Over the past decade, it almost has become old hat to see upstart DJ/producers circulate music online to build their initial audiences. Streaming platforms like SoundCloud, matched with the sharing capabilities of social media, have allowed music-makers to get a popular digital foothold, even before they ever play out and personally connect with the public.
For acts like Louis The Child, which began as a high-school tandem, that was certainly its blueprint for success, but one that was based on necessity. Truth is, due to their age and inexperience, the duo really didn’t have any other choice. Nonetheless, LTC’s Robby Hauldren and Freddy Kennett parlayed that template to a legit career that has seen them score radio hits, tour the biggest clubs and play the most prestigious festivals.
The two met at a Madeon show in Chicago while they were students at New Trier High School in suburban Winnetka, Ill. Already EDM enthusiasts, both guys were getting involved in the music before they officially joined forces at LTC – Hauldren (as Haul Pass) was making mash-ups, while Kennett (as Fatboy) was creating remixes and producing tracks.
As they honed their skills as both DJs and producers, they spent their free time reaching out to blogs to share their constant barrage of remixes, slowly building their name. Playing the blog game while uploading their remixes to SoundCloud, Louis The Child eventually began playing spots around the Chicago area before the duo unveiled its breakout single, “It’s Strange” featuring K.Flay, which catapulted them into the spotlight in 2015.
In addition to being featured in a TV commercial for the 2019 Nissan Kicks SUV and appearing on the FIFA 16 soundtrack, “It’s Strange” was namechecked by Taylor Swift in her online list of “Songs that Will Make Life Awesome.” Quite a start.
As they were becoming noticed as one of EDM’s rising talents, Louis The Child began opening gigs for the likes of Madeon and The Chainsmokers. Then, they embarked on their own tour in October 2015, which kicked off in their hometown of Chicago.
Before long, Louis The Child began to follow up their smash with a few more ultra-poppy releases. After dropping “Weekend” with Icona Pop, LTC returned in 2017 with the “Love Is Alive” EP featuring the catchy title track featuring Elohim. As the group’s productions began to walk the line between pop and indie-electronic, Louis The Child quickly turned into festival fan favorites throughout that summer of 2017.
The next year would prove to be bigger, as the duo unveiled another steady flow of singles, including the certified-gold hit “Better Not” featuring Wafia. This light-hearted gem would serve as the standout cut from “Kids at Play,” a nine-song EP featuring collabs with top vocalists like MAX and Quinn XCII.
While 2020 has been the year that will be remembered for all the wrong reasons, one of the electronic-music highlights has been Here For Now, Louis The Child’s debut on Interscope. Serving up tasty singles “Free” (with Drew Love), “Every Color” (with Foster The People) and “Little Things” (with Quinn XCII and Chelsea Cutler), the chart-topping album delivers 14 irresistible pop-EDM nuggets that’ll stick in your ear for quite a while.
Though the album’s rollout – including a now-postponed tour – certainly didn’t go as planned, Hauldren and Kennett believe that Here For Now can serve as a worthy soundtrack of the period. Though it’s been a time of tedium and tragedy, to them, the album’s theme is to appreciate life and celebrate the people around you.
So with all that in mind, we hopped on a call with Louis the Child’s youthful duo – Robby Hauldren, 23, and Freddy Kennett, 22 – to discuss their thoroughly modern career, the state of the industry and, of course, their new album.
DJ Times: Let’s take a quick trip down memory lane. Louis The Child started after you two became friends in high school, correct?
Freddy Kennett: I had been a part of a Facebook group with a bunch of older kids who were really into electronic music. They were seniors, and I was in eighth grade. I was just obsessed with dubstep at the time. From sixth grade on, I was just obsessed. I loved Rusko and Skrillex and a lot of the dubstep coming out of London, the original kind of dubby dubstep that made me develop a deep love for electronic music. I really got into starting to produce my own music and, once I saw Robby trying out to play Spring Awakening in Chicago at Soldier Field, it was really exciting to know that someone else my age, or at least a year older than me, was so interested in electronic music, so I reached out to him.
Robby Hauldren: Yeah, this after we first met in person briefly at a Madeon show in Chicago. He didn’t even remember it was me at first until it clicked that I was the tall dude from the show [laughs]. We went back and forth about showing each other things regarding production and DJing, then finally hung out and started making a song together. After working together, we decided we should start a little project and make more songs and release them on SoundCloud.
DJ Times: And how did you start doing shows?
Hauldren: We planned to do a show at the local community youth center in the basement as our solo projects – which was Haul Pass for me, and that’s because of my last name, and Freddy had Fatboy – but we were working together as Louis The Child, so we decided to make it a Louis The Child show.
Kennett: It turned out to be a huge show, we played in front of about eight people! [laughs] We had to show up about a week in advance to go over everything, and we were telling them to move around the chairs because the room would be overflowing with people… which ended up being seven or eight people until our friends showed up. Humble beginnings, you know! [laughs]
DJ Times: Getting back to SoundCloud, you guys really got busy on that platform, right?
