(L-R): Drew Taggart and Alex Pall wear shirts by Marc Jacobs.
"Swedish House Mafia was already taken," says Drew Taggart, one half of DJ/producer duo the Chainsmokers. "We really wanted the name Swedish House Mafia," says Alex Pall, the other half. In person, Pall and Taggart are just as hilarious and sarcastically candid as their hit song "#Selfie." With the inescapable EDM track landing a spot on Billboard's Top 40 chart, plus a viral video featuring obnoxious drunk girls in the bathroom at a club, an influx of "But first let me take a #selfie..." posts on Instagram and a performance at the Ultra Music Festival this past March, the Chainsmokers are making a name for themselves. Swedes be damned.
The two met about a year and a half ago through mutual friends in New York City. Pall was working in sales at an art gallery in Chelsea and Taggart had just graduated with a music business degree from Syracuse. But it was outside the States where they really became interested in EDM. For Taggart, it was hearing David Guetta's "Walking Away" and Daft Punk's "Around the World" for the first time at a club in Argentina. For Pall, it was after visiting his sister in Bristol, England and exploring the party scene. "The atmosphere and the energy, it was like everyone was having a good time," says Pall. "There was no elitism. Everyone was dancing to the same song; it didn't matter if you knew it or not."
While "#Selfie" has become quite an anomaly, simultaneously flooding dance floors and Instagram feeds, Pall and Taggart don't claim to be social media experts (although they both admit to taking a lot more selfies now--with fans). The duo first came up with the line "But first..." and thought it would be hilarious to add a drunken girl ranting. From there the lyrics just poured out.
Although the hit, which they recorded for Steve Aoki's Dim Mak label, led to a full deal with Republic Records, the Chainsmokers don't want to be known as the "#Selfie" guys forever. "The '#Selfie' thing is just something that happened, but all of our other music sounds completely different and that's the stuff that we're really going to be pushing out," says Taggart. On YouTube, fans can find their lower-key remixes of songs by indie acts like Foxes and Two Door Cinema Club, but their aspirations are definitely more mainstream.
"We'd love to work with Adam Levine or Chris Martin, even though he's going through a little something right now," says Taggart. "Which is perfect timing. Let's get Chris on a track," adds Pall. "We should throw him on all of our songs from now on."
Now that the Chainsmokers have our attention, more music and something bigger (and less ironic) than "#Selfie" is in the works for this summer. As for advice on how to take the perfect #Selfie: "Don't be ugly," says Pall, "and have good lighting, I don't know."
Styled by George AlvinGrooming by Ronnie Peterson for Makeup Forever at Artists at Wilhelmina / Shot at Central Studio 36.