Touring with Textbooks
A Conversation with Louis the Child
Two teenagers seek out the universe, sitting on the edge of a cliff, on the brink of stardom. An author once signed my copy of his book and wrote the phrase “on the threshold of the world.” This jump-off metaphor applies directly to youthful duo Louis the Child. They stand on the precipice of something magnificent. For them, that magnificence is spotlighted on the weekends, as both teenagers keep their academic textbooks open and their patient eyes focused on longevity. Sure, music is the motive and the dream and the drive, and sure they have been doing this for three years, beginning before they could legally get behind the wheel of a car, but for high school senior Freddy Kennett (18) and college freshman Robby Hauldren (19), weekdays mean school days and final exams are just as important as SoundCloud plays.
For three months, beginning on October 17 and lasting until January 29, electronic/indie pop production duo Louis the Child will be combining classroom time with stadium status. They'll be playing nightclubs and arenas, sweaty venues and rooftop lounges. Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Montreal, Toronto, and more. They'll be playing alongside well-known electronic acts like Kaskade, The Chainsmokers, SNBRN, and Sweater Beats. They'll continue studying music industry and mathematics, continue freshman orientation and senior prom. They're kids with rocket ships strapped to their backs and textbooks glued to their hands. With their newest single, “It's Strange”, racking in over three million plays in one month and acting as the first piece to their anticipatory debut project, they seem to know exactly what they're doing after they depart from the classroom.
Freddy and Robby are leaping toward the sky with wings freshly blossomed. Butterflies escaping the cocoon for the first time, embarking on a lengthy tour, yet still with an awareness of where home is for them. They wear flashy articles of clothing with the colors of their city: a Bulls varsity jackets, red sneakers, black sunglasses, and backwards hats. They are Chicago through and through. They can taste the sea foam of Lake Michigan from Navy Pier if the wind is strong enough. They can see the magnifying (if not altogether touristy) ferris wheel that seizes the day, that can see the horizon of the third biggest city in the United States. They've started to soar, they've spread their wings.
I speak with the two talented producers the day after the first show of their It's Strange Tour. They've just finished performing at Chicago's Navy Pier. While the massive entertainment plaza and amusement venue might be the least enjoyable place for a local Chicagoan to visit, it's an iconic spot to perform a show that ignites their tour.
“It went really well,” Robby says about the first night of the tour. “Obviously always cool for us to play in Chicago. It's our hometown. Also playing at Navy Pier, it's such a huge room and we played before some other really incredibly talented people. It was a really cool way to start off this whole tour, playing such a huge venue in front of so many people.” Following their hometown show is a Halloween set in NYC and then back through the Midwest for November. Robby tells me that it'll be their longest tour, with 22 stops before February.
“We're only touring on the weekends,” Robby says, “but it'll be the longest planned out tour that we've ever had. I'm really excited about that. I'm excited just to get out, go to new places, meet all sorts of new fans, and get to play our music with as many people as possible.” Robby, who is a freshman at USC and who is studying music industry, tells me that he and Freddy will be bouncing back and forth between shows and school. “I go to school at USC now,” Robby continues, “so I'll be going back to L.A. every week, and then Freddy will be coming back to Chicago every week after the shows.”
“I have one more year of high school left,” Freddy says, “and then I think I'll take a gap year and move out to L.A. for a year and just go full-time music.”
Age shouldn't be the main topic of conversation here, though. Louis the Child handcraft music that sounds inventive and yet still wildly comfortable. Their high energy, accessible creations don't come equipped with an age range. They blend electronic with indie pop, referencing Odesza and Flume in the same sentence as Neon Indian and RAC. They've been working with vocalists to create a cohesive and “relatable sound”, saying that they would like to get their EP out by the end of the year.
For now, they've been building their portfolio and their popularity by revamping tracks by artists like Oh Wonder, Zella Day, Magic Man, and Bombay Bicycle Club, only using the original a cappella and creating entirely original instrumentation, resulting in something that sounds like a car commercial or a blissful road trip. Their SoundCloud numbers are a direct reflection of their originality and hard work, as all of their songs take on six figures, seven figures, and continue to climb. With all of this in mind one has to remember that they're still young with bedrooms in their parents' homes. I ask them how their mothers and fathers feel about meshing music with school.