Kennett: We worked hard on SoundCloud. We would send our remixes all around. Before we put out our first original, I think we had over 30 remixes… that was a lot of fun. Then we put out “It’s Strange” with K.Flay, who we connected with because she went to the same high school as us. That was the first song that allowed us to tour and begin to play festivals, which was the first time we really got to see people sing along to “It’s Strange” and our remixes.
Hauldren: Taylor Swift posted about it and it was featured on the FIFA 16 soundtrack. Also, Lorde posted the lyrics, which was all so crazy. We were doing all this in high school, sending emails to blogs during my free period on release days, just hustling hard to get ourselves in the best position to blow up on the internet. We were around 15-years old, so we knew we wouldn’t be able to play clubs and bars, but we had the internet to get our music out there. Our manager Joey [Papoutsis] really nailed it down into our head that local gigs were not going to be as beneficial as having people from all over the world listening to our songs on SoundCloud or charting on hypem.com. “It’s Strange” was really like the “whoa moment” where things really began to pick up.
DJ Times: So after all those remixes and the success of “It’s Strange,” things really started to change and you started pumping out more originals.
Kennett: After “It’s Strange,” we released two more projects, our “Love Is Alive” EP and our “Kids In Play” EP. Right before “Kids In Play,” we signed with Interscope, which was a huge moment for us. Because of the success of our original single, we got to tour with some of our favorite artists, like Madeon, which was like a full-circle moment for us because he was one of our idols in high school. We also got to tour with Big Gigantic and The Chainsmokers, which led to a lot of cool moments. Drew [Taggart of The Chainsmokers] and I were working on tunes in the back of the bus one day, and one of them turned into “Closer” with Halsey. For me, coming out of high school, having a No. 1 song, touring, and having people singing our lyrics was so cool – and I knew we could do it. Like, “Let’s just keep pushing that we can do this.” I decided not to go to college, and I moved out to L.A. since Rob had already been there for a year going to USC. It’s been only music since then, and it’s been amazing every step of the way.
DJ Times: You guys touched on it early, but what came first for Louis The Child, DJing or production?
Hauldren: I started off DJing, then began to produce more later and Freddy started off producing then began to learn to DJ after. The way we operate is me leaning more on the live side, taking more of a role of putting on the shows, with Freddy leaning more on the production side, finishing off productions in ways that I can’t. We started off as “Freddy produces and I DJ,” then over the years it crossed over to us each doing a little bit a both.
DJ Times: Are you guys using the same studio gear as when you started? Or have you upgraded now that you’re in the big leagues?
Kennett: [Laughs] Same DAW – Ableton Live – but lots of new equipment. Faster and better equipment allows us to do a lot more. Definitely having more CPU as a producer, the more you can make things sound good, and the more complex you can make your whole project. We had computers with 16 GB of RAM and now we have 64, and we’re able to do more, easily. [Laughs]
Hauldren: We started producing stuff in a small little office room in Freddy’s house on a laptop using Ableton Live with a MIDI keyboard, and now we have a bunch of different synths, drums, a piano with a microphone hooked up to it. Being able to work with computers has always been what makes us special… like understanding the way that Ableton and computers work, synthesizer design, and working with rhythms inside of Ableton. I just feel so lucky that we have so much technology like this because I wouldn’t have been able to do so much at such a young age if I didn’t have laptops that allowed me to do that. Thank you, Apple! [laughs]
DJ Times: When it came to cooking up your debut album, what studio equipment was most vital?
Kennett: The Akai MPC is something we used on pretty much every song.
Hauldren: The MPC is definitely our go-to. We also used a lot of straight grand piano on this project. We used a bunch of Arturia synth plug-ins… we used a bunch of those.
DJ Times: Speaking of your new album, Here For Now, was it a bit of a buzzkill to have the release during all this coronavirus craziness?
Kennett: We actually think it kind of played out perfectly for us. We believe that these songs are the type of songs that should take a moment to sink in. A lot of them we’ll revisit and remix for live, so it’ll be fun and new then. It also gives just a bunch of time to stay at home and make a bunch of music. This is the perfect time to make a lot of content and new songs, then package them all up. This album is perfect for listeners to take a moment and let sink in. The more time we have to make more, the better we feel.
Hauldren: As much as you want to put out music then immediately tour and get the crowd reaction, I feel like the music and the message of the music really fits the times right now. The coronavirus lockdown really has gotten a lot of people to realize what’s actually important and what isn’t. Everyone has had time to sit with themselves and realize what’s important and what they really value. I feel the album is about appreciating being alive and the experiences we’re all having together. I feel like the message of the music feels like it’s coming at a really great time… in a time where people want happy music and they want something that makes them feel good, happy to be alive. So as much as it sucks that it comes out at the time, it’s a great moment for this type of music to be hitting people here.
