The Chainsmokers On Rising Hit “Roses,” Debut EP ‘Bouquet’ & Leaving “#Selfie” Behind: Idolator Interview
The Chainsmokers arrived with a bang in 2014. Producers Andrew Taggart and Alex Pall went viral with club anthem “#Selfie” (384 million YouTube views and counting) and landed a surprise top 20 hit on the Billboard Hot 100. It was a dream start by any measure, but the satirical nature of the track raised doubts about their ability to follow it up — doubts which have since been erased by the success of their new single.
A collaboration with 22-year-old singer/songwriter ROZES, the New York-based dance duo have another smash on their hands with “Roses.” The melodic banger is already top 30 at pop radio and steadily climbing iTunes, which means it should soar a lot higher than its current Billboard peak of number 64. I recently spoke with The Chainsmokers about their new hit, debut EP/compilation Bouquet and life after “#Selfie.” Find out more below.
Were you expecting “Roses” to explode like this? We always felt the song was special. When you want to listen to it again and again after you’ve made the song, you know you’ve got something. You’ve really got to put it out and let the public try to decide what it is and what it isn’t. When we put the song out, it was an overwhelmingly positive response. That doesn’t mean it’s a hit but we knew that it was a special song.
It’s definitely a different sound for you. Yeah we call it future pop. That’s what we’re calling it. I think that it definitely has a Chainsmokers feel to it, but there’s a lot of influences — including Taylor Swift and Max Martin — in the production. But I think that’s what’s cool about it and why people are enjoying it because it doesn’t feel and sound like everything that’s on the radio right now. But it’s catchy and accessible. I think it’s refreshing.
Were you hoping to create a crossover pop song? It’s hard to say. To say we were trying to do it would be a fair statement. We always wanted to be a pop producers. That was always our goal, to make pop music with an indie flair. I hate the word flair it sounds weird, but with an indie sensibility. The vocal feels very real and natural and raw. That’s the kind of music we’re trying to make. Not something with generic vocals and lyrics about love and bullshit like that.
Speaking of vocals, how did you ROZES? She had this song called “Limelight” that was doing well on Hype Machine and we just hit her up and said come over and hang out and write a song. We wrote it the first time we met in a six hour session. Sometimes you get lucky like that. Not every session goes that well. We actually had a similar situation yesterday with Matoma.
He’s on tour with us and yesterday was his first show and we actually wrote a whole song together yesterday. Every now and then we get someone who we really click with creatively. You trust each other and I think that allows you to get great stuff down very quickly.
You worked with some great people on the Bouquet EP. I love the song with Emily Warren. Emily is a great friend of ours. She is an insanely talented writer and has a terrific voice. We have another song with her, which will probably be out next April, that we wrote with her. I think it will be one of our most impressive tracks to date.
It’s great that you have the songwriters sing the top-line. I’m very anal about tracking vocals and getting them to sound exactly how I want them. There’s something that gets lost in translation when get someone else to do it. You send the track out and then someone takes what you did and they weren’t there to work with you. It’s just a different song.
How do you discover emerging talent? Honestly, we just love music. Alex is insanely good at keeping his finger on the pulse of pretty much everything that’s going on. It’s really hard to stump him with anybody who has any sort of buzz. We are on Hype Machine a lot. Alex is on pretty much every music blog. So, we’ve found a lot of great people and got in touch with them before they became huge.
Your EP had an interesting roll out. Every artist wants to do an album. That’s a cool idea to make a body of work and, you know, build a tour around it. All the images, all the sounds. It feels like a complete fit. And we’d love to do that but we just don’t believe that we have the audience, the demand for that right now. They want our music, but they don’t want to listen to five songs. They’ll probably just pick one song and listen to that song and then the other four will go to the wayside.
There are very few artists out there, like fifteen artists total, that can put out an album and get the attention of the press from start to finish. For us it is all about the singles right now. Then we were like, “Oh, we have all these new ‘Roses’ fans.” Maybe it would be smart to remind people of the other music that we’ve been putting out. Any fans that had never heard of us and now like us because ‘Roses,’ can have the opportunity to get a feel for our other music. It’s called an EP, it looks like an EP, it says it’s an EP but we think of it as more of a compilation.
Once it came out, it dawned on us that, “Hey, this is a pretty cool EP in itself.” We’re proud of it and it worked. It brought a lot of attention to our older stuff and helped “Roses” even more.
You also took an innovative approach with The #TiltTour. Can you explain how it works? The first schools that commit 800 theoretical tickets to the show, that’s where the concert will go. You don’t necessarily have to make a financial commitment at the time of the voting system. It’s more like a polling system more than a voting system. The people who vote ahead of time get a discount when the tickets go on sale because they’re the reason why the show happened.
It’s a cool idea because nowadays everything is about cutting the middle man out and facilitating a more closer artist-fan relationship. This is a really great way of doing that because, 1. We don’t know where most of our fans are and where the most demand is always. So there [inaudible 00:10:30] and B: We don’t have the statistics. It’s almost like self promoting. Kids will go around like “Yo, sign up for this” or “Vote.”
Why did you call your current tour the Friend Zone Tour? It’s funny. It’s like the opposite of an album. When you have an album there’s an overwhelming feeling of what it’s going to sound like and feel like and look like. With a tour you’re just like, “Dude, this is just going to be such a party. It’s going to be all of our homies, traveling across the country, playing shows and we’re all good friends.” We also thought we could develop some cool pretty clever content around the concept of “The Friend Zone.” Getting into it, getting out of it, all that stuff.
What’s the craziest thing to happen on tour? We’re pretty lucky so obviously nothing drastically terrible. I think the craziest thing that’s happened to us was when that big storm hit in New York. We were literally like moments, seconds, away from bringing out Bobby Schmurda. Which would have been, I think, his last performance before he went to jail. He’s just standing backstage, literally with the mic in his hand and we were about to bring him out and this crazy lightning hit.
What was your worst set? We wish we had done American Idol differently.
What’s wrong with it? I don’t think we did anything wrong. I think we did exactly what we should have done, but I think it was misinterpreted by the culture that is dance music about what we were trying to accomplish. Even for us, that was an example of letting go of control of our brand and listening to people who didn’t have our best interest at heart. I’m not saying we wouldn’t have done it again. I just think we would have done it differently. That’s just part of growing up as an artist and you’re going to make mistakes.
Did you worry about being stereotyped or pigeonholed because of “#Selfie”? We actually were pigeonholed and stereotyped, I mean that happened. It’s still happening. I think that’s why we’re so excited about dropping “Roses.” We’ve never doubted ourselves when people started calling us one-hit wonders. We’ve believed in our music and knew it was just a matter of time before we surprised people and came back around. That song became really big and it wasn’t like “The Scientist” by Coldplay.
We made a novelty record that was, in my opinion, one of the most clever records ever made. It made a joke about society. Obviously not everyone got the joke. It gave us a lot of opportunities, but it also had its disadvantages. But we’re working out way out of that and proving that we’re pretty well rounded musicians.