UNIVERSAL CITY, California — What makes Gnarls Barkley "crazy"? Downtime, apparently.
Although the super duo has been touring virtually nonstop since May and will hit the road again beginning January 12 (opening for the Red Hot Chili Peppers), Cee-Lo and Danger Mouse are choosing to spend their holiday vacations working on their next album.
"I've retreated back to where I found inspiration the first time around, and that was in Atlanta and that was in the car and just being observant and quiet," Cee-Lo said.
While both Cee-Lo and Danger Mouse travel with recording gear, it's not likely Gnarls Barkley will record much on tour.
"It's kind of frantic to be creative wholeheartedly on the road," Cee-Lo said. "With the success ratio of the last record, we did 16 records and 14 records made the album, so we wanted to kinda stay in the tradition of that and nail it each time. So I'm not trying to be random or frivolous. I want to get it right."
Gnarls are still bouncing around themes for the album, but Cee-Lo said "it will surprise you" (see "Gnarls Barkley Say They'll Keep 'Crazy' Expectations Far From LP Number Two").
In the meantime, the group recently released "Smiley Faces" as a single in the States and "Who Cares?" overseas, and a few other Cee-Lo-produced singles will hit the airwaves in the coming weeks.
"I have Amerie's first single, it's called 'Control,' " Cee-Lo said. "And I have Kelis' third single, 'Little Star,' and a couple of new artists that I'm working with courtesy of Radiculture Records, which is my imprint."
Cee-Lo's also recording some solo stuff and reuniting with his long-running Atlanta hip-hop group Goodie Mob. "We gonna do what we did, better," the singer said. "Definitely this time around we're more focused and more collective."
And, finally, there's a long-in-the-works joint album with producer Jazze Pha.
"That's a solid project all the way through, and I would really like it to see the light of day," Cee-Lo said. "I might just have to come and get the project myself and do with it as I wish."
As for that tour with the Chili Peppers, fans should expect to see some new "Gnarls Barkley cover bands," which is what the group calls their various costumed looks. (Cee-Lo referred to the holiday-attired band at the recent KROQ Almost Acoustic Christmas as Bad Santa and the Ho-Ho-Hos.)
"It extends the touring life expectancy," Cee-Lo said of their costumes.
Perhaps the guys can borrow some costumes from the Chili Peppers, who donned gear from several eras for their "Dani California" video. Regardless, the two groups should have plenty to talk about this winter, as Gnarls and the Peppers are nominated for several Grammys between them, including both for Album of the Year (see "Mary J. Blige, Chili Peppers Top Grammy Nominations List").
"It's very flattering," Cee-Lo said. "It's awesome, for instance, that a song such as 'Crazy' is so commercially celebrated. I'm getting a kick out of continuing on in the tradition of integrity and genuine and sincerity and quality, you know what I'm saying? Honesty and expression and progression, all these different things that I think are missing in the marketplace. So I speak on behalf of Gnarls Barkley in that we wish to contribute, and I guess a Grammy would be an indication that we are accomplishing that."