DJ Times: As an artist, what’s it like working your way from remixes, singles, dropping two EP and now unveiling your debut album to the world?
Hauldren: It’s definitely a big step. Our last EP was a nine-track offering and we could have called it an album, but we were very conscious of the fact that you only get one debut album. We wanted our first album to be a well-thought-out, conceptual project and really take our time with it. We’re really happy we took our time with it and got it to be what we wanted it to be.
Kennett: We felt a decent amount of anxiety of the fact that this needs to be something that matters to us. At the end of the day, this has to be something that we’re proud to show our grandkids and proud to have in the world as the Louis The Child debut album. With this album, we really wanted the messages and songwriting to mean something to us and to be something that motivates us to keep doing more. We’re happy with it when it comes to the production.
DJ Times: What’s the creative process when it comes to producing an album that is so vocal-driven and packed with collaborations? Are you making these tracks with a vocalist in mind, working around vocals provided or working together from the start?
Kennett: Going back to how we wanted to have this album mean a lot to us, it definitely made sense to try to write a lot of songs and to work with artists that may mean a lot to us.
Hauldren: A majority of the songs on the project are songs that we wrote with the artist featured on it, going into each session with a whole understanding for the kind of concept for the album, while communicating throughout the whole process. Going into every session, we talk with all the artists about what their honest feelings are about being alive and how they view the world. A lot of the music really came from those conversations.
Kennett: Yeah, we’d start the session with, like, a 30- to 45-minute kind of discussion about just… life. It would touch on how everyone’s doing, touching on sad things and happy things, while letting that seep into our writing. After that, we start with chords or we begin working with drums, then melodies start coming to us. Then, with the discussion having just happened, a lot of the lyrics with those kind of ideas kind of flow naturally. The music happens after the discussion, and then the discussion seeps into the music, bringing it to life.
Hauldren: That wasn’t the case for all of them, though. “Free” was something that Drew Love had written and sent to us, and we produced around it.
DJ Times: A very transparent process the whole way.
Kennett: I was trying to get everyone to just feel comfortable or feel like talking about something real. We had a few sessions where people would start talking about their relationships with their parents, their friends, growing up, and then things like that. It was really fun to get to know the people we’re working with, these deeper discussions, and that was a really cool part of it.
DJ Times: Alright, the million-dollar question: What are your favorite tracks of the album?
Hauldren: [Laughs] It’s always changing. I could be obsessed with one song today, and the next day I’m on to another one. The one, “We All Have Dreams” with K.Flay, consistently stays a favorite. We really, really love that one. The one with Duckwrth, “Get Together,” the big reason why we love it so much is that it’s so different and unexpected. I feel like when you’re listening to the project, that one comes out and you’re like, “Whoa, I was not expecting it at all,” you know? It really plays into Freddy’s jazz influence throughout his whole life and leans more into it. It’s like a modern-jazz song with electronic production.
Kennett: Oh yeah, I’ve got to throw in “Big Love” with EarthGang, “What a World” with Bob Moses, and “Fade Away” [laughs]. It’s hard to pick, but every week it’s a different favorite from the whole list.
DJ Times: Now that the debut album’s out, are you guys taking a breather? Or is there more music immediately on tap?
Hauldren: We’ve got another project that we’re working on right now, but I can’t really get into too much detail. [laughs] The album is the start of Louis The Child dropping a boatload of music this year. I feel like we can say we’re going to be more production-focused on this project and it’s going to be very fun…. we can say that, too [laughs].
DJ Times: While there certainly won’t be any live shows anytime soon, you have done some live-stream sets. What else do you have in store for your fans?
Hauldren: We’ve been working a lot lately on different kinds of cool video projects and getting a lot more creative visually lately, trying to hone our craft in other ways. We put together a really cool video together for Lollapalooza’s online festival. Plus, a bunch of new music.
DJ Times: How do you see festivals and club venues adapting or evolving?
Hauldren: There are definitely going to be a lot more masks when it comes to clubs and festivals when we’re finally back on the road.
Kennett: When it comes to live shows, we’re not going to be playing any shows until things are very safe. We’ll put our foot down on anything before a vaccine is available – we’re not taking any risks.
Hauldren: I don’t know how it’ll change. We really just have to be patient and see how this all plays out, but I’m definitely excited for when things are somewhat back to normal. The energy of that first show is going to be unlike anything we’ve seen before, and I can’t even imagine what that first festival back is going to be like [laughs]. I think people will have a greater appreciation for live music, as well. I think having it stripped from people for so long, it’s going to come back, and everyone is going to appreciate it, even more, you know? You don’t know what you got until it’s gone.
To check out more interviews, click here.
DJ Times Magazine is copyright © 2020 by DJ Publishing, Inc. www.djtimes.com