Audio and visual are not separate in the mind of Chanticleer Trü.
“I think it’s all one in the same,” explains Trü, the leader of the electronic R&B outfit Chanti Darling. “A lot of times when I’m writing a song I might even be thinking of a visual for that song at the same time and that involves the aesthetic look of it—the clothes, vibe. All of that, I’m constantly living in that sphere.”
Trü has an innate sense of style. Whether dressing in bright colors or prints, his fashion is not something he labors over. “A lot of things I wear are just from my laundry pile,” he says. “This is a part of who I am every day.”
His visual presentation is “something that’s always come natural to me,” he tells. “I grew up liking to dress up. I think my mom may have been a really strong influence. She’s very into fashion and kinda with the it things and so I’ve always kinda remained with the it things, and then out of that I started discovering who I was aesthetically as an artist.”
He loves vintage clothing and jackets are a staple. “Anything that has movement or color or a story to it,” he says pointing out the dangly fringes on his black leather jacket or the assortment of buttons on his threadbare jean jacket—and there’s always a punk element.
“I like to choose things that I feel really express who I am. A lot of that is patterns. I’ll do patterns on patterns on patterns, maybe from head to toe. It’s also really easy to get dressed that way,” he laughs.
If you’ve ever seen Trü’s collaborative Chanti Darling crew live, you understand that the visual presentation holds just as much space as the musical instrumentation. In fact, the bare minimum for a Chanti Darling performance is The Step Touches, his group of choreographers and dancers led by William Ylvisaker and often highlighting the talents of Akela Auer, Grace Eucker and hip-hop artist Maarquii.
Over the years of inception, the project has relied upon producer Damon Boucher and synth whiz Natasha Kmeto for sonic contributions and Hannah Blilie of the Gossip and Rebecca Cole of Wild Flag for live instrumentation, but the synchronous, shimmying, voguing dancers are the true instigators, subconsciously pulling you in and pushing you back out on the dance floor to shake it alongside them.
Eclecticism reigns supreme on Chanti Darling’s retro-futurist debut record RNB Vol. 1, an homage to R&B music, “which definitely gives a nod to certain eras,” he tells. Inspired by Prince, Michael Jackson and Patrice Rushen, Trü is ultimately doing—just like his sense of style—what comes natural to him. “The record also is a patchwork. You’ll hear freestyle on there, you’ll hear new jack swing, you’ll hear ’90s R&B, you’ll hear some boogie influences."
Recently tapped to be a model for Adidas’ Pride campaign in June (alongside local LGBTQ artist-influencers like Frankie Simone and The Last Artful, Dodgr), Trü challenges those in the mainstream to “take time to appreciate us the other 364 days out of the year. We’re here constantly and always pushing boundaries and always creating more with less. So I think that’s something to be commended for sure.”
RNB Vol. 1 is a testament to all the women, black and queer musicians working behind the scenes in this genre. “This is R&B music,” Trü proclaims. “I am R&B music—have been, will continue to be, and will continue to push it forward.”
“We’re just people doing what we love. So we’re artists first,” he states. “And then obviously, we’re proud to represent this very marginalized group of people to get the recognition that they need, even though we’re constantly creating everything that everyone else absorbs as pop culture.”