NOBODY is more surprised at the rapid rise and rise of Gnarls Barkley than the band's two mismatched musical maestros.
Rapper Cee-Lo Green (aka Thomas Calloway) and his partner in crime, Danger Mouse (aka Brian Burton), barely expected instant classic single Crazy and the album from which it comes, St Elsewhere, to be released, let alone turn into a worldwide hit and feature on man critics' best-of-2006 lists.
"We only intended on amusing and entertaining and impressing each other," said Green from his home in Atlanta. "Danger Mouse was my audience and vice versa.
"It was an independent product initially funded out of pocket.
"We thought initially that it would get some response but what has happened has totally surpassed our expectations, which has been equally awesome for us."
When it was released last April, Crazy became the first song to top the UK charts on downloads alone and stayed at No1 for nine weeks until the band deleted it, sensibly but possibly belatedly, fearing overkill.
It became the top-selling UK song last year and Rolling Stone magazine's song of the year, and inspired artists as diverse as Billy Idol, The Kooks, Jack White and Nelly Furtado to cover it.
"It's very flattering for them to come down off their high horses and do that song because they love it and because they embrace it as their song and their sentiment as well," Green said. "I appreciate it and I blush at the thought of it."
Even Paris Hilton reportedly wanted to have a crack. "I actually thought it was a joke or a rumour or something when I first heard that," laughed Green. "But since it never happened, I don't know how much truth there was to that."
With the unexpected success of St Elsewhere which won Best Alternative Music album at this year's Grammy Awards Gnarls Barkley was faced with the prospect of translating the darkly chaotic, genre-bending mix of soul, funk and psychedelia to the stage.
The pair chose to work under the pseudonym of Gnarls Barkley in an attempt to deflect the focus away from themselves and place it squarely on the music. To do this live, Green and Danger Mouse perform in costumes taken from popular movies.
In the past they have dressed as characters from Star Wars, The Wizard of Oz, Wayne's World, Napoleon Dynamite and more.
But Green doesn't know what might inspire them for their first visit to Australia, which will include Adelaide. Or, if he does, he isn't saying.
"It will be our first tour down there but we haven't thought that far ahead," Green said. "A lot of the time we are fairly impulsive and don't plan too far in advance.
"That way it is still organic and it's fun for all of us it's not putting on a uniform and going to work. But even if I did have a plan I wouldn't tell you. Please Australia allow us to surprise you."
The Gnarls Barkley live show is as much stupendous fun as the album itself, with backing vocalists, strings and a red-hot rhythm, all of which will head Down Under.
With producer Danger Mouse doodling anonymously in the background, Green is a natural frontman, his soulful voice belting out album hits and the occasional off-beat cover (Pink Floyd, Duran Duran and Thomas Dolby have cropped up at past shows).
Green is relishing the camaraderie of life on the road the band having criss-crossed the world last year and is now gearing up to support the Red Hot Chili Peppers in the US before arriving here for the V Festivals and Best of V nights.
"I enjoy live performance and live music and the camaraderie and musicianship of the band," he said. "All the parties involved ...
perform these songs as their own. We have become a family ... so you see that collective energy and unified front."
Green and Danger Mouse met when working on a common project for rapper Jemini and felt an immediate musical connection. Producer Danger Mouse was until then best known for his Grey Album, an unofficial mash-up of the Beatles' White Album and Jay-Z's Black Album, as well as producing tracks for Gorillaz.
Green had been a member of rap collective Goodie Mob, but his solo career wasn't taking off, apart from writing occasional hits such as Don't Cha for the Pussycat Dolls.
Green, who has spoken of a dark past on the street, saw something in Danger Mouse's beats that appealed to his darker nature. On Just a Thought, he sings: "Well I've tried, everything but suicide but it's crossed my mind" and most of the album has a twisted feeling of forboding and despair.
But, despite the dark and slightly demented mood of much of St Elsewhere- mental illness is a recurring theme – Green insists his outlook is positive these days.
"I'm not in a dark place I'm actually very well off these days," he said with a throaty chuckle.