If people still went into stores and bought albums like we used to, more of us might notice a trend in modern music. Most stores divide their music into genres because, theoretically, its supposed to make it easier to find what youre looking for. When you want to find The Rolling Stones or Run-DMC or Miles Davis, this works just fine. But when you want to find many new artists, the system falls apart. The Goodie Mob albums would definitely be in Rap, but is that where the Cee-Lo solo albums should be too? What about Gnarls Barkley? Maybe that would be in Rock, but is Gnarls Barkley really a rock band? This fall, youll probably find Chester Frenchs Love the Future in the Rock or Pop section, but with an album full of songs that were assembled more like Hip-Hop records than anything else, those categorizations arent exactly accurate. When it was time for Harvard grads D.A. Wallach and Max Drummey to find a record deal with a major label, it was Kanye West, Jermaine Durpi and Pharrell Williams who came to them with offers, not Clive Davis and Simon Cowell. They all wanted the duo on their side, because they saw that Chester French had more in common with Outkast than Fall Out Boy, even if the songs didnt make it obvious. A lot Rock people havent been feeling us, but for the music thats come out over the last ten or fifteen years, weve liked a lot more Hip-Hop than we have rock. Were people thatve always loved and appreciated and respected Hip-Hop music so when Hip-Hop people like us, it makes sense to us. No, Chester French arent making rap songs or even trying to play rapper dress-up like Korn and Limp Bizkit; theyre just making the kind of music they want to make and it just so happens that listening to Hip-Hop helped them learn to do that. Really though, all this talk of categories and genres isnt important; Chester French doesnt care and theyd prefer if you didnt either. AllHipHop.com Alternatives: So you guys ended up getting signed before you graduated?DA: We got a bunch of offers before we graduated, but we didnt end up finishing our deal until the summer after senior year. We had already decided to sign with Pharrell at Interscope before we finished though.AHHA: What made you choose Star Trak over the other offers that you had?DA: We did a keg standoff and, Pharrell not so much, but Chad really made a strong showing, so it was a no-brainer. We got Chad up to like 4 minutes and 50 seconds and this guy was like, red in the face but he still had that champions spirit.AHHA: Have you been involved with in any design for the BBC/Ice Cream lines now that youre on Star Trak? It seemed like they started to incorporate some of the preppy imagery after you came on.DA: No, were not involved were trying to mix-up our style with some wild sh*t. We did like, one photo shoot where we were wearing button-down shirts because thats all we had. That ended up being the photo that got around so everyones like oh, those guys are so preppy, but we never meant to get in that box.AHHA: So theres probably no need for any New England Battle Royale with the guys from Vampire Weekend for control of the image DA: Nah the musics totally different, and I dont really know if theyre like, parodying that sort of thing, but at least for us when we were in school, we never fit into that too much. I mean, there are people at Harvard who are actually the embodiment of that lifestyle. They really do have a huge trust fund and their grandfather went to school there. We showed up at college like who are these guys? You imagine that as something you only see in movies, but then you get there and its actually in your face these people have garden parties. I didnt even know what a garden party was, but theres definitely some subtle erotic sh*t going on there
“The first time we met with Pharrell, he said something that always
stuck in my head, which was that music is music, people are people. You
dont want to be like ‘hey, were so eclectic’ and all that, but in my
head, thats just the most honest way to approach music. You dont want
to be thinking in any box, especially today when music and lifestyle
marketing is so integrated.”- D.A.
