Dance Duo Galantis Talks Smash Hits & Unique Sounds, Unveils Video for Latest Single, 'Rich Boy'
Christian Karlsson and Linus Eklöw, better known as the Swedish dance duo Galantis, are currently on a brief respite in Los Angeles. They’re taking a break during what’s become a nonstop litany of tour dates in the midst of a variety of smash dance hits. Their breakout track, “Runaway (U and I),” hit the top of the global charts in 2015, launching the duo into the mainstream after a long career as producers. (Karlsson, under the name Bloodshy, concocted the 2003 Britney Spears Grammy-winner “Toxic” and is also a member of Miike Snow, while Eklöw’s production discography under the name Style of Eye includes the 2012 Icona Pop sensation “I Love It.”)
As Galantis, the two combine forces on celebratory, ear candy tracks that are the epitome of dance pop while simultaneously experimenting with unique sounds, styles, and themes. Take their most recent hit “No Money,” which features the layered vocals of 10 year-old Reece Bullimore who croons it's innocent lyrics surrounded by a flurry of anthemic synths and pulsating beats, all crescendo in an epic drop.
The guys are following up the smash success of “No Money” with “Rich Boy,” another synth-drenched jam that features the vocals of a child (in this case, an eight year-old girl). Billboard chatted with Karlsson and Eklöw to discuss their recent successes, creative process and new single “Rich Boy" -- which is premiering below.
We’re premiering the video for your latest single “Rich Boy.” What can you tell us about the creative process behind the song?
Karlsson: Like a few of our other songs we’ve worked on, it started as the snippet of a vocal. This sample came from vocals from eight year-old. We completely fell in love with it and then we started working from there and making it into as ful song. Piece by piece it became “Rich Boy.” We actually had a similar situation when we did “No Money” which was based on a song by a 10-year-old boy. We didn’t do it on purpose. Maybe because we worked with a young boy that sparked something in our mind. We just got that little piece of vocal and thought it was amazing and tired to make it into a song.
Who’s the eight year-old singer?
Karlsson: The vocals are from an eight year-old girl, the daughter of a songwriter that we know.
That must a be a trip for her to be on this song.
Eklöw: [Laughs] Yeah, she’ll have a lot of bragging rights at school.
There’s this theme that threads through some of your songs, especially “No Money” and “Rich Boy,” in that they’re both touching on ideas of wealth. Was that a coincidence or conscious choice?
Karlsson: Well, “No Money” is about not having money and “Rich Boy” is about not needing it, or not needing a rich boy. I don’t think it’s a conscious thing. It’s a coincidence.
The synths and sounds in your songs are always really unique. How do you go about finding fresh sounds? Are they digital or are you scouring music shops for random instruments?
Karlsson: We’re all about exploring new sounds, so we don’t have any limits whatsoever about how we go about finding them. We do tend to sample human vocals or sample sounds, which allows you to create your own sound. That's not our only way obviously, but that’s a way you can use a sound no one’s used before; it’s not a sound in the synth. There’s a lot of that going on in our songs in general.
Eklöw: We record and re-record certain sounds to create a feeling that it’s something brand new, while it's actually something old.
I think, for the listener, it adds so much to the song instead of the kind of synths other producers might overuse. You have your own distinct sound.
Karlsson: That’s something that we think about a lot. It’s always been important to us to be original, which sounds really easy when you say it. Everyone says it all the time, but it’s actually not that easy to be original. It’s also something scary because if you’re doing stuff that doesn’t sound like anything else, I think a lot of people get scared of that. A lot of people tend to follow instead, they wait for something else to do something new and then they follow that. We just don’t like to do that.
I know you're from Sweden. Where’s your home base now?
Karlsson: I feel like we live in a suitcase, actually, but we live in LA.
What part of the process do you like better, the living out of the suitcase kind of thing and performing, or when you’re in a studio creating?
Eklöw: Both are equally important, I would say.
Karlsson: They spark each other up. When you're on tour, you long to be back in the studio and the opposite. When you’re in the studio you want to go back to touring. I gotta say it’s a new scenario for us to be this heavy on the road. We have to bring to the studio on the road now. The studio is basically our home when we’re not on tour, so being without it isn’t really an option. We had to start saying, “Okay, from now on we have to be able to work wherever we are.” I didn’t like that at all in the beginning because I needed to have a studio and be in my space and creative zone. It took awhile, but now I actually feel freedom being able to work anywhere to create a great song. We’re also always together, whether we’re sitting next to each other on a plane or backstage, so we’re always working on something.
When you’re playing a show, do the reactions of the audience to certain songs influence what you choose for singles?
Karlsson: It does on some level more than others. The whole energy from an audience sparks so much about what we want to do. There are two parts of Galantis. One part is the live part, and the other part is the actual songwriting process. And Galantis live is going to be different than what’s on the record. There’s that really scary moment when you premiere music that no one’s heard. It’s the best and the worst moment. You're so scared. If it goes down well, then it’s the best ever, but before you do it you want to die.
“No Money” and “Runaway (U and I)” are two of your biggest hits. When you’re working on a song, do you know in advance what’s going to hit and what’s not? Or is it always a crapshoot?
Karlsson: Yes and no. You don’t dare to try and read too heavy into this. I don’t want that kind of thing to affect the songwriting, because that process needs to be creatively free. I don’t want to think that “Oh, I need to write a hit.” I don’t like that process of songwriting.
Check out the "Rich Boy" video, premiering on Billboard, below.