The Chainsmokers have haters, but a potentially sold-out Amalie Arena won’t have any of them in the seats on Friday when the EDM group is joined by two of pop music’s brightest young stars.
“I don't think we try and feel bad for ourselves. But it does obviously suck to hear people criticize you — especially when they criticize the thing that you put so much work into,” Drew Taggart told CL about the levels of online hate that the band endures. “That obviously really hurts, and it does affect all of us. And it affects our team, too.”
IF YOU GO
The Chainsmokers w/5 Seconds of Summer/Stella Lennon.
Fri. Oct. 25, 7 p.m. $$25.75 & up.
Amalie Arena, Tampa.
Luckily Taggart can lean on his bandmates — Chainsmokers co-founder Alex Pall and drummer Matt McGuire (a member since 2017) — when it comes to taking care of the band’s mental health.
“Everyone has a voice on social media, and some people don’t always use it the right way,” Taggart added. “We all have our own ways that we deal with it, but we have a pretty open relationship, which makes it easy to notice if one of us is feeling down. We're good at reaching out and being like, “Hey, what's going on? What do you need? Why you feeling this way?,” and talking through it.
Read our full chat, including the lowdown on what happened with the Chainsmokers being on the Sunset Music Festival 2018 bill and then off of it, below.
You have a long history in Tampa, and I think Tampa really wants to know what happened with Sunset Music Festival in 2018 when you were on the poster, and then off of the poster.
I think poster went out before we got a final approval on the show. It was premature. We obviously love that festival, and we’ve had so many good experiences; we love Disco Donnie and all the work those guys put into it.vBut I think yeah, it just went a little off a little bit too soon and then just didn't work out. That's kind of why we hadn't agreed to it yet. But that was a bummer because I'm sure we love those people down down and obviously we love the festival. That sucked for everyone involved.
Right on. When you guys first started this band, obviously you kind of told each other, “Hey, let's see how far we can take it," but things like arena shows weren't necessarily in that equation. They are now, but when you talk to your team and each other these days, is there a conversation about getting you guys into stadiums for headlining shows?
Stadiums? No, not really. Obviously, that would be something that we would all love to work up to someday because that just means that you’ve built a show that people want to keep coming to see — something people are excited for, and that’s what we live for. It's definitely an aspiration, but selling tickets period is tough. We're just grateful that we can play as many shows as we do, bring the production that we want to bring and really share our experience with as many people as possible right now.
I know that you guys are taking a humble approach to that. But it is it strange to hear you say that selling tickets is tough because I think in the grand scheme of pop music, and then definitely when you compare Chainsmokers ticket sales to the plight of rock bands, you guys seem to sell pretty well. It seems like you figured out a lot of stuff.
Yeah, I mean, we're super lucky. I didn’t mean that in an ominous or dark way. It's just like there are so many great acts out there now doing amazing things. We do play so many festivals, and we're in Vegas nearly every weekend. We play shows all over the country, not just in major markets but in secondary and tertiary ones, too. We're really relying on our fans come out and show love. We've been really fortunate, but you're always a bit nervous about — and luckily, we haven't had this moment yet — walking into an empty arena where no one showed up. That’s a pretty scary feeling; I think that's something every artist, probably for every show they've ever done, thinks, “Is anyone going to show up?”
That's interesting to hear you say that. I want to talk to you about this tour, because you're talking about building the best show possible. Last year, you did about 250 shows, learned new instruments to mix in with the DJ-ing. How difficult was that last your, and what did you learn — technically with production or even with music — from that experience? How hard was it to bring this tour together?
Well, the “Memories Do Not Open” tour was our first arena tour. That was the last tour we did, and it was the first time we played as a band and did a show that we were really proud of. It had so much production, and that was a year and a half ago. Since then, Alex and myself, along with our drummer Matt just really stripped it back and really honed in on what we want the energy of our show to feel like. Performing as a band feels better; we like it because we feel like it better suits our music and and it's much more rewarding. I think for our fan experience, and for us on stage, we still wanted to feel alive. If you grew up seeing us at festivals we want you to still get that feeling in the arena. But some of our songs are less EDM and performed more in a live setting.
And in a way, this show, with the globes and everything, is almost like a hybrid circus. How many fights are you getting into with your production team as you're planning this tour? Like, how many times in the planning process where people are like, “You really want to do this? How much is this going to cost? What about insurance?” There had to be somebody in the room saying that was a bad idea to go this big.
