The boys behind the viral hit talk about their road to No. 1

By Raha Lewis
Updated April 08, 2014 11:00 AM
Credit: Tim Mosenfelder/Getty

‘Twas the selfie click heard ’round the world.

When the Chainsmokers, made up of Alex Pall, 28, and Andrew Taggart, 24, released their single "#Selfie," it began trending online within weeks, peaking at No. 1 on Billboard‘s New Release chart and the iTunes Top Dance Song Chart. It also made its way to the top 20 of the highly coveted Billboard Hot 100.

So how did this extremely catchy song come about? “I wrote ‘#Selfie’ in my living room, which I converted into a studio after my girlfriend broke up with me,” Pall tells PEOPLE. “‘#Selfie’ is a story of passion, love, revenge and heartbreak,” he adds jokingly.

If there is one thing this duo has, it’s a sense of humor. But in all seriousness, that breakup somewhat changed the course of history for them. “We used to record at Drew s house before,” says Pall. Adds Taggart: “Because she moved out, we had more room and we invested in getting a microphone and we started doing vocals. ‘#Selfie’ was one of the first things we recorded on the mic.”

From their living room, it exploded onto the Internet, earning some famous fans. Lea Michele Tweeted the lyrics, and Samuel L. Jackson parodied the song at a Captain America junket.

As for the inspiration behind the tune, “Alex had the idea of making a song like ‘Eat Sleep Rave Repeat,’ where this guy is ranting and seems like he is on an acid trip,” says Taggart. “We thought, let’s do something like that but make it a girl saying incoherent stupid things while in the bathroom of a nightclub, then she will say, ‘let me take a selfie,’ and it’ll drop.”

And so the song was born. The pair posted the track on their SoundCloud account, but it wasn’t until their friend Oliver Luckett, CEO of social media start-up theAudience, heard it and passed it on to Steve Aoki that the two had a signed single on their hands with Aoki’s label Dim Mak Records.

The success of the song is a far cry from where these two started. “I have been DJing since I was, like, 12 years old,” says Pall. “Sweet 16s and bar mitzvahs. My mom would help me carry my equipment to parties and it was anticlimatic; I only made a couple of hundred bucks.”

Taggart, who brings a production background to the table, is self-taught in the art of making music. “I went to Syracuse for music business, but when I interned for agents and managers I hated it,” says Taggart. “I was best at producing music, so that s what I decided to do. When I first heard dance music, I looked up how it was made, and taught myself how to use the programs. It was my passion all through college. I didn’t think it was serious until I won a mix-tape competition to open for Steve Aoki in college. That was my first realization that this is something I could pursue as a real career.”

Little did he know that Aoki would sign his work some day. And it doesn’t stop there. The Chainsmokers recently signed a seven-figure deal as artists with Republic Records. They are in the middle of their U.S. tour, will later tour Asia and Australia and will be releasing an album in the near future.

“‘#Selfie’ has opened a lot of doors for us,” says Pall. “It has set up collaborations that I can’t mention yet but I m really excited about. The best is yet to come, so buckle up!”

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