Chester French is not a man. In fact, it’s D.A. Wallach and Maxwell Drummey, two Harvard grads who didn’t really have a plan. On the eve of their much-anticipated release of their much-hyped debut album, we got them to dish on everything from Facebook and fellow Harvard grad Mark Zuckerberg, to safe sex and bigger condoms, biddies, divorce and the JoBros. The duo also explains why they felt the need to create a personal VIP concierge service, and how Lady Gaga is going to “cream everyone over” on their upcoming tour with her. Scholarly young gentlemen, take it away.
Your new album is finally coming out in April. D.A.: Well it’s really an album that we’ve been working on for years at this point. So it’s really a project that’s had a lot of time to marinate. We made most of it while we were still in college. And we wanted to produce and engineer everything. We did it all in the basement of one of the dorms at school. We’ve sort of just been waiting to put it out for about a year and half. It’s called Love the Future and it’s coming out April 21st. It’s a mix of everything that we like. It’s inspired by all sorts of music that we love and learned from. The idea is that we wanted to make an album that you could listen to the whole way through, that didn’t have any filler. We didn’t want it to have album tracks. It’s all different songs and different tracks that are equally exciting to listen to. Max: Something we always think about is that people are just people and music is just music. And we’ve certainly gotten tired, and I think a lot of other people got tired, of people trying to pigeonhole you as a musician or as a person. “Oh you’re this kind of person, you like this kind of music therefore.” We just started thinking about it as we grew up in diverse places with people who were sharing what they were into and being into all kinds of stuff and we want to embody that in the music we make. In its body. The body. D.A.: And for us it’s really kind of inevitable since we grew up in a generation where you hear Dr. Dre after Nirvana on the radio. You almost have to try to block out different angles that you’re being hit from.
Since you’re just starting out, what are some artists whose career paths you’d like to follow? D.A.: Well we’ve always talked about artists who have a very consistent quality in their work but not necessarily a consistent aesthetic. So people like Beck and Outkast are especially inspiring. Even a group like The Rolling Stones or The Beatles who over time were able to try a lot of different things but always preserve a real consistent quality. I think we’d love to have that flexibility to experiment and allow our music to follow our minds.
You’re signed to Pharrell’s label. How do you like working with him? Max: It’s not bad. D.A.: He’s been a great supporter and I think the best part is that that label that he’s created, StarTrak, is supposed to be a refuge for artists who don’t fit in places naturally. We share a common mindset about how to create and how to experiment and pulling different people around your music. We have a good business relationship but we also fit together creatively and share common goals and processes.
Do you not think you would have fit in at another label? D.A.: Well when we were in college, one thing that was difficult as a live band was that we didn’t fit into a scene. Max: We also sucked, which made it harder. D.A.: So we couldn’t say, “Oh of course we’re going to play in a punk club,” or, “Of course we’re gonna do this hip-hop night.” We’ve been doing this for five years and it’s a gift and a curse to not be clearly categorized.
Your first EP, Chester French’s First Love, got you all of the notoriety. But it wasn’t released after you got signed, what happened to it? D.A.: So we were originally a five-piece band and that was something we did our freshman year. Max: We made it in two days and D.A. had spent the summer after that busking around Harvard Square selling CDs. We sold like upwards of 10 of them, easily. And then while we were doing that we started writing the songs that are on our actual debut album.
Did you end up graduating from Harvard? Max: Yeah.
And what was the plan before Chester French came around? What did you major in? Max: My plan was to get a really useful degree in social anthropology. It’s a really important discipline. D.A.: I was under African American studies. Neither of had a really good backup plan which was really…I mean, this was our only hope of not living at home. However, we do live at home. We started it basically right when we got to college. And it was amazing luck for us that we got signed right before we graduated but I think otherwise I think we would have just gotten jobs and done this on the side in our free time. We’d be doing this on the down low.
In secret? Would you have used aliases? D.A.: Yes, definitely.
What would they have been? D.A.: What’s your name again?
I’m Delia. D.A.: Yeah, that’s we would have used for sure.
So because you started off as a college band, you did a lot of self-promotion on Facebook. What is your relationship to it now? D.A.: Both of us were using Facebook within the first day or two it came out. It’s definitely been a tool that we’ve used to connect with other people, especially as it’s grown. It offers a great means of spreading your music. Max: It’s also a great way to creep on girls you don’t know. So that when you finally meet them, you feel like you have a good relationship with them. And it’s not awkward anymore because it’s like “I know everything about you because I’ve been following you on the internet for so long.”
