OnRecord: The Chainsmokers Interview

The Chainsmokers are back with a brand-new, surprise EP: Sick Boy… Side Effects, which features the exciting new single Side Effects! We caught up with the duo’s Alex Pall for an exclusive interview, in which he told us about what they’ve been up to in 2018, what makes them happiest in life, and why they’d love to score a movie some day!

1. You guys are among the Top 5 most streamed international artists in India. It’s an impressive number — but we’d assume no musician sets out with numbers as the agenda, when they choose to become an artist. What’s your story, how did music happen for each of you?

Well, that is incredible to hear! We knew we had an amazing fan base in India but had no idea about that sort of statistic. We are super grateful to hear that!

Well, we could both go on for hours about our relationship with music over the course of our lives, because it happened to both of us at such a young age — Drew got a drum set when he was five, and I got my first guitar at 11.

But it’s not really interesting to talk about that stuff. What’s more interesting to us, is to talk about the music that influenced us growing up. We didn’t know each other, and we are five years apart in age, but what’s crazy is we both went through such intense musical phases in our lives.

In every part of our youth, we were consumed by sound — whether it was hip hop, soul music, punk, or death metal. We sort of went through it all, and it really shaped us — not just into the musicians we are today, but as people.

We don’t think there is any relationship in our lives that is more profound and deep, than our relationship with music — expect maybe besides our Moms, of course!

2. What your music speaks about has evidently changed over time. Do you want your music to be interpreted in a certain way — and what is that meaning, in your artistic opinion? Has it changed?

No — we don’t want it to be interpreted in a certain way.

We want people to take away whatever it is they feel and believe it means to them. That’s always what music has meant to us.

In today’s connected times, you can go online now and find out exactly what a certain artist meant when they wrote a certain song — and that’s fine, but there is a deeper personal reaction we all get to different songs.

It’s very subjective, and for that reason, our songs might mean one thing to us, but something totally different to other people. That’s fine by us… as long as they feel something!

3. Is there a song you haven’t made, but hope to make one day?

It would be really exciting to score a movie! That seems like it would be a really big challenge, but something that would be rewarding in so many ways. Maybe some day, the right opportunity will come along!

4. On that topic, let’s talk about your new single “Side Effects.” What can you tell us about how the song came about? What are you hoping it achieves?

Well, we created it with our longtime friend, Emily Warren, who sang it, as well as some other amazing writers.

Emily, though, has worked with us on every song of ours for basically the last two years. We have a vibe with her that’s hard to describe — it’s like lightning in a bottle!

Anyway, when we get together, we sort of treat it like a therapy session, and then eventually someone says something that really makes sense. Then we start building a song around the idea.

We are very much about writing what we are currently feeling into the production of our songs. Writing with Emily makes that process super easy. Our music is reflective of who we are. So with this song, it was just good vibes all the way. The song has a pretty relatable message, but it’s meant to be a fun, feel-good song. Which is exactly how we were feeling at the time!

5. You guys have cited an array of musical influences on your career. On on hand, you have the heavier, nu-metal sound of Linkin Park, and the pop-punk of Blink-182. Then there’s the more cinematic approach of Explosions in the Sky. What do you listen to when you are alone?

Wow, you picked up on all of that, we are impressed!

Well, like we touched on earlier, we went through a lot of musical phases… and that hasn’t changed much!

One second, we’re listening to Beach House, then Jorja Smith, and then old Elektro music… we can’t stop consuming it, and these days, there’s so much of it!

The music we get into also kind of reflects the mood we are in at the time, so it just depends… but to be honest, when we are alone, silence is always welcome. We are always making music or playing it, so sometimes just being alone in your thoughts and allowing yourself to come up with ideas is very important.

6. You two have lived through and experienced things that most people can only dream of — performing in front of hundreds of thousands, winning awards, topping the charts. What part of the job gives you the most joy, satisfaction, and happiness?

Well when you put it like that, wow! Hmm.

Well, something you probably don’t know is that we love to host people. We’re not really sure why, but we’re good at it, and it’s fun! So for us, getting to host our friends, and share experiences with family — that gives us immense satisfaction.

A close second would also be: physically seeing people enjoying our music. We work so hard on it, and while we know it means something different to everyone, it sort of validates all the effort we put in. We care so much about it… and just to know that our song has changed someone’s mood is a powerful feeling.

7. In life, and in music, simplicity is easy to appreciate, but very difficult to create. Your song “Closer” broke the final barrier (if there was one!) for dance music in the mainstream, because the chorus and high point of the song wasn’t actually a lyric or a note — it was the beat dropping into the song! This then started a trend that has taken over the radio. Tell us about your creative and production process. Are you always trying to infuse the world of contemporary and pop music with your dance sensibilities? Are you always looking forward, with the dancefloor in mind?

A very thoughtful question, and thank you for those kind words, again! Well, for us, the process of making music is all about taking risks and trying new things out, whether that’s finding new sounds, or changing the structure of things around. That’s what’s fun for us, being innovative.

We get so much of our creativity from not allowing ourselves to have any boundaries. When we’ve created music, that lack of boundaries has always been the most important element in our success — when we’ve had it.

Yes, there are times when we think: “oh let’s try and take this from that genre, and this from another genre,” but it’s not quite so deliberate as it may sound. It’s more than our musical influences are sort of just playing themselves out, through what we’re working on. Sometimes, this is for better, and sometimes it’s for worse. You can get pretty lost in the creative process sometimes, and have to sort of hone it in, but it’s always exciting and fun!

On a lighter note, let’s wrap up with a quick rapid fire round. 

Punching each other is your pre gig ritual. Myth or Truth?

Myth… usually

Best Side Effects of touring?

All the travel, and meeting so many people

Worst Side Effects of touring?

Being away from family

If you weren’t musicians, you would be…

Surfers!

We were expecting the new Chainsmokers song, Side Effects, but what we got was a whole lot more… an entire new Chainsmokers EP! Sick Boy… Side Effects is Out Now on Saavn. We hope you enjoyed this Chainsmokers interview, fresh for you in 2018.

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