Exclusive Interview with The Chainsmokers
Photo: Jesse Wheaton
I’m sitting with Alex Pall and Drew Taggert at a park bench in a children’s playground on a warm summer day in LA. PR reps, reporters, and photographers mill around in between the child-sized slides and swings. Directly behind us the back entrance to HARD Summer stands between us and 50,000 bouncing fans, many of whom just packed the HARDer stage to watch Alex and Drew, aka The Chainsmokers, play to one of their biggest crowds ever.
Their rise has been meteoric of late following their hit single #Selfie, which put them on the map with a main stage debut at the beginning of Ultra this year. The early slot meant that the massive Ultra Vortex felt a little empty, but in the past few months that’s changed tremendously with a packed set at Tomorrowland, and now once again at LA’s premiere EDM festival. With the release of their follow-up track “Kanye” this week, we decided to sit down to talk about their future now that they're on a major label - but mostly we just talked about fighting and pornography as usual.
Post #Selfie are you trying to get back to your roots with the Indie-Progressive remixes, or where do you think you’re heading?
Drew: I think we’re progressing as artists and we still love the indie stuff, but we’re evolving.
In which direction? More big room?
Drew: We do everything now.
Alex: Our sets are evolving - some of our tracks are straight bangers, big-room stuff, and some of it's way more indie. It’s funny, you go to Ultra Europe and see Deorro play and think ‘Damn, I wanna make something like this.’ Then you go home and you hear a beautiful Coldplay song, you know what I mean? I don’t think we’ll ever conform.
Drew: We make what we want to make today.
As far as mixing your sound has changed a lot. At Ultra your set was early and it felt like you were trying to figure out the vibe at that time slot, but now you’ve been pushed towards larger sets with bigger sound. How has your mixing evolved and what do you want to change in your sets?
Drew: I want our sets to be all Chainsmokers music. Right now its 70-80%. Originals, remixes, #Selfie. #Selfie remix (laughs). I think we’re pretty close to having a full blown personal set.
Alex: We always start with Operate now, I like building a progression as the set goes along. We’re still learning, there are parts of our set we still don’t like. “Wonder” is such a great song, but its not always the right setting. It’s funny how different areas have different reactions to different things. “Kids” has a huge reaction in Toronto but it’s not our biggest remix out here.
How do you feel about the irony of #Selfie going over people’s heads? You’re playing this song that’s tongue-in-cheek making fun of our generation and everyone’s just snapping selfies.
I think like 80% of people don’t get that it was satire.
Alex: But there’s nothing to do about it. If you enjoy it for whatever reason you enjoy it, that’s totally fine by us. And if you hate it, it’s your prerogative. It is funny though.
Because so many of your fans have that take on it, do you feel like you have to cater to what you mocked? For example during American Idol you’re taking selfies with the audience - are you becoming part of something you were making fun of now?
Alex: I mean I don’t know what else we could have done in a minute and thirty seconds. If I could go back Iwould have worn a shirt that said ‘This is a joke’ or something. At the end of the day you can’t please everyone and we just do what we think is important.
Drew: We’re on an adventure. We’ve never done this before. Someone offers us the chance to go on American Idol and its gonna be corny, are you kidding me? If someone had asked us that a year ago...
Alex: Even this crowd, we’re playing a festival right now. Not like scrubs in the beginning, we’re here playing this. A year ago we were yelling at Matt to get us proper shows.
Drew: Stuff we were reaching for a year ago is falling into our laps now.
Alex: We’re always pushing, never satisfied.
So how’d you get that cut on your eye?
Oh, we got into a fight in Majorca.
Drew: I was really drunk and mad that I lost my phone and he was like ‘Dude you’re an idiot that’s why I take my phone out of my pocket.’ But he literally lost his phone a week earlier, and I was like 'That's it.'
Alex: We don’t really fight ever, we were drinking and laughing minutes after. It’s healthy to have arguments but there’s nothing serious.
Who gets more women between the two of you?
Alex: Probably him, but we have girlfriends.
Drew: We have girlfriends.
Amazing, beautiful girlfriends?
Drew: That I love so much.
Last time that we watched porn together I believed it was a threesome. What kind of porn do you watch now?
Shitty porn because our internet sucks.
Drew: We’ve been deprived of good internet so our standards aren’t very high.
Alex: We load a video and wait 15 minutes for it to get far enough to watch properly and then we skip ahead and it resets the whole thing.
How would you describe your upcoming EP to someone who has never heard your music?
Drew: We have so much different stuff we’re excited about. We had this big room track that we played today and at TomorrowLand. We have a track with NONONO that’s not a dance track, it’s more indie-leaning. We have another radio hit, so who knows.
See you on the dancefloor,