Has that worked for you? Max: It has actually. I met my first and third babymama on the internet.
But didn’t you recently marry Peaches Geldof? Max: I actually recently divorced Peaches Geldof.
Oh did you? I’m now embarrassed. Max: No, don’t be. I should be embarrassed.
So do you guys actually know Mark Zuckerberg? D.A.: Yes. I mean, he’s a genius thinker and he’s built something really amazing that’s changed the world in not a lot of time. And he hasn’t made a lot of big mistakes so he’s pretty inspiring.
Your first single, “She Loves Everybody,” was released with condom wrapper packaging. D.A.: We just thought it was a great complement to the song because of the lyrics to the chorus about using protection: “she craves affection so I use protection.” We thought what would be a better fit than to put it in a condom wrapper. We also wanted something people would remember when we gave it to them. I mean, CDs have become so irrelevant at this point that unless you do something cool or interesting with them they’re kind of boring.
Is safe sex a cause that you’re particularly interested in? D.A.: Sure, I mean… Max: Practice is what we’re really interested in. And we’re definitely gonna practice until we get good at it, until we stop messing it up. We’ve just been breaking condoms from coast to coast so I think it’s time to move up to some XLs or something.
Why would you decide to name yourselves after Daniel Chester French [the American sculptor]? D.A.: Because he makes the most beautiful sculptures ever and he’s not dead.
What can we expect to see on the tour? D.A.: Well we’re gonna perform to warm people’s bodies up to get the juices flowing, to get everyone in the audience wet. And then Lady Gaga is gonna come on stage and just totally cream everyone over.
I’m excited to see it in New York. D.A.: Will we get to meet you? We’re gonna have a tour bus for the first time ever and it’d be awesome if you got on our bus and hung out.
Do I need to talk to your press rep about that? D.A.: No no no, just e-mail us. We don’t need any intermediaries if we’re just hanging out. It’ll be personal, not professional. It’ll be really, really personal. Just talking, just personal questions.
How do you guys spend your down time? D.A.: We both live with our parents in Milwaukee and Boston. So when we’re not on tour or working we’re just hanging out, making music at home and figuring out how to build our fan base, our supporter base. Most recently we’ve been working on a mix tape that we’re putting out in the next week or two called Jacques Jams. And that’s with DJ Quentin Sparks. It’s gonna be a free album that we put out for the whole world. And we’re got some great collaborators on it like Ditty and Pharrell, Jermaine Dupree. It’s gonna be awesome. Lindsay Lohan’s on it.
What are some of your favorite places to go in New York or LA, Boston even? Restaurants, clubs, bars?
Max: In LA, we like to go to this bar called Jumbo’s Clown Room.
Why do you love it so much? Max: The waitresses are just old enough, like close to 50. And then if I were in New York, I like going to the Mercer Kitchen.
Anywhere else? D.A.: For food or for drink or for merriment?
Whatever you like. D.A.: For drinks, nothing is better to us than just going and grabbing a 40 of Ciroc and chilling out and meeting some biddies. Or a 750 of Ciroc is better actually. It’s like a magnum of Ciroc and just go out and meet some biddies and show off to other biddies if you’ve got some Welch’s grape juice around.
So what else would you like to add, that you want BlackBook readers to know? Max: Just that we really want them to check out the album and become a part of what we do. D.A.: Look, we’re just two totally normal guys doing totally normal things. That’s the point we really want to get across. And also, we have something that we haven’t talked about much but that I’d like to give you an exclusive on. That is that we’ve actually been creating something, this is not a joke, we’ve created something that you can get on our website now called the Chester French VIP Concierge Service. It’s the first time I think anyone has ever done something like this. What we’ve actually done is created a luxury support system for all of our supporters. If you’re someone who actually supports Chester French and you sign up for the VIP Concierge Service there are a number of ways that we can communicate with you and stay in touch either by e-mail, by phone and fulfill anyone’s request related to Chester French. I mean, if people need help getting tickets of getting anything like that we wanted to create a service where our supporters could really be a part of what we do and be in touch with us and create and share ideas.
And tell me about the Jonas Brothers, your ultimate influence. D.A.: Oh yeah, they’re awesome. It starts and ends there for us. I met the Jonas Brothers before they blew up. I took my little sister to see them in Milwaukee. And I got to meet Kevin and the guys and they’re just awesome guys. So when we say that we’re definitely influenced by them, it’s musically and personally. They’re awesome guys.