wipe the groceries...' Even though it then came out that you shouldn't wipe your groceries, I left that bit in there because it'll be so absurd for us to remember a time when we were wiping groceries with Clorox. I want this to be immortalized so we can look back and be like, ‘What the hell were we doing?’”
6 Feet Away “With Chromeo, a lot of our lyrics were sort of a reaction to love songs that we would hear on the radio and that would feel very predatory and aggressive. And growing up, that's not how I experienced things! I definitely felt unwanted and rejected, and so I always wanted to write from that sort of neurotic, anti-heroic standpoint—that's how we built the Chromeo persona. And with a song like '6 Feet Away,' it still tracks, because you can't get the person's attention, you're too far away, you're wearing a mask, so even if she tried to say something to you, she can't hear you. So there's this dual thing happening where it's topical to the pandemic, but there's also something very sweet and platonic about it, you know?”
Stay in Bed “This song is very funny, but it also encapsulates a feeling of fatigue and frustration that we feel today from the pressure of social media: You've got to work out and you've got to post your recipes, and you've got to post all these performative things. So the message of the song is: Do what feels right to you. If you don't feel like doing a Zoom meeting, don't do it. Like I say in the song, half the people that want to Zoom, I don't even like them in real life, so why would I want to Zoom with them? You know, at the beginning of quarantine, people were like, ‘This is the time where you're going to write your book!' And I'm like, ‘Dude, people are dying, who wants to write a book? I can't even get out of bed!’ I've been very vocal about my struggles with anxiety and mental health in the past few years, and so this song ties into that theme. There's nothing wrong with staying in your sweatpants and staying in bed, and doing what feels right in these circumstances that, for a lot of us, are completely new.”
’Roni Got Me Stressed Out “The narrator here is really starting to unravel. And this was very personal—P and I were like, ‘Will we tour before 2029?' My managers still don't have an answer to that. You know, we're watching those Verzuz battles and Teddy Riley's internet's not working and you don't want to go to the grocery store, you're stressed, we don't know how long this is gonna last. So '’Roni Got Me Stressed Out' is about the confusion with all the mixed messaging that we're getting, and being like, ‘I've got to take care of my mental health, because it's fragile.’"
Cabin Fever “Musically, this one is a little bit different for us, because it kind of opens up into more of a soul thing, and people don't necessarily associate us with that. We just started our own label called Juliet Records, where we're going to be producing for other artists, and for a lot of those projects, that's kind of been the sound, more of a soul-jazz kind of sound, so this is like a little hint of that. But then, lyrically, it's just a stream-of-consciousness ramble. And that came from talking to friends who had been quarantined in their small apartments for a long time, and some of them were telling me, like, 'Oh yeah, I made a fort just to not sleep in the same bed,’ or 'I slept on the couch,' or 'I redecorated the kitchen 18 times'—the things that people did to stay sane when they just couldn't leave their apartment. And I put in a bit about yelling at people for not wearing masks. There's a lot of things in here that come from our personal experiences—like, I've watched every series I could find, and then I added a bit about how I'm talking to Siri, and even Siri's not answering, because she's in quarantine too. It's about the delirium of someone who's been confined in a small space. But then I wanted to add a hopeful note at the end: If you're going cuckoo bananapants, just close your eyes and imagine the Funklordz in your room serenading you. I felt like that was a cozy way to end it.”