Say what you want about The Chainsmokers, but whatever they’re doing, it seems to be working. The New York-based EDM duo comprised of Andrew “Drew” Taggart and Alex Pall have a platinum certified debut album and rank number three on Forbes’ World Highest Paid DJs list. Yet, despite career successes and chart-topping collaborations with the likes of Coldplay and Halsey, the group has borne the brunt of criticism over the past year for their overly simplistic (though undeniably catchy) compositions and self-absorbed behavior.
Now, they’re are ready to put all the so-called rumors to rest with their new single, “Sick Boy,” a decidedly dark and dramatic song with politically-charged lyrics that address their growing contingent of haters. (It’s a far cry from their usual club bangers.) Ahead of their performance at the Conrad New York in downtown Manhattan hosted by Hilton and American Express to celebrate a new portfolio of co-branded credit cards, Taggart and Pall discussed their new chapter, dealing with critics, and life lessons from Chris Martin.
What is the meaning of “Sick Boy”?
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Drew Taggart: It’s pretty loaded. We went through a lot this past year—we got really far in our career really quickly—and there’s a lot to take in when that happens. It’s about our struggle with rediscovering our self-identity after so much had happened: we had fame for the first time, we had success, we met a lot of the goals we were working toward. It’s crazy living in this country today—there’s a lot of noise, everyone has a platform to spew their opinion, and you have to decide what you’re going to listen to and let influence you. We want people to think about the way they interact with each other on social media and recognize that they don’t have to accept what they see.
Your music seems to really resonate with the social media generation. Why do you think that is?
Drew: As with most artists, all we can do is get up there, tell the truth, and try to make it sound good. We just talk about the things that we witness, experience, and go through. A lot of our songs come out of those conversations. Our writing process usually consists of sitting down and talking for a couple of hours about something until we find a compelling story to tell. Usually the song just falls out.
Are there any songs that you’re sick of performing?
Drew: No, not really. The whole aspect of seeing people react to what you made still hasn’t worn off yet. Hopefully it never does.
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You’ve received a fair amount of criticism this year. How are you handling the haters?
Drew: I feel like we’ve been bullied a lot, and it hurts—especially when it’s criticism that you’re already self-conscious about. I think criticism is great, but bullying is not okay, obviously, and there’s a line between the two. People are going to think what they’re going to think, you just have to remember to be yourself and do your thing, and if you think what you do is important, that’s really all that matters.
I love these rings. Where did you get them?
Alex Pall: Maison Raksha. They’re our promise rings to each other. [Laughs]
Drew: We got them for every member of our close team as a thank-you.
Which one of you is more fashion-forward?
Drew: Sometimes we get a lot of the same clothes, and it sucks when we walk down the stairs and we’re wearing the same thing.
Alex: Our stylist is really helpful at getting us nice clothing and not making us look like idiots.
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What designers do you wear most often?
Alex: Valentino, Off-White, Stone Island, Saint-Laurent.
Drew: RNA. I also really liked those Etro suits we wore to Clive Davis’s Grammys pre-party.
Did Chris Martin give you any advice about having a lasting career in the music industry?
Drew: Chris is a big picture thinker when it comes to the importance of his songs. He had us think about the story we can tell and what we want people to take away from our music, whether it’s something positive, negative, or real. “Sick Boy” is one of the first songs where we’re channeling what our message from our perspective is going to be.
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Who would be your dream collaboration?
Alex: SZA is the ultimate.
Drew: She’s such an amazing artist in her own right. “Closer” would not have been the same if we had done it with another artist. Halsey brought so much to that song, not only as a great performer, but as a great personality, too.
Drew: We love the remixes, too. We found our drummer, Matt McGuire, on YouTube doing covers of our songs. Same with our keyboardist. We brought them both on our last U.S. tour and they’ve become permanent staples of our team.
Alex: We make lists of artists that catch our attention and rely on them heavily. There are about 25 remixes of “Sick Boy” already—we’re more grateful for them doing it than anyone else.
Valentine’s Day is coming up. Do you have any music recommendations for setting the mood?
Drew: It depends what kind of vibe you’re going for.
Alex: “Roses”. Or anything by The Weeknd.