How Sofi Tukker Got Tapped For Apple's iPhone X Campaign & Landed 'Best Friend' On the Hot 100

BB4 2018
Toma Kostygina
Sofi Tukker

When Tucker Halpern tuned in to Apple's September keynote event, he wasn't expecting to hear his own voice on the other end. Though Apple's music director had told Halpern and collaborator Sophie Hawley-Weld -- who together make up eclectic dance-pop duo Sofi Tukker -- that the company was a fan of their funky new single "Best Friend," the track's appearance during the keynote iPhone X reveal left the duo stunned.

"We were in Ibiza shooting the video, and I had the keynote on in the background," Halpern tells Billboard from his cell, which, he is pleased to note, is in fact an iPhone X. "They started playing our song, and I was like, 'SOPHIE!'" 

The same Apple commercial has since logged more than 21 million views on YouTube, drawing more new fans than ever to Sofi Tukker in the process. Earlier this month, "Best Friend," which features their real-life friends NERVO, The Knocks and Tokyo DJ Alisa Ueno, earned Sofi Tukker their first slot on the Hot 100 (at No. 89 for the chart dated Feb. 3); this week, the song hits a new peak of No. 14 on Dance Club Songs.

All this is especially striking, given that the track almost didn't see the light of day. Below, the two friends and creative partners behind "Best Friend" explain how the track went from a "homies" tribute written in a Florida garage to their first mainstream hit.

Congratulations on your first Hot 100 hit.
Tucker Halpern: It’s really exciting. I was keeping an eye on the Hot 100 every week because [“Best Friend”] started coming up on the dance chart and obviously on pop radio and stuff, and I was like, “Hmm, I wonder if it will crack the Hot 100." I was hoping maybe we’d slide in.

And you did. What was that moment like?
TH: Our manager mentioned it within a conversation with a bunch of things. I was like, “Wait! That’s awesome!” I was talking to Ben [Ruttner] from The Knocks -- he’s a good friend of ours -- we were talking about how it was doing really well on the airplay charts. He was like, “But it’s not on the Hot 100.” I was like, “Stop raining on my parade.” Why can’t we be on the Hot 100 so Ben would shut up? [Laughs.]

How did the song come about?
Sophie Hawley-Weld: We were in Florida and working in a garage --
TH: We’re very fancy. [Laughs.]
SH: I was on the phone with my best friend from college and just got so high off of our friendship. I came back in and Tucker was making this really cool beat and I was like “Oh my God, I love my best friend so much. I want to make a song about her.” 
TH: We didn't know what to do with it. We had just become friends with NERVO, and they were telling us about this girl that they were managing in Tokyo named Alisa Ueno, who’s this cool DJ. I hit them up. We [thought], let’s call our actual close friends, and just have a fun gang track with all the homies on it.

Did you have any inclination that the song would grow so popular?
TH: Nobody really knew it would be a big thing. We had a pretty juicy relationship with the music director at Apple, because he sort of discovered us and put us on that Apple watch commercial back when we started [in 2015].  We sent him all the new music we’ve been working on and they got back to us like, “We think we want to do something big around ‘Best Friend.’” And we were like, “What?! Maybe we should put that out as a single.”

I read that you didn't know what Apple product your song was being used for until the keynote aired. Is that true?
SH: We had no idea. We just knew that “Best Friend” was going to be used for an Apple product. That’s all we knew.
TH: We just assumed the [iPhone] 8 was coming out, so it could be for that, or an Apple watch or something. We didn't know it would be this whole big thing.

What was it like to watch the ad, then?
TH: We were in Ibiza shooting the video for this song with everyone. I had the keynote on in the background. We went through the whole thing and nothing came up so we were like, “Aw, whatever. Maybe it’s not a big deal.” And then [Apple] had this big surprise at the end like, “Just kidding, we’re not done! We have a brand new phone!” And they started playing our song, and literally I was like, [yells] “SOPHIE!

Did you get an iPhone X, then?
TH: Yes. You’re speaking on one.

What’s been the most surreal thing that has happened since the song took off?
TH: I think hearing [“Best Friend”] on Z100 in New York. I hear it every time I get in an Uber on the radio. It’s just crazy.
SH: I’ll be walking down the street and someone is like, “Hey, Sophie!” and I’m like, “What? They know my name?” 

Do you ever say to the Uber driver, “Hey, that’s me on the radio?”
SH: Oh, of course! [Laughs]

Was filming the music video as fun as it looked?
SH: We thought, let’s go to the most beautiful place we can think of, do the most fun things we can think of, and just get it on camera. So we just rented ATVs and drove around the islands and these ruins. That was one of the best weekends ever. We were all staying in this house, cooked breakfast together and shared clothes. It was just a vibe.

A version of this article originally appeared in the Feb. 3 issue of Billboard.