We teamed up with footwear brand KEEN in honor of their new Bridge City Collection to meet some of the most stylish, creative duos in the New York City. Get to know Chargaux.
To hear Chargaux's Jasmin "Charly" Charles and Margaux Whitney tell it, their first meeting and eventual musical collaboration together sounds like fate. The self-described art collective, who play the violin and viola, respectively, met on the street in Boston, recognized an immediate affinity and have been performing and recording music together ever since. They've contributed arrangements for artists like Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole and have performed everywhere from MoMA to the White House (which they'll tell you more about below). The duo recently released a new album, Meditations of a G. Below they talk about their collaboration, their favorite haunts in New York City and what it was like to perform for Michelle Obama.
Tell us more about the first time you guys met.
Charly: The first time we met I was out playing violin in the street behind my school [Berklee College] and Margaux ran up to me and said, "Hi, my name is Margaux, I wanna play viola with you." And I said, "This is so cool." And so she texted me, and the next day we met up and it's history after that.
What were your first impressions of one another?
Margaux: My first impression was "Hey! This girl looks like me, dresses like me, plays an instrument that I play -- this is gonna be a really dope collaboration."
Charly: My first impression of her is that she's really beautiful – is she serious? Does she really want to hang out? Is this my new friend? So after the initial getting past that, I was very happy to know that she was actually really serious about being friends.
Where are you guys from originally?
Margaux: I'm originally from the west side of Detroit and I've been on the East Coast forever. I went to boarding school in New Hampshire, I went to school in Boston, and now I'm in New York City.
Charly: I'm from the South and I moved to Boston maybe 7 years ago, and met her after I finished school there.
And how recently did each of you guys move to New York?
Charly: We moved to New York 5 years ago, and I believe the day that we met in Boston, we knew that we wanted to make music together, so moving to New York was just the second step, because Boston was so small. And coming out here to explore every aspect of performance art – whether that's practicing stuff in the subway and also earning rent, doing live shows in bars and working our way up to museums and beautiful theaters, and travelling across America and traveling to other countries and being in festivals and concerts -- that was crazy.
What are you guys KEEN on in New York City? Where are some of your favorite spots?
Margaux: We live in Brooklyn -- I've only ever lived in Brooklyn -- and I'm now in Bed Stuy. I love my neighborhood. There is the most beautiful bakery/restaurant/bar called Saraghina. I go there every single day to get fresh bread, wine, all that stuff. It's my favorite place. I love food so my favorite places are any place you can eat.
Charly: I'm pretty KEEN on finding new things all the time, so I just discovered a juice bar around the corner from my house. I probably just discovered it because they just built it, but it's amazing. And I love going to [Ethiopian restaurant] Bunna Cafe -- I love Ethiopian food -- so I'll tell my friends to meet me there, and we'll have this huge table full of food and wine. I generally work in studios and at home a lot, so to go out is kind of a treat.
What is your music-making process like? When you're working together do you take on different roles or do everything together?
Margaux: When we're creating music, we balance each other. Charly has a free spirit so she's gonna come up with really dope, crazy lyrics and say crazy stuff in her songs. And I do more of the orchestral foundation. I come from a different classical background than her – [I come from a background in] romantic music and baroque music so all that goes into what I write. It balances perfectly in each song.
Charly: We used to always record together, and now we record separately. I'll lay something down and go leave the room, and she will come in and hear what I did, and instinctively know where to go from there. And we'll switch off. But in order for that to go smoothly, I like to practice for about an hour or an hour and a half before every recording session so that I have fresh ideas, and my fingers are flowy, and I'm confident.
Have either of you thought about being a solo act? And if not, why do you think it is better to work together?
Margaux: I think it's better to work together because you always have someone to tell you when an idea is great, when it needs more work, when you need to practice, when you need to get your stuff together. There's always that sisterly vibe and I think it's beautiful, and it makes the art that we create that much more dynamic.
Charly: Before we got together, we each saw ourselves going down solo paths. But being a team allows us to use our platform to both do what we want to do -- she loves performance and I love recording. And it works.
Aside from music and exploring New York City what other interests, passions, or hobbies are you KEEN on?
Margaux: I'm KEEN on podcasts. The nerd in me loves learning random new facts, learning about stories from all over the world. That's my favorite thing to do if I'm not thinking about music or art -- just listening to different podcasts.
Charly: I'm pretty KEEN on making art. I love to paint and so my time is split between creating with Margaux or painting. And a lot of my friends will say, “Hey what are you doing today?" “I'm painting." “What are you doing tomorrow?" “I'm recording." “What are you doing next week?" “One of those two things."
What do you enjoy about your KEEN boots?
Margaux and Charly: They are comfortable and stylish -- the perfect combination for life in a big city. In New York you're always walking everywhere. We love shoes that feel and look good.
How does the Bridge City Collection work with and inspire your wardrobe for fall?
Margaux and Charly: The Bridge City Collection works wonderfully with our fall look. The neutral colors and casual style are an easy addition to our eclectic wardrobe.
What have been some of the most memorable moments since you first started making music together?
Margaux: One of the most memorable experiences I've had since working with Charly and making music was performing at the White House. I used to be a figure skater when I was a little girl, and I said, “I'm going to skate in the Olympics or I'm gonna play [music] in the White House one day." So to have that actually happen and to be able to meet Michelle Obama and to be in her presence and to be around all these amazing beautiful designers, was truly a dream come true.
Charly: We played for a very special program where all the fashion designers who had ever dressed Ms. Obama got together and taught some workshops to excelling high school and college students. And we were to perform for the final part of the event that night with all of the models and all of the fashion designers. And we were dressed by Michelle Obama's stylist. That was amazing.
If you guys could imagine yourselves doing anything in 10 years, what would it be?
Charly: In 10 years we want [to start] a summer camp. We want some kind of program to give back to kids and inspire creativity and projects. The sky is the limit.
Margaux: The crazy thing about our story is that we both started playing our instruments in public school, even though she was in the South and I was in Detroit. I would love to have that opportunity to provide that experience for kids.
Check out KEEN's Bridge City Collection here.
Producer: Erin Francis
Director & Editor: Symone Ridgell
Stylist: Sam Bates
Hair and Makeup: Mirna Jose
Select clothing by Dion Lee