LAist Interview: D.A. Wallach of Chester French

Chester French
Photo via Chester French's Myspace

Chester French, an eclectic pop duo who hail from Harvard, are poised to release one of the most heavily anticipated debuts of 2009. Surely, the hype stems from being courted by Pharrell Williams' to sign to his prominent, predominantly hip-hop label, Star Trak. But as front man D.A. Wallach explains, the band's open-mindedness and respect for all walks of music paved the way to their retention of the machinery of the music industry.

LAist: How many bands, to your knowledge, have come out of your little ole alma mater?
DA: Rivers from Weezer, Tom Morello from Rage Against the Machine. I think someone from the Talking Heads. So there's a history of musicians, but I don't know how many bands.

LAist: Do you think people expect more from you because of your background, musically and otherwise?
DA: Yeah, I don't think so musically. Maybe it creates a sort of burden of proof because people are rightfully skeptical of folks from that sort of world, as we are.

LAist: What's it like receiving offers from some of the biggest names in the hip-hop game?
DA: It was really cool man. We were honored. You know everyone we've had the chance to work with someone we looked up to musically and career-wise. It was great, you couldn't ask for more.

LAist: What about your music draws these people?
DA: We're just open-minded. We listen to their music with a lot of respect and we take it seriously. I think it's been influential, what we do, and I would hear that.

Chester French - "She Loves Everybody"


LAist: You guys are releasing an EP in a week. Is that a relief or are you still waiting to hatch the bigger egg?
DA: Well, we had to put something out. Our supporters have been waiting for a long time. So we're releasing "She Loves Everybody," "Jimmy Choos," and then three remixes—one of "Jimmy Choos" and two of "She Loves Everybody." It's just a little first taste to put out so people can go get something. And then in February we'll be putting out the full album, which is something that we've been waiting to release for like three years now.

LAist: Three years is a pretty long time. Do you feel like the process of release a record has been a little drawn-out, perhaps a little more procedural than you had initially hoped for.
DA: Oh man, unbelievably so. It's a transitional time for the music industry. Putting out a new artist is always a risk. There used to be much more of a formula for how to do it. And now we've come on hard times and it's become much less certain. There's been a lot of hammering over how to get it right.

LAist: Talk to us about the new record, Love The Future. What can we expect?
DA: The defining thing about it—not musically but in terms of how it was made—is that we did everything by ourselves and we did it while we were still in college basically. Despite the fact that we're working with Pharrell, it's really something that was created in part by the two of us: the writing, the production, the engineering. It was really important to us to preserve any sort of roughness there. It's pretty diverse in terms of the types of songs and the different vibes on the record.

You know, one thing we always talked about being so tired of were albums where you feel like all the songs are the same song. And we really wanted to put out an album that you could sit down and listen to the whole way through—to be taken on some sort of adventure musically. So it's meant to surprise you and take you to different places.

LAist: With the current state of the music industry, you can't really be aiming to sell a million records. What's the overall goal?
DA: First off, from a business standpoint, to make sure everyone who might like it knows that it exists—which is actually, I think, one of the biggest hurdles that most projects face. What we do is something that any type of person could be able to appreciate. It's not for intended for punk rockers specifically or hip hop kids exclusively. It's for everyone. First, we want to make sure it's exposed and then if people like it, we'd like them to spread it around and listen to it.

LAist: Speaking of spreading around good music, you guys introduced me to the Idle Race through your imeem page. Who's been digging through all that old vinyl?
DA: Man, we're both like that, especially in college. We took full advantage of the broadband internet connections there, just devouring whole record collections.

LAist: Well it was a great find. I was wondering what you're listening to right now.
DA: Right now, let me hop into iTunes. I just bought Blind Willie Johnson, Dionne Warwick, Tommy Page, Steel Pulse. These are my most recent purchases.

LAist: Last couple of goofy questions. If you could borrow someone's vocal chords, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
DA: I'd say Paul McCartney, Freddie Mercury, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin and Nina Simone.

LAist: I have a few friends who went to Harvard as well and we always joked about them going on to save the world with soda cans or something wild. If this whole Chester French thing doesn't work out, then what would you pursue?
DA: Man, I have no idea. I'm not even thinking about that.