Viola

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Chatting with Chargaux

Syncing up on everything from synesthesia to superstitions

Kia-Chenelle-1

Viola and violin duo, Chargaux, has enchanted the music scene with their soulful, modern music. The two have not only shared the stage at fashion shows, Darren Criss concerts, and at NeueHouse; but their musical identity and presence has also flourished through their mashed up identity. The choice of the name Chargaux—a combination of their names, Charly and Margaux—speaks to the connection between these musicians, and their profound synergy is highlighted in their interdisciplinary musical and visual works. Here, we get to know the women behind the music—their rituals, their inspirations, and their superpowers, of course.
How did it all begin?
The universe brought us together. I [Margaux] was working at a consulting firm in Boston, when on my lunch break I saw Charly playing the violin on the corner. She had a blonde mohawk, red cowboy boots, and was literally singing through her instrument. I stopped her and let her know that I was a violist and asked if she wanted to jam some time. “Sometime” turned into the very next day on the same corner where we met. As soon as we pulled out our instruments people started to photograph us, ask if we were a band, if we could play at their fashion shows…it was wild. That day we just trusted the vibe and worked together. We have been ever since.
How did Charly and Margaux become ‘Chargaux’?
Margaux: It happened completely naturally. One day we just realized billing ourselves as Charly and Margaux was a mouthful so we thought, why not just mash our names into Chargaux. At first we joked about it, but once we started to use it seriously, it just stuck. It has a ring to it.
Charly: Char and Gaux is something we can both own, it rhymes with Margaux, and it sounds like a full-bodied wine. Charly and Margaux was way too much to put on cards or spell out to people. A lot of folks assume the spelling is Chargo, but when you see it written, the meaning really clicks.
You’ve taken classical instruments and repurposed them to create soulful, jazzy, R&B-style music. What inspired this approach?
Charly: Listening to those records growing up. My first teacher liked bluegrass and would slip me all kinds of different sheet music and country etudes. I filled my time learning violin solos by Itzhak Perlman (Songs From My Childhood) and Regina Carter (Motor City Moments). Both Margaux and I have backgrounds performing in ensembles, so when we met it was really easy to write music and dictate parts to each other. I’d say the soul comes from within.
Margaux: Our inspiration comes from the wide range of experiences we’ve had as musicians. We are both classically trained, both grew up listening to funk, R&B, hip hop, jazz, and rock—essentially a little bit of everything. The way we express ourselves through our instruments is a product of the wealth of music we’ve been exposed to. We write what we like. We write what comes naturally to us.

Tell us about the evolution, both personally and musically, from playing in subway stations to performing at fashion shows.
Margaux: We’ve always used the subway as a place to practice and to network. People are surprised when we use the word network, but in New York people from all walks of life have to get on the train. We’ve met photographers, friends, musicians—all kinds of people really—just from playing underground. For us it’s been a strategic way to try out new material while we do other gigs in the city. Performing in the subway really is no different than playing at huge fashion show because music is music no matter where it is played. Learning to perform, and really draw people in, in an environment as hectic as a subway platform is a skill that has made us better artists.
Charly: You learn new rules very quickly. Margaux summed it all up.
Charly, you have synesthesia; how does ‘hearing colors’ impact your musical creativity? How do you both use this super power to align the aural and visual?
Charly: It’s just another sense. It doesn’t come before the sound is heard, my nerves respond afterwards. It’s a mental reflex, something I can see in my brain and feel throughout my body. It impacts my art, the way I cook, and the way I dress.
Margaux: I get to experience synesthesia vicariously through Charles. I think it’s an amazing gift and I embrace the moments when she expresses what colors different notes and songs are. For me it makes our music that much more special. The fact that it translates into such a wide color palette inspires us to be as bold, wild, and unapologetic with the visual story we tell.
Do you have any pre-performance rituals that you can’t go without?
Charly: Yes. I do not do anything all day, and then we show up later that night and play.
Margaux: We always have a little pow-wow with our band before we start a show. It’s a legitimate football style huddle, chanting and all. Other than that, we just remind each other to be present. When we’re on stage we think about the music we are creating right in the moment, nothing else.

If you could perform for anyone, who would you perform for? Why?
Charly: That’s really hard. I love Janko Nilovic. I’d want to be in someone’s ensemble or orchestra. I’m totally cheating by answering this way. I’d like to play for Lisa E. she is a superhero.
Margaux: I would love to know what Nina Simone would have thought of our music. She’s an artist who was in love with classical music yet delved into other genres. She just did whatever she felt moved to do, not matter what; that’s a vibe I can relate to.