They’re smart, they’re talented, they look good in skinny jeans. They marry teen celebutantes, Pharrell thinks they’re hot, female fans want to have their babies, and they’re playing The Studio at Webster Hall tonight. Harvard rock duo Chester French is a perfect storm of “next big thing,” and gave us an interview before launching their firstworldwide tour. With Harvard correspondent Adam Estes asking the questions, D.A. Wallach and Max Drummey talk music, fashion, and spooge:
Max: We just look up to [Vampire Weekend] so much. I mean, those guys are our idols and to be mentioned in the same breath as them is just fucking—it feels so good. But slightly wrong. Like the first time you jerk off. Yeah, I guess being compared to Vampire Weekend feels like the first time jerking off.
Max: We’ve got a lot of semen to clean up.
D.A.: It’s everywhere.
Interview and more pictures after the jump.
IvyGate: So, it’s a pretty interesting time for you, with your album coming out.
DA: It’s coming out in the next couple of months. We’re solidifying the release date, actually today. [Ed: They chose November 11.] And we’re about to go on tour with Common and N.E.R.D., so it’s really going to be a marathon. It’s been unusual for us because we got our record deal right before we graduated, and finalized it right after graduating. So we made a smooth transition from being full-time students to the [music] profession. We moved out to LA last September and fussed around there trying to finish up our record and get to know our label a bit.
Max: We share our fix of mental space and, you know, because of the way we work we don’t really need to be based in a location. We’ll be on tour anyway.
DA: I mean, we’d only live in an imagined community anyway.
IG: Max, you’re in New York right now?
IG: And D.A., Wisconsin?
DA: I’m in Wisconsin, yessir.
IG: Where they drink beer out of cans.
DA: Out of taps directly, actually.
IG: That’s what I like to hear. A little about the things I’ve seen about you in the media. Good things, and almost all starting with the fact that you went to Harvard together and are the new Ivy rockers. How do you feel about that?
DA: It’s factually correct, though I don’t know if it has significance to the music we make. Writers are always looking for an angle, obviously, when they’re talking about something new and trying to contextualize stuff. It’s obvious, but it doesn’t really say much.
Max: I don’t know how relevant it is, but there’s more embarrassing stuff [they] could say about us, so I don’t mind.
Max: I’d just focus on our physiques, which we spent a lot of time on both before, during, and after college.
DA: That’s been more defining than any school we ever could’ve gone to. I mean, it’s a commitment to health that extends throughout your whole lifetime. We were both presidential fitness scholars. We’re grateful and that sort of sets the tone of everything we’ve ever done.
Max: Yeah, we both considered going to military academies just for the physical training but for various ideological reasons opted to go to Harvard instead. They have gyms there, too.
IG: Yeah, I bet.
DA: There’s nothing that excites us more than doing pull-ups over a sword.
IG: The uniforms are good, too. I always wanted to go just to wear the hat.
DA: Yeah, they’re kinky.
Max: The problem with the uniform is that they don’t give you enough leeway to express the nature of your unique physical form. They’re normative in that sense—
DA: Oh, yeah.
Max: —set to an ideal. We don’t necessarily buy into that.
DA: It’s physio-normative.
IG: Speaking of clothes, I’ve seen some new pictures of you guys, sort of Of Montreal meets Thom Browne. Where does the look come from?
DA: Those suits came from the designer Thom Browne. Vogue ran the shoot and they brought them in.
IG: I feel like you need more of a space disco sound to wear so many feathers. Can we expect that soon? Because I’d like it.
Max: I never had a visual on Of Montreal just because I never sought one out until recently. I had no idea they were on a pervert-glam trip. It was shocking to me! I thought that dude was a little more insular.
IG: Yeah, they are a little over the top, I guess it’s not a perfect comparison.
Max: Oh, I’m not making a statement about that. It may be the perfect comparison.
IG: Another association: Vampire Weekend.
DA: I think that’s just the Ivy League thing. I don’t think that anyone would genuinely say we sound like them at all.
Max: We don’t even think of them as our contemporaries. You know what I mean? We just look up to them so much. I mean, those guys are our idols and to be mentioned in the same breath as them is just fucking—it feels so good. But slightly wrong. Like the first time you jerk off. Yeah, I guess being compared to Vampire Weekend feels like the first time jerking off.
IG: Yeah, I would feel the same way.
Max: You don’t know if it’s right, but it makes you feel great.
IG: I do think that, at least listening to your stuff, the afro-beat soul thing kind of makes sense…
DA: I don’t know. We’ve only listened to white music ever. So. I think those guys clearly have a broader array of influences. In fact, we don’t listen to anything that’s even been influenced by anything other than white music. They draw from a palette that’s much more worldly than ours. Right now, we’re on a hip-hop tour, you know. Very unusual.
Max: Making white music for non-white people. Making non-white people for white music. Making non-white music for white people?
DA: Vampire Weekend is non-white music for white people.
IG: Paul Simon for the kids.
Max and DA: [laugh]
Max: We work on stuff always. We’ve got a lot of ideas circulating.
DA: We’ve got a lot of blood circulating.
Max: We’ve got a lot of semen to clean up.
DA: It’s everywhere.
IG: Sounds like it.
DA: Nah. We’re going to take a different direction. We wanna do what Vampire Weekend did with their sound. We want to take their sound and do to it what they did with Paul Simon’s sound. Know what I mean?
Max: We’re going to take their sound and pretend it’s not new-agey. And not contemporary.
DA: I mean you’re bringing up that we’ve been put in these articles with them. Some people would resist that. We’re like, “No, let’s seize that! Let’s do them, but better.” So we’re going to also start dressing like them. And then, move to New York because we know a couple of guys live there so we’re just going to surveil their lifestyle.
Max: I’m just going to check out the scene and maybe get the chance to talk to them. That would be amazing.
IG: I can’t wait to see that.
Max: That would be the opportunity to confront your ideal self, you know?
IG: I’ve seen some upcoming tour dates and you’re going out with some hipster heroes like Justice and TV on the Radio.
DA: THey might be at a couple festivals we’re playing at.
IG: What are you guys listening to now?
DA: I think the goal’s always been to make pop music that was not designed for one type of person but had a very broad appeal and that could touch a lot of different types of folks. And so right now the real challenge is to take this album we’ve made, that was made in a pretty unconventional way by major label standards. I mean, we did it all ourselves. We did it at school. We didn’t spend a lot of money on it. But like I said, it’s always been intended for a very large, broad audience. So now the challenge is a business one. How do we get this music to reach a lot of different people? That’s sort of what the next year is about. We’ll put out the record, we’ll play for anyone’s fans, be it TV on the Radio’s audience or Common’s audience or Nas’s. And we’re not going to stop until we’ve reached everyone we can.
DA: Oh yeah. It’ll be more segmented than that because it’s not going to be one tour that we’ll be headlining. But at least until the record comes out we’re going to be opening for a bunch of people doing the dates for Common and N.E.R.D. and hopefully a ton of other people. Internationally, too, we’ll go to France, Germany, England where we’ve already been. Japan. Anywhere that will take us, we’ll go.
IG: Ten-four. That’s about it. No—one more thing. Max, I read that you got married!
Max: Yeah, I did.
IG: Anything to say about it? How’s married life?
Max: It’s nice. Thank you.
—Interview by Adam Clark Estes. Intro by Maureen O’Connor.