Can The Chainsmokers Follow '#Selfie' With Another Viral EDM Hit? (Q&A)
Alex Pall and Drew Taggart tell THR of releasing an interactive hit, turning up live production and defying the expectations of their newly-expanded audience.
"Who goes out on Mondays?!" Little-known secret: The Chainsmokers do.
The New York-based EDM duo played the Highline Ballroom on Monday for a "Selfie"-filled set, complete with hashtag-covered Polaroid-like props that traveled from the audience's fists to photos on their social media accounts. Between remixes of their viral hit, Alex Pall and Drew Taggart pumped up the sold-out crowd with their take on Calvin Harris' "Feels So Close" and NONONO's "Pumpin Blood," plus a ton of new material, before Australian DJ Flume took the stage as part of MTV's Artist to Watch concert series.
The track gives a microphone to a comically vain female at a club, as she debates partying etiquette and hookup habits and ponders which Instagram filter suits her (and her tan) best. Its music video features fan-submitted selfies, including appearances by Snoop Dogg, David Hasselhoff, A-Trak and Nervo, and has since collected over 69 million views.
"'#Selfie' was just something we put out for fun, that was poking fun at club culture -- all of our other records are very different," Taggart told The Hollywood Reporter of the hit released on Steve Aoki's Dim Mak Records, with Pall adding, "It was a representation of our personalities. I'm sure we'll do some stupid funny shit again in the future."
But does the duo want to follow with another '#Selfie'-style song? Just before they performed on Monday -- and after they dropped and broke their "Whatever" prop sign -- Pall and Taggart spoke with THR about releasing such an interactive hit, turning up the volume on live production and, hopefully, defying the expectations of their newly-expanded audience:
What's the weirdest fan reaction you've received so far?
Pall: People wanting to kill us -- that's their new reaction!
Do you feel pressure to follow up "Selfie" with a similar type of song?
Taggart: Yes and no. "#Selfie" was just something we put out for fun, that was poking fun at club culture. All of our other records are very different, and they're more of who we are, so now, we're at this point where we have everyone looking at us for our next big record. It's more people than we've ever had looking at us, so we're definitely keeping that in mind when working on our new stuff. It's kind of intimidating.
Pall: It's like a spotlight, but we put pressure on ourselves. The pressure is coming from us, rather than some corporate guy or a ton of fans beating the table. We want to make another song a hit -- that's what we've always wanted to do.
Any hesitance about delivering a different product?
Pall: "#Selfie" was still us; it was just a different side in terms of the music we make. It was a representation of our personalities. I'm sure we'll do some stupid funny shit again in the future. A lot more people know us for "#Selfie" than they probably know us for our past remixes, so we're just gonna have to see how it goes. We're just gonna do what we think is cool -- that's what we've done so far.
You're currently on the second leg of your tour. What's your live set strategy?
Pall: Our shows are about the crowd -- it's not about us being in the back. We want people to feel like it's their show. This is all so new to us, so the idea of even having money to spend on production is something we're just figuring out now. I think people have a great time when they see us, and we give it our all and look like we have a blast up there, because we are.
Will you add more props to your productions, or something like Aoki with his cakes?
Pall: [laughs] We'll do custard pies -- they're a lot cheaper!
Taggart: From a visual standpoint, we have a bunch of concepts that we want to do, and we'd like to have something like how Flume has that cool prism -- something that we build and bring around to the places that allow you to have production. We have some audience involvement ideas -- we started this thing on Instagram that's "Team Drew" and "Team Alex," and we kind of shit on each other on Instagram and other social media. We kinda had everyone really into it, and then we stopped doing it for a little while, but that's something we want to bring back for a vengeance, and get the whole crowd involved in picking a team.
Pall: It's like a color war-type thing -- the focus is still the music, but it would get the crowd interacting a lot more than just being out there and counting back from ten and with their hands up. There's a fine line between entertainers and musicians or whatever, and DJing sets the bar so low that it'd be cool to be able to do something more interactive.
Even if your future records sound different, what music marketing lesson from "#Selfie" will you carry forward?
Taggart: We definitely saw what kind of things people attach onto and how they digest what you're putting out. People were people remaking the song and doing funny stuff on Vine with the song. I think we look at some of our records than a bigger perspective than we did before -- we gotta think, okay, is this is a good a song to put out now? We make a bunch of good music, but why is this one right for right now? What can we do to get people involved in this song and get it around and make it a smash hit?
Pall: Everything's so involved now -- that's why "#Selfie" was successful. It wasn't just a song, it was entertainment, and people could interact with it and make their own version. We really want to carry that over into every facet.