French Kiss… They Wish!
New York-based rock duo Chester French is serious about goofing around, if that make sense, and so far it’s worked. They’re just a couple of years out of Harvard, and already 24-year-olds D.A. Wallach and Max Drummey (who are signed with Pharrell’s Star Trak label) are taking their hip-hop-meets-power-pop on tour with Blink 182. We caught up with them last Friday before they performed a charity set in Soho for the non-profit Music Unites. Read on for startling confessions on everything from Chester French’s embarrassing childhood music tastes (Phish, Kenny Loggins) to their desire to incorporate dildo props into their work.
DARRELL HARTMAN: So your big news this summer is that you’re touring with Blink 182.
D.A. WALLACH: We are, yeah. It starts the 24th, in Vegas.
DH: They came to you?
DAW: They came to us. When we lived in LA for a year last year we didn’t do go to a lot of parties, but we did go to one party and at that party we met both Taleb Kwali and [Blink 182 drummer] Travis Barker. Taleb ended up being a big collaborator of ours, and then Travis also took us under his wing a little bit.
DH: But in “Bebe Buell,” there’s that line that you’ve “never been to LA.”
DAW: That’s written from the perspective of just arriving in LA, which is when we finished the lyrics to that song, and seeing all the girls out there and debating whether you want a hot, superficial chick or the type of girl we saw more at college—a little uglier but more intellectual.
DH: Is it possible to have both?
DAW: It’s ideal.
DH: Max, what do you think?
MAX DRUMMEY: I just like busted sluts, sluts that are just dirty-looking. Like, fucked-up grills and bad haircuts and acne.
DH: Where do you find girls like that?
MD: They’re the chicks that fuck guys in opening bands. They find us.
DH: Do you prefer LA or New York?
DAW: I prefer New York overall, I’d say. But both have their charms and advantages.
DH: What are the charms of LA?
DAW: Beautiful weather and beaches. Bitches on beaches. And whether it’s superficial or fake or whatever, people in LA are extraordinarily friendly and outgoing.
DH: I always thought of Blink 182 as an LA band. They are, right?
DAW: Yeah, they live out there. They’ve gone so out of their way to be nice, expose us to their supporters-things that they definitely didn’t need to do. Mark Hoppus just emailed us out of nowhere. Some people, when you work with them, they really care about showing they’re superior. Those guys don’t care. Obviously they don’t need to prove anything to anyone at this point.
DH: Did you listen to them growing up?
MD: Yeah, I was a fan for sure. I got Dude Ranch when it came out and I was super stoked on it.
DH: What else did you guys listen to as kids?
MD: Until I was like 10 or 11 I was listening to every mainstream rock album that came out.
DH: Anything embarrassing?
MD: Tons of stuff. I went through a phase at one point, because there were a lot of hippies in my life, where I was listening to a lot of Phish. But I’m over that. No disrespect, obviously.
DAW: I had a huge Michael Jackson phase as a kid. I would wear the silk shirts and tie them over a white shirt. Like a silk blue shirt and tie it down here [points to navel] and go to school in that.
DH: How did that go over with your classmates?
DAW: I got made fun of. I wasn’t intending to be a musician, I just thought it was cool. You know, it’s the coolest guy doing that.
DH: Do you mean you or Michael Jackson?
DAW: Him. Not me! I liked Janet Jackson a lot, Aerosmith. The most embarrassing album that I had that I actually enjoyed was a Kenny Loggins A-track that my parents had. It was, like, the only eight-track we had. So I just ended up listening to that-smooth, adult flute music.
DH: Has that influenced the music you make now?
DAW: I hope not. Maybe it has to, somehow.
MD: Being into Phish got me into prog, and fusion music, so I don’t mind that being a part of what I do. But the jam side of it, not so much.
DAW: With bands like Blink or Phish, even, we have these two threads that almost work against us having a coherent image. On the one hand we like a lot of serious, musician-y music. On the other hand we like comedy music.
DH: Comedy music?
DAW: Like the way Blink is funny and doesn’t take itself seriously.
DH: What about Primus? I used to love them.
DAW: Or Primus! We like Primus. There’s this sort of catch when you’re presenting yourself. If you want to be taken seriously, you almost have to act really serious. And we haven’t nailed that 100 percent because we end up making jokes and doing things like a hip-hop album about working out. But that works against people then saying, ‘Oh, your album is genius!’ We just played on Jimmy Kimmel and I was wondering, what if a singer went on with baggy pants and a big dildo? Get everyone commenting, like, ‘Oh my god, the singer’s dick is swinging around!’
DH: Why baggy? Wouldn’t that make it harder to figure out what was going on?
DAW: Well, just so you see more movement.
DH: Did Jimmy Kimmel get behind the idea?
DAW: Well, no. I didn’t let it escape my brain. It’s embarrassing that
I thought of it.
DH: So we’re hearing it here first.
DH: Speaking of: Max, you like to experiment with instruments. Have
you been doing that lately?
MD: One thing I just started doing that I’d never done before is working with samples, which my interest in instruments kind of kept me from doing. The way I look at it, that’s building your own instrument, taking a sound that you find and making it your own. And it’s way cheaper than buying more instruments.
DH: What sorts of things have you been sampling?
MD: I’m mainly taking a sound and figuring out a way to play music with it. It’s more a sonic thing and less of a music-phrase idea. So far I’ve sampled strings, throat singing, this Argentinian tango song from the 40’s. Just sounds that I haven’t heard before and can
re-purpose for whatever musical idea that I have.
DH: You guys went to Harvard: prime examples that you don’t have to skip school to make it in the music business.
DAW: You don’t have to forego education to do anything. Even if you want to go to the NBA, you should read.
DH: You just performed a charity event. Max, is this your first time doing charity?
MD: I’ve never given anything to anyone in my entire life. I don’t even give my parents birthday presents. I live exclusively for myself. I don’t know how I got convinced into doing this.