“My family has always supported it,” Freddy says of his love for music. “They definitely want me to be keeping on top of school before I'm gonna go and tour, so I can't be touring during the weekdays. As little Thursdays as possible and we'll take a Friday. Both of our parents put it at the top of our list to be doing as best we can at school first, but of course they want us to be doing our thing and traveling across the country and playing shows because it's an amazing opportunity for us. It's finally something we can do and we've dreamt about doing this since three years ago and it's here. Our parents know that, they realize that. As long as we're keeping track with school, they're cool about it.”
“They're very supportive,” Robby adds. “Both of our parents have put a lot of time and effort into helping out with our career. My dad helps with accounting and once they really saw how far we had taken this, once they saw the numbers on SoundCloud and Facebook and everything, it kind of reassured them that this is actually pretty legit. Obviously, my parents support anything I do and it's really great having both of our parents totally on board with all of this stuff and encouraging us to be doing as much as we can with this career.”
With a three month tour as well as an EP in the works, they also say how they have a bunch of festival confirmations for 2016 and that they want to expand their live sound. They explain that they have plans down the road for an even more massive live show, but that they're still figuring it out. “For this tour,” Robby begins, “we're still just gonna be DJing. Once we have a lot more original content out, we're gonna really buckle down and try to make another live show. We've done a couple live shows before, but we realized what would really make a live show really good and really engaging is having a lot of original content in it. We don't have as much original content out, so we're kind of waiting 'til we get more stuff out and really come back with a big cool live show.”
11.13 - Chicago*
11.14 - Minneapolis*
11.15 - Madison*
11.17 - Urbana*
11.21 - Detroit^
11.27 - San Francisco"
11.28 - Vancouver
12.17 - El Paso
12.18 - Houston
12.19 - Austin
12.29 - Santa Cruz
12.30 - Costa Mesa
12.31 - Sacramento
1.06 - Seattle
1.07 - Portland
1.08 - Los Angeles
1.15 - Fresno
1.23 - Toronto
1.29 - Boston
* w/ Chainsmokers
^ w/ SNBRN & Dr. Fresch
" w/ Sweater Beats
Despite having a buzzing music scene in the Windy City, Louis the Child were never pitched as a Chicago act. Instead, they seem to have a much stronger Internet following.
“That's always kind of been our focus,” Freddy says, “kind of blowing up on the Internet first and then blowing up in the world second. Chicago's not even our top city [for SoundCloud plays]. Los Angeles and New York and London and then Chicago. It's definitely true that it doesn't matter where you are if you're an artist because of the Internet, but I think if people are working in the industry, L.A. is the place to be, because all of the big producers are gonna be working there. To be an artist right now, I think you can really be anywhere as long as you're getting the views on the Internet.” Freddy continues to say that it doesn't matter where you live, but residing in a large city certainly has its benefits.
“Being in big cities does give you a little bit of an extra edge,” he continues, “because there are more people in big cities you can work with and there's also more show opportunities in a way there's more of an 'off the Internet fan base' that you can reach out to. But I do agree that nowadays, if you have a SoundCloud account, you can reach millions and millions of people which is pretty crazy.”
As we close out the interview, before Robby prepares to return to Los Angeles and before Freddy prepares to get back to his high school studies, I ask them if they have any advice for artists working on their craft.
“Keep working,” Freddy begins. “It's a constant. Don't ever think that you're good enough, you know? As bad as that sounds, there's always gonna be someone who's working harder than you. You gotta hone your craft. You're gonna get a good team if you have a good craft. Just raise your ceiling every day.”
“Don't be afraid to be patient,” Robby adds, finalizing the interview. “The right things are gonna come at the right times. I'm a very firm believer in that. Be patient, let things come to you, and if you're working really hard and putting in the time, good things are gonna come your way." Robby pauses, smiles, and adds, "I hope we gave you enough good content.”