By Rakhee Bhatt | April 14, 2017 | People
We sit down with dance music group Galantis to discuss their upcoming Coachella shows, the restaurant they always go to in DTLA, and how “Peanut Butter Jelly” came to fruition.
Christian Karlsson and Linus Eklöw are both music legends in their own rights. Among their prolific careers, highlights include “Toxic” for Britney Spears, which Karlsson co-wrote, and “I Love It” for Charli XCX, which Eklöw co-wrote and produced. After a chance meeting, the Swedish duo formed Galantis and have put out hit tracks like “Peanut Butter Jelly,” “Love on Me,” “No Money,” and most recently “Rich Boy.”
Ahead of their sets at Coachella on April 16 and 23, and before their show at The Novo on April 18, we sit down with Karlsson and Eklöw to chat about their band's beginnings, their layered music process, and the one ritual they always do before a show.
How did you two first come together?
CHRISTIAN KARLSSON: It started with Miike Snow, my other band. We were putting out a single. I didn’t know Linus personally, but I knew about his music and really liked his music. So, I reached out for a remix and he said yes. We met in the studio and that was kind of the birth of Galantis.
How did you come up with the name Galantis?
LINUS EKLÖW: We really couldn’t find anything that we liked and someone gave us Galantis. It felt like it really matched the vibe of the music.
You’re gearing up to play Coachella for the second time. What was the first experience like?
LE: That was mind-blowing. We had just released our first piece of music, so we didn’t really know what we were walking into. It was our first show ever. Coming back now, three years later, it feels like a homecoming in a way. It’s a very special place.
Where do you guys like to eat and drink in LA?
CK: LA is amazing. It’s such a huge city with so many different vibes. It’s a dynamic city. I lived there for two years, moved away, and then came back. I still feel like I’m learning the city and the different areas. Bestia—so good!
You guys travel to cities all across the world where there’s different crowds and preferences. How do you change up your music sets?
LE: A lot comes from the experience of touring. We know a little bit about the places and the vibe. We try to predict the vibe and visualize what it’s going to be and hope it works out.
When it comes to putting your songs together, what’s the process like from beginning to end?
CK: That process changes all the time on purpose because we don’t want to have one mode to make songs—I guess we have a bunch of different modes. We’re also trying to create new modes for how to write songs. We do prefer to start a song with a piano or guitar and focus on cord changes, progressions, and melody, and let the song in itself be the driving force and not the track. We come from being producers and songwriters, so that part we are pretty confident that we can get it wherever we want. It’s the song that needs to be first.
Are there any musicians you look to for inspiration or that have influenced your sound?
CK: We do tend to listen to artists back in time, a lot of ‘60s and ‘70s. They arranged music differently and thought about songwriting differently. I feel like the newer music often goes back to a certain arrangement always, which was kind of made for radio. Now I feel like we don’t need to follow that anymore because of streaming. People just find music anywhere—they don’t follow any rules. We have to say Bettye Swann, because we sampled Bettye Swann for “Peanut Butter Jelly.” I didn’t even know how much I listened to Bettye Swann until, I think you have it on both Spotify and iTunes, but that section that says artist you listen to the most.
Is there a Galantis song that’s the most personal one to you guys?
LE: It changes a lot, but we both had that moment when “Peanut Butter Jelly” came together. It kind of represents a lot of where we came from in terms of music and sampling. There’s no synths in this song. It’s more built on samples. I think that’s something we really wanted to do with Galantis, and one destination for us was “Peanut Butter Jelly.”
Speaking of, “Peanut Butter Jelly” was such a massive success. How did you form that song?
CK: I actually wrote some part of that 10 years ago and couldn’t find an artist or an outlet. There was no vehicle for that crazy lyric. So, I just had that idea in my pocket basically and showed it to Linus with a really simple vocal and guitar, and we started to mess around with it. The first version was just guitar, and then we found that Bettye Swann sample and it came together.
Your new song “Rich Boy” features vocals from a eight-year-old girl. How did that come about?
CK: That was a vocal sent to us from an old friend and her daughter is eight. She sang the piece and we didn’t really react to it as a song at first. It was just something laying in one of our folders and we went back to it. I was like, this is such an amazing piece of vocal we should try to make it into a song, kind of the same way we did “No Money.” It’s not easy when it’s such a little piece and you have to loop it up because you don’t want it to sound like you get bored of the same thing. There’s so many different levels, so you have to treat this thing and make it into a full song. It’s a lot of arrangement and treating the vocal in different ways.
LE: We have to use all the tricks in the book.
Do you guys have any sort of pre-show or post-show rituals?
LE: Pre-show ritual is this—Japanese eye drops.
CK: We’re always lacking in sleep so we take cat naps here and there. I think the drops are meant for when you’re watching a screen for too long. They’re strong—they wake you up. After-show, our ritual is to go through what we just did, like that was cool we should do that again, or let’s take that out and switch it. The good and bad.
Galantis has become such a huge force in dance music. What advice would you give to others looking to follow in your footsteps?
CK: To dare to be original. It’s an old cliché, but it’s true because it’s scary to put out music and have people judge your music. A lot of new up-and-coming artists tend to just follow instead of finding their own thing. They want it to sound like something else they like and you're always going to be late on everything. Whatever you’re liking, you make your song, it’s going to be a year or two later, and that’s not how you do it. You have to dare to be on your own and to be original.
LE: And trust your own gut about how it feels.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY JIMMY FONTAINE