Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Baker's Dozen: Interview with the Chainsmokers

They’ve played for Jay-Z, Rihanna, Bruno Mars and Usher. They’ve played for their moms (and probably yours as well). They’ve probably also played for your girlfriend (as long as she is as hot as you say she is). They are New York City’s The Chainsmokers. Made up of Alex Pall and Drew Taggert, this producer/DJ pair has put out a number of amazing remixes over the last half a year. The most amazing of these remixes, “Julian” (originally by Say Lou Lou), found its way into the lead position on our Poppin Taters Mix. Recently I had the chance to ask these guys some questions as part of our Baker’s Dozen Interview Series. We talked burgers, dating in NYC, Insane Clown Posse, chili and Le Haine. We also touched on what makes a good remix and how to milk a crowd for all their worth. It is about to get hot in here so…do what you need to do. Here are the Chainsmokers:

TB: Supposedly the two of you enjoy a good burger. What’s the best burger you’ve ever had?
The Chainsmokers (TC): Oh man, that’s easy, Minetta Tavern in NYC…their black label burger is unreal…but for a cheaper burger we gotta give it up to the In-N-Out.
TB: Experts say that resumes should be short and sweet. But with credentials like yours, I’d think your resume would have to run a bit longer. You’ve played for the likes of Jay-Z, Rihanna, Tiesto, Bruno Mars, Busta Rhymes, Usher, Lebron James, Ne-Yo and Drake (just to name a few). Anything you do differently when preparing for a room full of A-listers vs playing for the common man?
TC: Honestly, we hate knowing when someone is in the room that’s important. We just want to do our thing, we don’t want to be up there thinking X,Y or Z is here, we should change what we do for him…and we say that because we would likely change it…It's still cool of course, but we aren’t serenading them so honestly, all this celeb stuff is sorta silly, but people like to see it, we think…
TB: Your Facebook page mention that you realize each crowd and room requires a different style and energy of music. Is this something you prep beforehand? What kind of cues are you looking for in the crowd to help guide your set?
TC: Our sets have become more strategic, but only in the sense we sort of feel out the timing and stuff…there is definitely a planned aspect to our sets, but also very much an unprepared side…I mean there are definitely rooms that are more main stream, then rooms that are a little slower to get started, etc. etc…but there aren’t any clues we could share, just with experience you pick up on them…but generally a crowd full of hot girls and neon is a very good sign…
TB: Speaking of hot girls…from the pictures I’ve seen, you seem to play to a very sexy crowd at your shows. From your perspective, is your crowd hotter than the average musician’s crowd? What advice would you offer someone like Insane Clown Posse whose crowd isn’t quite as good looking?
TC: Haha, do our photos give off that vibe? That’s awesome…we do agree we are pretty damn fortunate to get to play for the people we do…but honestly, while its nice to have good lookin’ versus bad looking its way better to have energy versus dead, so we will take energy any day…but to ICP, we wouldn’t say anything, they scare the fuck out of us…if anyone hasn’t seen the documentary on them, it’s a must, 10/10 for insanity…
TB: I know that both of your mothers share the opinion that your music “sounds nice, but is a little loud.” But June is all about the fathers. What do your fathers think of your set?
TC: Well Drew’s dad thinks its awesome, you know vicariously living through your son is sorta standard. He couldn’t be more supportive of our music, funny enough Drew’s accountant is probably the most pumped about our music. Alex’s dad passed away, but he would be into it…
TB: Most of your recorded music to date has come in the form of remixes. When you set out to remix someone else’s song, what are you hoping to accomplish?
TC: Excellent question, Tender, and the answer is quite simple…excellence…joking. We try to accomplish a few things, we want to maintain the integrity of the song, but bring the song to a place emotionally it wasn’t before. Each remix we do we really try to find a unique sound and emotion. With “Julian” it was these contrasting melodies, with “Operate”, this sort of dark bounce, and so on. The beauty is, we love the songs we do, so we aren’t thinking, let’s make this better. In our eyes we are taking an excellent song and just going right when the original went left…Obviously this is a huge simplification of all of this, but if you don’t feel something under your skin, then its not it…Everytime we hit that right melody or right sound, it all falls like dominoes.
TB: I’d have to say your remix of “Julian” is probably my favorite to date. What was it about the original song that attracted you to it?
TC: Funny enough, we heard the Monsieur Adi remix before the original and were obsessed, then we listened to the original and were equally impressed and just knew that we could light this track up, but most importantly for the reason we could give Say Lou Lou a remix that hadn’t been done yet for them…We also love songs with lyrics that make no sense at parts, but a lot at others, its like this controlled chaos, and Say Lou Lou does that wonderfully…on top of that they have incredible punk softness to their voices, it's just amazing to work with…
TB: Other remixes include beefed up versions of Little Daylight, Daughter, Phoenix and ASTR songs. Do the songs you remix need to have any particular characteristics before you decide to work your magic on them?
TC: Yes, we need to like them a lot and not have been remixed already in the fashion we envision, and most importantly have some sort of authenticity to them. That’s why we love indie music, its very authentic in its emotion, and also not played out…its exciting to work with a band like us that isn’t necessarily huge yet (minus Phoenix and Two Door and Daughter) and put something out that is widely accepted, its like an underdog win…that being said we fuckin’ love pop as well, Katy Perry, Miley, Selena, all that…
TB: If an artist approaches you to ask for a Chainsmokers remix of one of their songs, how do you respond?
TC: What’s your budget…jk, we take a listen and it of course depends on how much we love the song, how busy we are at the time, and who they are…We wish it was just like oh cool, we got you, but you have to be strategic…We have our fans to think about, you can’t earn someone’s trust and then betray everything you built suddenly for something that is uncharacteristic of our goals.
TB: Will there be a time when the Chainsmokers perform their own original songs?
TC: You can bet your fucking ass there will be. In fact we are working on an original song that we are VERY excited about…
TB: What is the best thing about being from New York City? The worst?
TC: The best thing is the city is so cosmopolitan, amazing food, the energy, the constant grind, that is New York…the worst thing is the state/city taxes…
TB: Do The Chainsmokers get the chance to do much cooking? Any recipes worth sharing?
TC: Funny enough, we do…Eating out, as nice as it is, can take a serious toll…Not sure whose dated in NYC but you take a girl for a night out and you are looking at 150+ easy…of course you can be creative, once I took a girl out and our date consisted of going around the city and stink bombing places… Alex makes an award winning chili bowl…he cannot share the recipe though, its almost as highly guarded as our production sessions…
TB: Any final words of wisdom?
TC: Its from a movie called ‘Le Haine” its the first scene in the movie, a man is standing on top of a skyscraper and jumps off…as he passes each floor falling to his death…he says to himself ‘so far, so good’ and then he hits the floor and dies. Be yourself, do what makes you happy, enjoy now, we are all going to die one day…
The Chainsmokers newest remix, “Operate”: