Measuring growth for young artists can come in many different forms, including streaming gains, social media followers or celebrity endorsements. For Louis the Child — who have become one of the hottest EDM duos at just the ages of 20 and 21 — their fast-paced growth can be measured by the higher their name appears on a music festival bill.
Two years ago, Louis the Child — comprised of Robby Hauldren and Freddy Kennett — were the second-to-last name on the fourth line for the Saturday lineup of HARD Summer Music Festival. This year, the duo is printed on the very first line for Saturday, August 4. But before the two head back to the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, next month, Hauldren and Kennett took a minute to chat with Billboard ahead of their most recent festival gig, Good Vibes Festival in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, this past Saturday.
While they have plenty of festival gigs lined up this summer, they’re still overwhelmed by all the opportunities. “We didn’t imagine going to Jakarta [Indonesia] or even Electric Forest and some of those types of festivals,” Kennett said. “We didn’t even imagine that being a perk of what we do. It’s really cool that we got to do that. It wasn’t one of our goals that we set out on right at the beginning, but it’s such a cool perk that we get to experience. I love it.”
Before each festival, Kennett says his prep includes focusing on the fan experience. “I kind of get into the connection mode and start thinking about how I want to make the crowd feel while we’re onstage or what I want to share with the crowd or start thinking about the positivity I want to spread with our shows,” he said.
But Hauldren, who arranges their set before they go on at a festival, identifies a “different kind of beast to tackle”: keeping people at the set and not boring them. “We’re aware of the fact that, A) You’re probably playing a shorter set than your normal shows, and B) There’s three other stages playing music at the same time so people have the option at any point your set gets boring, they can leave versus being at your normal show where they bought a ticket and they’re committed for the night.”
It’s strange naming a duo “Louis the Child” — two people inhabiting a domain with a singular noun — but working on their first song together meant forgoing their previous individual aliases (Hauldren went by “Haul Pass” and Kennett was “Fatboy” when they released music separately in high school) for a new name. They confirmed they used a name-generator site to arrive at Louis the Child, another method adopted by the likes of Childish Gambino and Post Malone.
Their recent collaboration with Wafia, “Better Not,” is their favorite song to perform live, a track that lays out a candid conversation between two friends as one advises the other to not self-sabotage their love life. “I’ve never heard people singing the lyrics to one of our songs as loud as ‘Better Not,’ and I thought people sung ‘It’s Strange’ and ‘Love Is Alive’ really loud,” Kennett said. “But it’s been a new level of energy for ‘Better Not.’”
Those flocking to HARD Summer and other upcoming Louis the Child performances already have a benchmark, but just like the performers themselves, they’ll take it to the next level. Even their latest release, “The City” with Quinn XCII, tells a complex narrative against a complex production. “I think the story within the song was that of ‘imagine you’re a couple living just outside of the city, and people go to the city to go out and have fun’ and a lot of times it’s a toss-up whether it’s a good time or a bad time,” Hauldren said.
But the façade of “The City” is that it wasn’t made in just one city. “It was cool that it started almost two years ago while we were on tour together, and it just kind of happened in so many different places,” he said. “Like we gave Quinn the instrumental in New Orleans or something, and then in Boston, he was writing to it. And then in Montreal, we all sat down in the green room and worked out the first verse and the chorus. And then we cut a vocal in Chicago and then left it alone for a while and then cut another vocal in Los Angeles. It’s been such a long journey for the song, but it’s the most interesting journey we’ve really had for a song.
As artists, Hauldren and Kennett are always looking ahead in their own journey. In a 2017 music panel at the University of Southern California, where Hauldren briefly attended from 2015 to 2016, he laughed when he was reminded of his answer to what he had in mind for the duo’s future goals: “win a dick-load of Grammys” and “headline Coachella.”
“I mean, definitely I do want to headline Coachella and Lollapalooza, like all that type of stuff,” he said. “The headlining festival stuff is awesome, if we make that happen, and winning a Grammy would be sweet — I would happily accept it — but I think what really matters to Freddy and I is that our music is meaning something to someone in the same way that our heroes’ music has meant something to us.”
Hauldren cites Kanye West as a hero whose music meant something to him, as both are Chicago natives, and Kennett explained how people can still name West as a musical inspiration despite his controversial tweets and comments. “He might not be the perfect example as of late, but you can’t take back what he’s given us and what he’s done for us and how much he’s inspired us,” he said.
Kennett names Bon Iver, James Blake, J Dilla and The Beatles as his heroes, but he doesn’t look up to artists just for their music. “I also look up to people who influence the world in a positive way, like Skrillex has for the electronic industry,” he said. It’s that positive energy that will greet festival crowds at a Louis the Child set, and will keep them around for the show.