You can’t really get bigger than The Chainsmokers right now. After years of just remixes, the New York-based DJ duo of Alex Pall and Andrew Taggart released their first original song, “Selfie,” in 2014. It was picked up by Steve Aoki’s Dim Mak label, hit No. 1 on the U.S. dance chart, and is now certified platinum in four countries.
Amazingly, things have only gotten better since. “Roses (feat. Rozes)” in 2015 and “Don’t Let Me Down (feat. Daya)” in February eclipsed the success of “Selfie.” Both songs hit the top spot on the dance chart again, but also cracked the overall Top 10, dominated iTunes and Spotify, and found their way into rotation on both dance and pop radio.
On July 29, the pair released “Closer (feat. Halsey).”
Not only has the song more than followed in the footsteps of its predecessors, it stands as their first-ever No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.
During a recent break from a studio session in L.A., Alex Pall spoke by phone with DiscoverSD about all things Chainsmokers.
Q: Congratulations. What a year for you. How are you feeling?
A: The best word to describe it is surreal. But the whole experience along the way has taught us a lot about what kind of artists we want to be and has given us a better idea of how to be those artists. We’ve really persevered through the ups and downs and built a great team around us. And thank God for our fans who have stuck with us. It’s been an incredible ride so far. We’re definitely enjoying every second of it.
Q: Did you know Dim Mak had an interest in “Selfie” or did that happen out of the blue?
A: It did happen out of the blue. There’s obviously more to the story, but we didn’t know Steve would get back or anything. He’s such a big player in the dance scene. We were really just big fans. He’s someone we admired. But being that he’s American and we’re American, and he was killing it, it was just a great fit for us to work with him right off the bat.
Q: Extra special for these songs to do so well with artists like Rozes and Daya on them?
A: Those are the types of artists we like to work with. No one can take the success we’ve had and credit to someone else. And that’s a great feeling. But artists like Rozes and Daya don’t have these preconceived notions of what they’re trying to do yet. They’re amazing artists who are going to do incredible things, and now all these people are experiencing them for the first time. Obviously, Halsey is insanely popular, but there’s so much we have yet to accomplish together. All the things this record is doing are first times for both of us. And it’s nice to do it with an artist like that. Someone like Beyoncé would be like, “Yeah, I have 20 Grammys.” (laughs)
Q: Do you have a wish list of possible future collaborators?
A: There are definitely certain people like Bon Iver, James Blake, and Sigur Ros. These are guys that have definitely influenced our style and continue to do that. Kanye West. But it’s honestly less about getting in the studio with someone for us. It’s just about hanging out with them, learning from their process, figuring out how they’ve been able to maintain their artistry, getting in their brain. When the label or whoever asks who we want to work with, I’m always like, “If you can just get me a cup of coffee with this guy, I’d be SO psyched!” (laughs) But we do have some amazing things in the works. And we also make the songs first and then find out what the best fit for it is. Originally, for “Closer,” it was going to be Drew singing the whole thing. But when Halsey was added to the track, it became a dialogue. There was an added layer that was never there before. Things happen unexpectedly. And it’s great.
Q: Why do you think these songs are resonating with so many different kinds of people?
A: For us, it’s all about making music more personal. That’s why I think people are relating to it on some level.
Q: Can you talk about any upcoming projects?
A: I wish. (laughs) We’re definitely secretive. But we will be playing new music at KAABOO for sure. And we do have some amazing things in the works that are coming soon, and if you’re a Chainsmokers fan, you’ll definitely be excited.
Scott McDonald is a writer, on-air personality and consultant with 15 years of experience in the San Diego music scene. He has interviewed hundreds of artists, from the legendary to the underground, for print and television. Follow McDonald and his melodic musings on Twitter @eight24_ or Instagram @scotteight24. Send your music musts to firstname.lastname@example.org.