Andrew “Drew” Taggart was introduced to Alex Pall by an intern working for their management company, and they say their collaboration was like “love at first sight.” Drew moved from Maine to New York a day later, and the rest is music history. Their breakout hit “#SELFIE” was one of the top five most viewed music videos this year, making the duo better known as the Chainsmokers a household name. We spoke with Taggart and Pall about their rise and what’s to come before the duo plays at Hakkasan on November 2 and 23.
You guys came out of the gate with a lot of content—that’s pretty rare for a new artist.
Taggart: We wanted to put out a lot of content; that’s really important when you’re first starting out. But if you’re a no-name artist, and you’re looking for top lines [melody and lyrics], you’re going to get some of the worst fucking songs you’ve ever heard in your life. We avoided that by hitting up indie artists that weren’t getting remixed by anybody, and we started remixing their songs.
And then “#SELFIE” came along.
Taggart: That was just a funny idea we had. We recorded the vocals, and it just got really big.
Pall: We thought it was hysterical, but when we first played it for people they didn’t think it was so funny. I mean there were probably four or five people we trust whom we sent it to who were like, “Eh.” We initially put it out for free, and it just really took off.
What’s the story behind your new, not-so-free single, “Kanye”?
Taggart: It’s the opposite of free. We had a group of core fans, before we put out “#SELFIE,” who grew into this massive mainstream audience. We felt that “Kanye” was a real song, it’s a great song. It kind of bridges the gap between the people whom we pulled in with “#SELFIE” and our core audience.
Pall: We thought it was really catchy. As we thought about it more, about the message, it resonated with us. It’s about what he represents—he’s obviously a polarizing figure. After “#SELFIE,” we are in this very interesting place socially, culturally and musically. It’s a great bridge for us.
What does Kanye think of it?
Taggart: We have heard that he likes it. But that’s hearsay until we hear it from the horse’s mouth, and we’re not going to put words in his mouth. We haven’t gotten a cease and desist yet. But it’s not about characterizing him. We didn’t do it to make fun of him. We’re not using his likeness to promote the song. It’s just about the idealism of what he represents as a person.
What is satire’s role in pop culture?
Taggart: Obviously we wrote a song about girls that we see in New York City all the time, and every girl seems to know a girl like [the “#SELFIE” girl].
Pall: Satire is a great way to communicate different messages. We don’t take ourselves too seriously. We’re kind of self-deprecating. It’s a fun way to get certain messages across. It’s a hard thing to pull off, and it’s also an easy thing to be misinterpreted. I don’t want to get into journalism and books and literature, but some of the best books that were meant to be satires were misunderstood at the time.
Do your girlfriends identify with “#SELFIE?”
Pall: I think everyone does. I mean, even dudes identify with pieces of it: “What should I make my caption?” Every time you look at Instagram, that comes to your mind.