Chromeo, Head Over Heels
What was the inspiration behind the Head Over Heels cover? And how do you think this cover sets itself apart from your previous album art?
Obviously the continuity of the legs theme that we’ve always used in our imagery, but for over ten years we had used women’s legs—whether they were serving as keyboard stands or kind of just symbolizing an erotic, Helmut Newton vibe. There was always that reference—this dichotomy between Chromeo and that female legs symbol. We wanted to abolish that on this album. We felt like the natural evolution of our imagery on this record and of our growth was to blur the lines between the muse and the artist, or the subject of the image and the object of the image. Also, in a way, to just kind of take responsibility for an image that we had used for so long. So that, and then obviously it works as a pun with the album title, Head Over Heels.
It’s our heads over our heels—as silly as that sounds, for us it meant assuming responsibility over an image that we had used for so long. People usually love our artwork—our shit is always really tasteful and slick. But with every album, I would read like one or two comments saying, “Guys, why are you fragmenting a woman’s body?” And those one or two comments bothered me. And what I would find myself saying is, “Yo, it’s a reference! Some Helmut Newton shit. It’s a reference, blah blah blah.” What I was tone deaf to is that Helmut Newton in the late 1970’s or 80’s doesn’t resonate the same in 2018. You can reference something, but when you’re referencing something you’re also putting it in a new context. Obviously if something’s in a new context, it takes on a new meaning, and it can ruffle new feathers. I didn’t want to hide behind the referentiality of this late 70’s erotic photography anymore. I wanted to make a fusion of us and our symbol.
I think, yeah, it’s a great middle ground of keeping the cover cohesive and also owning something new.
Also I wanted to add that we’ve always had a very vintage looking grain on our photography, and this time I wanted the photography to look more modern, again, so as to not just be like, “Yo, this is some vintage shit—you can get away with it when you make something look ‘retro.’” It still has a retro thing, but it doesn’t have that kind of vintage grain. Everything we had done so far was done in an analog way, and there was not much retouching or photoshopping or any of that. [This cover] feels more modern, it feels more immediate. That’s what was important to us.
How was the actual shoot for the album? I know the office editor-in-chief Simon styled it. How did that go?
Yup, that’s your boy. I sought out Simon before settling on a photographer, actually. Basically, we have an art director. She’s been our art director since Fancy Footwork in 2007. So when we were putting together this cover concept with her, she was like, because there are no props on the cover, your styling is going to have to speak a lot. The styling needs to be super important. So the first thing was choosing a stylist. I was a fan of Simon’s work, and what I liked about his work is that he does advanced fashion shit, but he’s also able to read the hip hop code when you look at what he did with Travis Scott and Gucci Mane and all that. So I thought he’d be a good person to style Patrick, too. I actually contacted him months and months ago because first I wanted to work with him on our “Juice” video, but he was getting married and all that stuff so we ended up locking him in for the album cover. And Simon told me he was open to recommending photographers, and he recommended a bunch including Jason Nocito. I know Jason from forever ago, and we’d shot with him before, but I thought that Jason was only doing point-and-shoot, snapshot photography. I hadn’t seen Jason's really slick kind of work in the studio. And when I saw that, I was like, this is perfect, this is gonna work.
The color palette we were referencing on the album cover and the texture of this shoot, it’s still 80’s but it’s like late 80’s. We were looking at a lot of photographer magazines from that era. It’s still very Jean Paul Goude, you know, but just the later works. We were looking at a lot of advertising—it’s almost those kind of Benneton Swatch years, instead of the hazy, erotic years. It’s more vibrant. We wanted primary colors that pop out, and we wanted lots of texture—shiny leathers, latex. I could convey that to both Simon and Jason, and they really understood it. Simon nailed the styling in one shot. He brought a bunch of stuff, and the hard part was going to be dressing Patrick. Whatever the gender, my dress code works either way, but with Patrick it was like, how do you make the bottom half of that feminine, you know? So we had to put the whole thing together. The shoot was super easy—it was really just about the light. And Jason really crushed it on the lighting.
It seemed to come together perfectly.
That’s our thing—with Chromeo, everything we do is always trying to be very high brow and very low brow at the same time. When you see a cover like that, obviously it’s funny and crazy, but we work with the best people. We try to collaborate with the best people. Simon and Jason are at the top of their game—they’re really renowned and respected creatives in this field, so they add a level of sophistication. And then you get that juxtaposition between an image that’s outlandish but at the same time meaningful for us and meaningful as a statement, but also really high quality photography. That’s always been our goal. It’s serious and funny at the same time, and it’s meaningful and lighthearted at the same time. If I’m able to tick those boxes, then Chromeo has fulfilled its mission.
Thank you for being so descriptive about the cover and for giving us the exclusive!
Of course. I haven't really gotten to talk about it like this, so.. Hell yeah.
Head Over Heels will be released June 15.