The Chainsmokers Talk New Song 'Side Effects' & How the Pressures of Fame Have Influenced Their Music

The Chainsmokers
Danilo Lewis

The Chainsmokers

Almost exactly two years to the day since The Chainsmokers released their record-smashing hit “Closer,” the dance duo have unleashed another ridiculously catchy summer anthem, “Side Effects,” out today (July 27).

The funky, disco-tinged banger – featuring frequent Chainsmokers collaborator Emily Warren – comes just a few days after the guys played a special show at Hollywood Palladium in partnership with Pepsi on July 24. Though they didn’t play the new track at that show, The Chainsmokers will be debuting it along with Warren at their show in Atlantic City this weekend (July 28).

Billboard chatted with The Chainsmokers (Alex Pall and Drew Taggart) to hear about their Palladium show, how their latest tune came together, and whether the “Side Effects” of fame has anything to do with the more mature music they’ve been putting out lately.

How was playing Hollywood Palladium? That’s a much smaller venue than the ones you typically play these days.

Taggart: It’s really fun anytime we play a show in LA, because we do live here and we're never here. It’s a show that all of our homies can come to, which [makes] you kind of perform differently -- you're a little bit more relaxed on stage when you know that all of your friends are there just raging, having a good time.

Pall: We get to play in the club pretty much every weekend in Las Vegas, so we kind of always get the best of both worlds. [I had this] interstitial moment when the dude closest to me in the crowd, was like, "Hey man, where are your shoes from?” And I was like, "What? Who said that?" And he was like, “It’s me, Jeff, in the front row.” Usually in the places we play more often, I can’t even see past the first few rows. [Laughs.]

Taggart: That’s ‘cause we have really bad eyesight.

Where have you had some of the wildest crowds?

Taggart: We've had some crazy shows in Canada. I don't know for what reason that it is but our show in Montreal on our last tour was insane. We just did a show in Quebec, that was a top 5 show for sure. But honestly, you never know. It's just about, like, the vibe, the time of year, the venue, the crowd -- it really is so unpredictable. If they came to rage it doesn't matter if it’s 200 people or 20,000 people.

Speaking of vibe, “Side Effects” has a bit of a different feel than the other songs you’ve released this year. What inspired the disco-type vibe?

Taggart: It’s definitely funky. We felt like our music has been like in a much slower, more mellow place. And it’s summertime, and we feel like we really wanted to make an upbeat summertime record -- and that’s what we came up with.

We also made "Sick Boy" and "You Owe Me” during the winter, and it was a darker time and we were dealing with a bunch of personal stuff. Our music is almost always a reflection of what we're going through at that moment, and as soon as the weather got better, and everything warmed up -- we started making music that reflected that.

Aside from the weather, is there a story that inspired the lyrics of the song?

Taggart: We love writing about millennial relationships, for better or worse. [Laughs.] But we write about what we observe, and we write about making bad decisions often, as you'll hear in the song. But also kind of being impulsive in getting into them, and also living in the moment, as we find beauty in those small moments.

I do feel like your music has been pretty self-aware lately.

Pall: Yeah, there’s a lot of really interesting stuff to write about right now as an artist. I feel like the Internet is taking over everyone’s lives, and everyone has this crazy love/hate relationship with it. I think that’s basically the theme of almost all of our new songs - relating to the Internet and how our generation interacts with each other on both a friendship and a romantic level. We're big Sci-Fi, Black Mirror fans, so we kind of have that futurist mentality and we don’t wanna be -- we want to be kind of self deprecating about our generation, and also kind of poke fun at it and have fun with it and not condemn it, or criticize the way things are. That’s what we enjoy, that’s what we find exciting in our songwriting.

One thing I love about “Side Effects” is that it’s featuring Emily Warren. It’s really cool that you guys have stuck with her pretty much since day one.

Pall: She has dirt on us, so we're kind of like a hostage to her. [Laughs.] No, but she's the best. She's probably one of our favorite human beings, period. When you're comfortable with someone and they know you well, it’s really easy to make music that you enjoy and are excited about. It’s really exciting that she's featured on this record and hopefully the world loves it, 'cause I think it's time that they all get to know who Emily Warren is.

Is there something she brings to the table that other artists you’ve worked with haven’t?

Taggart: Writing songs with people, it comes down to your connection with them. Emily is just the most fun. She’s so not only intelligent, but she’s so well-read in so many different things. And her skill in particular, she’s so good at helping you tell your story. We always joke that it's like these long therapy sessions before we start writing. We sit down and we'll talk for 4 or 5 hours and then a song will just kind of fall out. She's such a good listener, and she's so clever, and you'll say something and she's like, "oooh, lets keep talking about that." Eventually a song falls out.

Sunday is the 2-year anniversary of “Closer.” Thinking back to The Chainsmokers pre- "Closer," where did you see yourself two years from that point?

Taggart: What’s interesting about this whole thing -- you just kind of keep going, and it’s almost hard. I think we want to find our purpose in this whole thing. I think "Closer" was the middle of us kind of growing up into the artists that we've become today. That was one of the more personal songs that we were ever even capable of writing, and that was the first time that I'd ever sung on a song. I think we want to keep getting better and doing stuff that’s inherently who we are as artists, and making stuff that’s fun, but also not taking it too seriously.

So where do you see The Chainsmokers two years from now?

Taggart: I know that we want to keep putting out tons of music. We love the process of everything -- we love writing, and we love expressing ourselves. Touring live, that’s a huge part of our lifestyle, and I think even if we could slow down we wouldn't. It's so ingrained in what we do and who we are. Our travels are a key inspiration in a lot of our music, so I know we'll be doing that.

We'll be playing a lot more with our drummer -- sometimes we DJ and sometimes we play as a band. I feel like the band thing is really picking up, and it's really stimulating for us to do in addition to the DJ set. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what we'll be doing, but definitely more of what we're doing right now.

Phillip Faraone/Getty Images for Pepsi
The Chainsmokers perform at the Pepsi Generation Summer Concert at the Hollywood Palladium on July 24, 2018 in Los Angeles. 

Drew, you were saying with “Closer,” that was the first time you had really sung on a song and now you’ve been singing a lot. Is that something you’re going to continue?

Taggart: I really enjoy it, especially from the performance side. DJ'ing is super fun, but we have a much broader audience and fan base now that expands out of dance music, and it really brings a lot to the show when we can break out as a full band and perform some of these songs all flushed out.

I love singing, but it was really hard, to be honest. It’s one thing to sing in the studio, but to sing live has been a huge challenge for me that I worked really hard at over the past year. I really enjoy it now, I have fun with it, I have control over my voice and it's one of my favorite parts of our show.

It’s been really fun to see you guys evolve from two guys behind a turntable to full-on performers.

Taggart: We still DJ and we still love DJ'ing, but for our own sanity we wanted to do something a little bit more elaborate, and that’s how we ended up where we are.

Is there more music coming that you want to hint at?

Taggart: We're definitely putting out many more records and very soon. I don't wanna give a date because it keeps changing. "Side Effects" is gonna rock, and hopefully be one of the songs of the summer.