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S1-E2: The Chainsmokers


The Chainsmokers is an American electronic DJ and production duo consisting of Alexander “Alex” Pall and Andrew “Drew” Taggart (with Matt McGuire on live shows). They started out by releasing remixes of songs by indie artists. The EDM-pop duo achieved a breakthrough with their 2014 song “#Selfie”, which became a top twenty single in several countries. They have won a Grammy award, two American Music Awards, seven Billboard Music Awards and nine iHeartRadio Music Awards. According to Forbes 2019 list of highest paid celebrities, the Chainsmokers were the highest paid DJs, dethroning Calvin Harris after six years.

Dylan:
We’re talking to the guys at number one.

The Chainsmokers:
What’s up, this is The Chainsmokers. We always wanted to make music that a lot of people can enjoy. (singing) And we hoped that whatever our message was, that a lot of people would relate to that. So, it’s tough, because when you go into the studio, we’ll be making a song and we’ll be like, “Holy shit. I don’t know how we could play this in our set.” But truth of the matter is, if people like it, you can get away with anything. It just takes a little bit of time.

The Chainsmokers:
I remember when we played Roses in Denver for the first time, and we were like, “This is our new song, y’all don’t know it. This is going to tell us what it sounds like. We hope you like it.” You know what I mean? And really awkwardly played it. And 90% of the room was like, “I have no idea what just happened.” 10% was like, “This is pretty cool.” It sounded good, and so that’s when we were like, “Alright, you know whaT? I’m down with this track. It’s going to take some time for people to catch on to it.” And now it’s caught on, and it’s just the biggest moment in our set. So, you can dance do anything, it’s just like, do people know it and are they familiar with it?

Dylan:
I love Roses.

The Chainsmokers:
Dylan, what’s up?

Dylan:
I don’t know what that percentage you were talking about that didn’t know what happened … I swear, when I first heard it for the first time I was like, “What?”

The Chainsmokers:
When we first played it we didn’t even know how to play it into our set. It was 100 BPM, we were dropping crazy shit, and then it’s just like, yeah, you’re just like, “All right, well this is this chick singing.” But I’m so glad that you liked it. It’s so cool to hear stuff like that.

Dylan:
I don’t know, I feel like it’s a song I totally relate to. I’m talking about from the weed, to the backroom, to the couch, to the …

The Chainsmokers:
It’s funny, we had to do a clean version for pop radio, and they changed all the lyrics. It’s like it doesn’t even make sense anymore. It’s like, “Chillin’ on a chair in a dark room …” [inaudible 00:02:49] But no, it’s cool. That’s our favorite part of the song, so I’m glad you liked it.

Announcer:
But first, let me take a selfie.

Dylan:
You guys started out, it was remixes and then Selfie happened. Can you say, is Selfie, when you look back and listen is it like, “Oh man …” What does Selfie mean to you now?

The Chainsmokers:
That’s a really good question, and it only became a good question now that Roses is doing what it is, because we used to be really sensitive about it, because it was like it represented to the world so much of us, but to us it was not indicative of our passion for music and the stuff we made. So, we were always really shy about it. We didn’t want to talk about it. It was like, it happened, it was an awesome learning experience, but this isn’t who we are. But now that, thank god for Roses, that it’s even more successful than Selfie was on every analytical chart, now we’re really proud of it because now it’s like we can look back and be like, “See, we told you how we weren’t just these one hit wonder type dudes, and we do make good music.”

The Chainsmokers:
And we always said that, and now we have proof of that, so now we can talk about Selfie like, “Hey, this was this joke song we made, and it’s definitely representational of our sense of humor. It’s about basic bitches in the club. You know what I mean? And we’re proud of it, and the volume, it was really a global smash. So, it’s cool, but we were definitely ashamed of it in some ways until this point, because people, that’s how they looked at us. But DJs come to me all the time and they’re like, “Dude, I’m so proud of you guys for overcoming Selfie.” [inaudible 00:04:30]

Luis:
You guys are really down to earth kind of guys, and that definitely bleeds over into your live shows. You guys have a pretty impressive video show, pyrotechnic show.

The Chainsmokers:
Yeah, we’re new to that stuff, relatively new. Now that we’ve been touring a lot, [inaudible 00:04:48] this is my fifth tour and da-da-da. But we’re really passionate about the live show and creating an experience for the people who come that’s unique to us, and the way to do that is through crazy visuals, video walls, pyrotechnics, thinking outside the box, creating memorable experiences. So for us, it’s like obviously there’s the music side of things, which is very audiotronically driven, but then you can really create a visual experience that helps that. And I know a lot of DJs, performers are aware of that, but we’re always trying to work with companies that have some technology and go into rooms and really look at what we can do to change the way people have experience [inaudible 00:05:29], and it’s super important to us. Really expensive to do, which is what we’ve learned, but it’s always worth it in the end, because that’s when people come back.