I mean, we knew what we were getting into. And we gotta tip our hat to Matt, our drummer, who designed all of this shows with us. We started planning the design of the tour in February by researching, watching everybody's show and brainstorming ways we could make something iconic. Sound design is important to us, so we really wanted to get all that down, and the typical band setup doesn’t work for all of our songs, so we built this pretty incredible rig that allows us to actually perform all of our records with a lot of samplers, a lot of keyboards. There’s a CD-J on the rig, we can use guitar, and Matt has hit kit.
The stage has a huge thrust that lets us get into the audience. In Vegas you’re so close to everybody and jumping around, really engaged with the crowd, so we wanted a stage to get us as close to the audience. There’s definitely a post-apocalyptic mood on the sage set; we pulled from our sci-fi influences, soo there’s “Ex-Machina,” “Blade Runner” and “Mad Max” vibes in there. But we wanted some of that joy from after the apocalyptic, dystopian feel, to be in there, too. So we wanted to pull people in to that whole aesthetic. Production takes notes and gets back to us with, like, seven different staging concepts, and we mix and match those and put those together until we find something that achieves all our goals. We feel like it's going to be iconic; that's a vague, vague description of how it all went down.
Right on. Interesting to hear you mention the thrust because it makes me think of the theater, and it’s interesting to hear you mention checking out other people’s shows because it makes me think of that 21 Pilots drama that the Internet tried to stir up regarding you guys taking elements from that show. I was surprised to see the band respond to that criticism because it seemed like something minor; it was surprising to see you kind of clap back because being Chainsmokers obviously lends itself to a lot of criticism.
You’re one of the biggest EDM acts out right now, and not everyone likes your music. Some people express that online in some pretty harsh ways. How much do you tune in? How do you take care of your mental health when you are in the position that you're in? Because what's happening to you is really an amplification of what's happening to a lot of people online — for you on a macro level — you know what I mean?
Totally. I don't think we try and feel bad for ourselves. But it does obviously suck to hear people criticize you — especially when they criticize the thing that you put so much work into. That obviously really hurts, and it does affect all of us. And it affects our team, too. Everyone’s out here working hard. We put so much thought into make this uniquely ours, but you just gotta roll with it. Like you said, a lot of people go through this on their own scale. Everyone has a voice on social media, and some people don’t always use it the right way. It can be so powerful, but it can also create conflict with people's self identity, how they feel about themselves and how much they feel that they're worth. We can’t control what people talk about or what they think, but you have to learn to live with it. We’re all close, and we talk about it; that’s been helpful.
So you are talking to each other about it. I just asked because a lot of people go through it on a much smaller scale and I wanted to know how a band like yours deals with it to see if the coping mechanism could translate to that average person on Twitter, or wherever, also going through some form of bullying online. I didn’t know if there was therapy involved, but it seems like you do lean on each other.
We all have our own ways that we deal with it, but we have a pretty open relationship, which makes it easy to notice if one of us is feeling down. We're good at reaching out and being like, “Hey, what's going on? What do you need? Why you feeling this way?,” and talking through it. That’s obviously very helpful because sometimes you're feeling a certain way, and you can't put your finger on the catalyst for those feelings. It takes somebody else, you bounce your thoughts off them to get to that point where you can try to figure out what the root of the problem is.
Okay, and I know we're getting close on time. So I wanted to ask you two more questions. One more about the ultimate hater. Has Alex ever talked to his boarding school proctor? The one who put the kibosh on the DJ laptop?
Haha, yeah. He looked like Mr. Clean. He saw my DJ stuff, and he was like, “That's not happening here.” My mom put it back in the car.
Have you spoken to him?
I did once in college, I think, but not since all of this stuff happened. I'm sure that he's noticed. He was always a really cool guy during the day, so I don't hate him for it. He was just trying to do his job. But I was a receptionist for an art gallery in New York, and those people definitely cannot believe all of this. Whenever I go back into the see them, they're always like, “You're our most successful receptionist ever.”
You guys are playing unreleased music on this tour. How do you approach that as far as planning the setlist goes? I mean you have an album on the way…
You know, we're still finishing songs. That's kind of the beauty of this whole like really strategy of ours. We release what we’re feeling, and what we’re into. But live, you really have to be careful about new music because you want to be mindful of the energy in the crowd. It’s not that the crowd doesn’t enjoy a new song, but they have to figure it out. I remember when we played “Roses” in Denver for the first time, it didn’t take right away, but you know it was a special song. Now people love when we drop that one. So like finding that that that balance, but there are cities we have special relationships with so who knows what we’ll do in Tampa.
Are you guys having to book studio time on the road if something happens and you need to go somewhere with a drum kit and get mics on it? How often is that happening?
Luckily, we have like three drum kits on the store. So we just roll it into the mobile studio, and we can get a lot of work done before we need to get into a studio.
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