AHHA: What were your majors at Harvard?DA: I did African American studies.Max: I did Social Anthropology.AHHA: Did you actually intend to follow through with that then or were you just treading water until music worked out?Max: Its kinda hard to follow through on either of those things DA: We were just treading water. I dont think either of us intended to follow through on [our majors].AHHA: So why not major in music then?Max: Harvard had a terrible music program run by really ignorant people its a weird place.AHHA: You got to use the facilities to get your album done though, so it kinda worked out.Max: Yeah, at the end of the day, we definitely stole some stuff from Harvard.DA: The studio we had at school wasnt actually affiliated with the music program there. Thats sort of an independent student group that Max and I were actually kind running too. We were actually engineering there as commercial engineers so even when we were getting the record deal, we were still recording weird a cappella groups and viola players to pick up some cash on the side. It was good too because we were able to learn how to record all kinds of different music and instruments and all that knowledge ends up being a resource when youre working out your own project.AHHA: Who do you consider your major influences? I feel like theres some similarity to The Beach Boys, Roy Orbison or Scott Walker with the kind of wide, sweeping arrangements on Pop records Max: Its frustrating to like, pick one or two things to advertise that were really into because at the end of the day, we listen to all types of music from all times and all types of people. If we come out and say oh, we like this then people are gonna look for that in our music. Id rather they just hear what they hear and what they know in it.DA: The first time we met with Pharrell, he said something that always stuck in my head, which was that music is music, people are people. You dont want to be like hey, were so eclectic and all that, but in my head, thats just the most honest way to approach music. You dont want to be thinking in any box, especially today when music and lifestyle marketing is so integrated. People get into that Im a backpacker so I like this shit or Im a f**kin gangster so I like this sh*t or Im a punk rocker so I like this sh*t and its ridiculous. It has nothing to do with the way you dress or anything. People bug out like why are you hanging out with all these rappers because we dont dress like that or talk the same way, but we dont see ourselves that way and we dont see our fans that way. It would be nice if some of those boxes collapsed a little bit.AHHA: So as you start to play your first live shows, how are you able to translate those broad, complex songs into something you can play live?Max: All the songs in the first place just came from either a piano and vocal or guitar and vocal, so on a certain level, Im just sort of used to thinking about them in that way so theres an infinite number of ways to translate it. Were just keeping it a little bit leaner and a little bit harder hitting. It sounds kinda oxymoronic, but its almost more powerful the fewer things you have going on because each thing can be its own big, epic force. DA: Since we got singed without paying a show, I think a lot of people were worried like awww sh*t, we signed these guys but are they gonna suck live? Even Pharrell told us that wed need to use a backing track because wed miss all those little gizmos and sounds, but for us it was like f**k no, this is gonna be a live-ass show and we want to shake down these venues.AHHA: Thats where the Beach Boys comparison plays in. Pet Sounds and SMiLE are pretty universally considered to be classics, but there was a big concern as they were being recorded that theyd never be able to play the songs live. SMiLE literally ended up being delayed for almost 40 years DA: Well, like Max was saying, if youve got a song, youve got a melody, youve got some chords, then you can play it on just an acoustic guitar. A lot of that ended up being true for a lot of stuff on SMiLE too, and he does play it live now.Max: Hes got a ridiculous band in concert DA: But if youre on a studio making music and youre on a stage making music, its a totally different experience.AHHA: So how has your recent live performing informed what you do in the studio?Max: For me, its made me more confident to do less and make things simpler.DA: When you listen to Beatles records especially, the recordings are so phenomenal that its hard to compare to anything that we wanna do but… theyll have songs that have like, one instrument going on and its like how does this sound so big and fill up that space. When we were doing our record, we had limited resources so it was difficult to think how we were gonna make one piano or one guitar hold its ground and stand up by itself, but now that we see how to do it live and let the music breathe, it opens up a lot of possibilities.
“People get into that Im a backpacker so I like this shit or Im a
f**kin gangster so I like this sh*t or Im a punk rocker so I like
this sh*t and its ridiculous. It has nothing to do with the way you
dress or anything.” – D.A.
AHHA: The lack of resources when recording the first album forced you to be inventive, so now that youve got a lot more money and equipment to work with, so you worry that itll tamper with your creativity?Max: The record were gonna put out is the record we made in school, just the two of us in the basement. From here on out in the studio, were just gonna keep the process the same because we like it. Well use whatever resources are available and just do whatever occurs to us. We made our record for $2000 dollars, but we never felt limited with what we were doing. DA: But now, we have some freedom where if we really wanted to do something in the vein of a song we heard and we really couldnt figure it out, we could actually call somewhere and say, How did you do that? Thats part of whats so wonderful of having Pharrell and them at our disposal, because there would be times when we were trying to say, copy something wed heard on Neptunes records in the past and we would have to read an interview in Remix and try to replicate a production technique. AHHA: If were being honest here, Star Trak has been known to have a somewhat sporadic release schedule. How are you making sure that the record comes out on time? Max: Were gonna leak it if they dont put it out. I cant speak for DA, but I will DA: For right now, the plan is for them to put it out in September. I dont see why that wouldnt happen.AHHA: And its called Love the Future?DA: Well see thats the tentative title. It might be an eleventh hour decision. It comes from [North Korean leader] Kim Jong-il. His father was [previous leader] Kim Il-sung and that was the motto of his revolutionary movement. It was just an interesting historical fact that that had been his motto because the future was so incredibly bleak for them but it obviously mobilized a lot of people. The musical landscape may be irretrievably lost but were gonna try to present ourselves with some integrity and do it the way people we admire have done it.