RedFestDXB 2018: The Chainsmokers on taking their music in a new direction

The US dance music duo talk to us about their latest single

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - FEBRUARY 03:  Alex Pall (L) and Andrew Taggart of The Chainsmokers perform onstage at the Fanatics Super Bowl Party on February 3, 2018 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  (Photo by Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images for Fanatics)
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Their songs may be the soundtrack to hedonistic rebellion, but The Chainsmokers want any parents present at their RedFestDXB appearance tonight to know that they are good boys.

The American dance-music duo will be making their regional debut as they headline the first night of the two-day pop-music festival at Dubai Media City Amphitheatre.

With global hits #Selfie and Closer full of the ascending synth riffs and skyscraping choruses that form the majority of EDM radio staples these days, these escapist anthems don't necessarily mean Andrew Taggart and Alex Pall subscribe to the party lifestyle. No televisions will be thrown out of their Dubai hotel rooms, Pall confirms.

"We definitely won't be doing that, and to be honest we don't think our music is really indicative of that lifestyle either," he says. "We look like we are having fun and stuff, but we are not materialistic or showboaty at all."

Their latest tune is certainly indicative of the depth that Pall alludes to.

Released last month, the piano-laced Sick Boy is still built on The Chainsmokers' penchant for earworm hooks and stadium-rattling beats, but it is darker and brooding, with lyrics discussing alienation in the age of social media. Taggart, who takes lead vocals on the track, explains that the writing process was arduous.

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“The idea for it was conceived on our last US Tour, and we worked on the song relentlessly ’til about five weeks before it came out,” he says.

“It was a very challenging song – there is a lot of live instrumentation in it and comes off more like a traditional rock recording than the dance productions we have done in the past. Also the song was very important to us in its message, so we continued to tweak the lyrical content. It was a really exciting challenge and we were very excited to show people a different direction in our music that we could go.”

Formed in New York in 2012, The Chainsmokers first began making waves with their remixes of tracks by indie acts such as Jónsi (Around Us) and Phoenix (Trying to Be Cool). The resulting buzz was big enough for Bollywood queen Priyanka Chopra – who was also transitioning to a Stateside career – to lend her vocals to the single Erase a year later.

But it was 2014 single #Selfie where the boys announced themselves to the EDM scene. Released in January to appreciative nods, the exuberant track picked up steam to become a summer club anthem, with the group doing the rounds at all the major dance-music festivals.

While last year's debut album Memories.... Do Not Open, sold well, you get the sense that the boys also heard the criticism from fellow DJs that their music was derivative. Pall admits there was a creative struggle in releasing an anticipated album with time constraints. "A lot of people probably had expectations of what we would make and what it should sound like, but we really don't pay much attention to that all," he says.

Taggart adds: “We definitely appreciate criticism, but ultimately, we are going to make the music we are excited about, and making 12 songs versus one at a time and putting it out was a real challenge because we had to teach ourselves new tricks and work under deadlines.”

In that sense, Sick Boy, which didn't appear on Memories.... Do Not Open, does the trick in launching a new phase for The Chainsmokers. Taggart says that they are fully immersed in expanding their sonic palette.

“It is essential to us because that is what keeps things interesting and exciting,” he says. “We want to challenge ourselves to push our music and sound in new directions, and we don’t always know what that is, so the really fun part is experimenting and finding inspiration.”

Chainsmokers perform at 9.30pm at RedfestDXB at the Dubai Media City Amphitheatre. Doors open at 6pm with the first act at 6pm. Tickets begin from Dh395 from and Virgin Megastores