With new arrangements and bold set designs, The Chainsmokers go beyond the call of duty for their World War Joy Tour
By Alan Sculley
Now that sinking album sales have forced the vast majority of bands to make the bulk of their income through touring, it makes sense for musicians to put more effort than ever into their live shows.
The Chainsmokers appear to have gone well above and beyond the call of duty for the first tour in support of the duo’s latest album, “World War Joy.” As Andrew “Drew” Taggart and Alex Pall (the musicians who make up The Chainsmokers) explain in a phone interview, several months of work went into creating not only the stage set, but some bold new wrinkles in their music as well for this tour.
“A lot of artists are taking production to the next level and we knew it was time for us to, like, step up,” Taggart says. “We wanted to do something that matched the energy of our show, which is a very high energy, fun — party, almost. We wanted to build something that complemented the feel of what our music does. So, we built something that’s super fun.”
The main stage is made up of three separate sections that form what Taggart and Pall call “the Triad.”
“They’re all suspended and they can lift up and then lift down and form the triad shape, and then they can lift up in the air with pyro, and then on one staircase it has this reflective shield that you can blow light into,” Taggart continues. “The stage looks absolutely insane. I really think we created something that, just from a visual standpoint — forget about the music — that’s going to be pretty breathtaking and just amazing to see move on stage. It’s going to complement what we do really well.”
There are other bells and whistles, too, including an array of special effects and plenty of room on the main stage for Taggart and Paul to move, plus a floating second stage that will be placed toward the back of the arenas. And let’s not forget the Globe of Death.
“Probably like midway through the show, we have these dirt bikes that show up on stage and get into the Globe of Death and they start spinning circles while we’re performing some of our more intense songs,” Taggart explains. “It’s really going to take those songs to the next level, just the adrenaline. Even the sound of the motors is going to be really powerful.”
There will also be surprises with the music, as Taggart and Pall will be joined by Matt McGuire on drums, helping to move the music toward more of a live band sound.
“There’s this really great flow to the show. When we were creating it, we came up with like four different moods as the show progressed,” Taggart says. “So there’s a happy mood, there’s a dark mood, there’s a high-energy section, and there’s an intimate section because, having a show, it’s really important to have those different dynamics. We’ve spent a lot of time over the last six months thinking [up and] making unique edits of all of our songs, building new remixes and new sections to kind of tie it all together.
“We reimagined pretty much everything. You get all of our more popular songs, and a lot of them will start like how you’ve heard them on the radio or whatever, and they start to get reimagined as they go on. We had a lot of fun with it, and there’s definitely stuff you’ll hear on this tour that you’ll only be able to hear on this tour, that we made especially for this, which was really fun.”
Creating elaborate live shows is nothing new for The Chainsmokers, who began touring arenas in 2017 after making regular visits to the top of dance/electronic singles chart.
By that time, Taggart and Pall were the third highest earning deejays for 2017, bringing in $38 million, according to Forbes magazine. (The group has gone on to displace Calvin Harris as the top-paid deejay act of 2019, with Forbes placing earnings at $46 million.)
The duo came together in 2012 after Pall (who had been working under The Chainsmokers name with DJ Rhett Bixler) split with Bixler and his manager, Adam Alpert, introduced him to Taggart as a potential replacement. Pall and Taggart clicked, and they began remixing songs by indie bands before beginning to create original material, often collaborating with other artists from the EDM and pop worlds. An early single, “#Selfie,” was released by the EDM label Dim Mak Records in December 2013, and the song became a hit on dance/electronic charts. The Chainsmokers were on the music map and off and running.
Over the next year, more singles arrived, including “Kanye,” “Let You Go” (a collaboration with the group Great Good Fine OK) and “Good Intentions,” before the song “Roses” arrived in June 2015 and took the duo to a new level. “Roses” went multi-platinum in several countries and reached the Top 10 on Billboard magazine’s all-genre Hot 100 singles chart.
The Chainsmokers continued releasing singles in the ensuing months before breaking even bigger in summer 2016 with the song “Closer,” which featured Taggart doing his first lead vocal, in a duet with Halsey. “Closer” was a chart-topper in multiple countries and set the stage for the duo’s first full-length album, “Memories Do Not Open,” which arrived in April 2017.
That album debuted at No. 1 on the “Billboard 200” album chart and was certified platinum a few months later, having spawned the hit singles “Something Just Like Us” (a collaboration with Coldplay) and “The One.” A second album, “Sick Boy,” followed in 2018. It produced a half dozen dance hits (including “This Feeling,” “Side Effects” and “Everybody Hates Me”), and Billboard ranked The Chainsmokers as the top dance music act of 2018.
Up next is “World War Joy.” The album is expected to arrive yet this year, but the release date has not been announced.
The singles that have been released so far also move the group’s sound in more of a pop direction, as the Top 5 dance/electronic hits “Call You Mine” (featuring Bebe Rexha), “Takeaway” (featuring Illenium and Lennon Stella) and “Who Do You Love” (featuring 5 Seconds of Summer) all lean in a pop ballad direction with some EDM and hip-hop touches.
“Takeaway” and “Who Do You Love” will be easy enough to perform on tour because 5 Seconds of Summer and Lennon Stella are opening for The Chainsmokers. But Taggart and Pall have something special in mind for songs that feature other female guest vocalists.
“We have created this character who will exist and transform and evolve over the course of the show, that is enough of a presence where it doesn’t feel like, ‘OK, where is the singer,’ which is something we’ve definitely found challenging over the last two years when you’re performing songs where the singer is not there,” Pall says. “So she kind of takes the role of the frontman in the cases where there’s a female lead.”
The Chainsmokers play The Forum (3900 W. Manchester Blvd., Inglewood) with 5 Seconds of Summer and Lennon Stella on Tuesday, Nov. 26. Doors open at 7 p.m.; Tickets start at $39.50.