The Chainsmokers:
(singing)

Dylan:
I love the videos. There’s a lot of effort, there’s a lot of time, there’s a lot of editing. There’s a lot that goes into your videos now, I’m seeing.

The Chainsmokers:
We always say, “Thank god for Roy Framer, Chris Yoder, Dan Calder.” Those are our three dudes. They’re as big a part of our brand as anyone. They convey to the people everything that they don’t see, like our personalities, they create the narrative. You can say you’re a cool dude all you want, but until you see someone actually how they are, and they create that really amazing authentic true narrative of who we are, and we’re so lucky to be working with dudes like that.

The Chainsmokers:
And I think that a lot of other people are catching on now, because we used to put out videos and no one saw the videos, and we knew that at some point a fan’s going to say, “Hey, I’m going to get lost on their YouTube channel right now.” And it’s so cool when you see someone on Twitter being like, “Oh my god, I spent the last seven hours watching all of your videos. I feel like I’m your best friends right now.” And it’s like, that’s exactly what we wanted. So, we love doing that shit and inviting people to be part of it, and hopefully it just gets weirder and crazier.

Dylan:
One of the videos I was watching, when you say that a lot of people say to you, “I want to live and party like you.” And you’re like, “You can be me! You can!” Is there some advice, as people are listening to this and they may be a future hit maker like yourself, is there something you would tell them that can get … I mean, I don’t think a lot of people realize the amount of work that really goes into being The Chainsmokers.

The Chainsmokers:
Yeah, yeah. I mean, that’s always like everything, right.

Dylan:
Right?

The Chainsmokers:
You see the actor living the dream with the hot chick, and you’re like I can’t imagine … preparing myself for a role. I can’t even remember my own number, let alone a script. But it’s funny, I was on a taxi cab through New York and the taxi driver like, “Yo, what do you do?” He’s chatting me up, and I’m like, “Oh, I DJ.” And he says, “Oh, I want to be a DJ too.” And I’m like, “Guess what, you’re a DJ. You just said you’re a DJ. Congratulations.” There’s no license, “You’re a DJ now.” And he’s like, “How do I become successful?” And I was like, “Dude, just like anything else, you’ve got to put in the 10,000 hours.” And even then, it’s not so simple. I think the key to anything, most importantly nowadays, because with any art is not imitating people. That’s suicide. So, don’t hit safe trends. Really become good at what you’re passionate about. Don’t just assume that things are going to happen because you now learned how to use Ableton. There’s so many elements to it, just like anything, like any job.

The Chainsmokers:
Whether you’re working at Walmart or you’re working at Goldman Sachs. You have to schmooze, you have to be social, you have to meet the right people, you have to work the angles, you’ve got to actually have a good product, you have to sell that product well. You have to be passionate about it and real.

Luis:
Do you have a marketing degree?

The Chainsmokers:
I feel like I do now. But there’s just so many layers to it, and you have to love it to really want it, and it’s not always going to work out, so you’ve got to be patient. And it’s always funny, there’s so many things. When you meet the successful people who do it, and we don’t even consider ourselves those people, you can tell why they’re that person. And you learn from them. You don’t sit there and jabber their ear off about why you want to make it, you listen to them. Ask them questions, let them talk to you. That’s my biggest piece of advice. We always have young people coming up to us, instead of asking us how things happen, they just talk about themselves the whole time and don’t learn, which is fine because then I usually pick up a couple of interesting things that I could use, but …

The Chainsmokers:
We just want to keep making new stuff, and hopefully people are down with that, because I think the mistake would be to make another song like Roses. We’re not going to do that, we’re going to try to make the next Roses. We call it future pop, that’s our thing. We’re going to brand the fuck out of it.

Luis:
Future pop, all right.

Dylan:
Yes!

Luis:
We’ll push it.

Dylan:
I feel like I want to fan out on you real quick and just tell you, from watching your videos and listening to your … I mean, it’s coming across and I’m seeing it here in Chicago. I know in the city that we live in there’s a lot of love for The Chainsmokers.

Luis:
Absolutely.

The Chainsmokers:
Yeah, our best show ever at Lollapalooza was in your city. So, Chicago is the mecca for us.

Dylan:
Awesome, awesome. That makes us feel good, man.

Luis:
Totally, man, thanks.

Dylan:
I mean, that’s exactly it. Thank you. Thanks you for doing what you’re doing and being brave enough to have the balls to go out there and try to do it different the next time.

The Chainsmokers:
You’ve got to. That’s what music is about, and that’s the artists we all admire, that’s what they do. You can’t do the same thing over and over again. Guys like Diplo and Skrillex and all that, Max Martin, Dr. Luke, those guys are always pushing the boundaries, and it takes balls and it takes a lot of talent and hopefully … I know we have the balls, and I think we’ve got the talent, but we’ll see.

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