Interviewing 'THE MXXNLIGHT'
Exciting new R&B duo THEMXXNLIGHT, comprising of identical twins Akash and Krish Chandani, made waves in the music industry when Wiz Khalifa featured them on three tracks off his 2018 album, Rolling Papers 2. A few hours after the release of a new Wiz Khalifa album, which contains two more THEMXXNLIGHT features, Maxim Mower sat down to chat with them about their unforgettable year.
MM: This is the perfect time to talk to you guys, because you’ve come full circle! This time last year, Wiz Khalifa had you all over Rolling Papers 2, and then just today his latest project, Fly Times, Vol. 1: The Good Fly Young, drops and you have a big presence on it once again. How are you guys feeling after such an amazing year?
TM: We’re feeling good, it’s pretty crazy. The feedback last time was similar, but they were mainly newer people that never knew about us. This time it was more like, ‘You did it once again!’.
How was the process different this time, working with Wiz a year on?
Well, the first time was through Sledgen [Taylor Gang’s in-house producer]. We had about eight songs, he took three of them for the album. This time, we actually went to Club Nightingale in LA, and then Wiz comes up to us and says, ‘Yo I need you to come to my house to record.’ We go to his house for twelve hours and we record five songs. It was crazy because that was the first time in the studio with him. He was writing his verses in front of us. We just wrote something for the hooks pretty fast and both songs were on repeat the whole time. It was really different as a lot of the Taylor Gang were there- it felt like more of a family.
Could you clarify if you are signed to the Taylor Gang label?
No, we’re not signed to Taylor Gang, but we are signed to Will Dzombak, who’s the CEO and founder of Taylor Gang Entertainment.
There’s a new EP ‘XX’ on the way, as well as the full length album, ‘MOOD’. Any word on when we can expect those to drop?
XX is going to be first- we want to drop that in the next couple of months. Then MOOD will hopefully come out later in the year.
I wanted to ask you about the origin of your name, ‘THEMXXNLIGHT’, and the reasoning behind switching the O’s out for X’s.
So, in Hindi our last name means ‘the moonlight’ and then we just felt like spelling it with the X’s made it more mysterious, as well as being symbolic of us being twins.
Before you secured the Rolling Papers 2 features, you were recording in your dorm room on the 2004 version of GarageBand. I wish it could make me sound like that! Have you upgraded your kit since then?
No! It’s still hella old, a really, really old version of GarageBand. I think it’s the 2007 version.
You rejected offers to play basketball at MIT and California State, and instead ended up graduating from RPI in New York with an engineering degree. A lot of readers will be at that point in their lives where they are having to choose between their degree and their hobbies. What made you take that leap of faith and opt for music over engineering and sport?
“That’s a good question! Somehow it worked out perfectly with the timing. At first, we imagined we’d play basketball for four years while doing our degrees. But within the first two or three months, we just didn’t feel a connection with the coach. We decided to drop from the team. Initially, we just made songs for fun, but by the tenth song, Wiz discovered us! That was two and a half years into making music. We graduated and then Rolling Papers 2 dropped in July. So, it didn’t really involve any leap of faith before then. It was after that album released that our parents were like, ‘Ok, you can take some time away and focus on music’. It was a family decision. Our parents said, ‘We’ll support you, and you guys can pursue this, and see how it goes’.
You’ve spoken in the past about how your sound has been heavily influenced by one of your favourite artists, The Weeknd. What drew you to his style of R&B?
In high school, we were shower singers. We always took instrumental lessons, but we were never trained vocally, and we still haven’t been, even though we want to be. We were kind of singing around campus, and then we first heard ‘The Zone’ by The Weeknd one morning before getting dropped off at school. We just thought, ‘Yo, he sounds super unique, he sounds like an angel.’ He’s Ethiopian too, and his music actually has close tie-ins with Indian music, so immediately we felt very accustomed to his sound. We did a few covers and put them out on Soundcloud. They got shared by a couple of OVO and The Weeknd fan pages. It was crazy.
What features can we expect from the upcoming EP and album?
We have one song with Chevy Woods, that’s going to be on his album in the summer, we can’t say what it’s called just yet. Then for our own projects, we have Roy Woods and Ye Ali. We've also worked with Megan Thee Stallion- she hit us up after the Wiz songs. She sent us a song which had two verses, but the hooks were blank. To be on her album would be a major honour, she’s an amazing female artist doing great things right now. Also, TM88 is producing his album sometime this year, we have a song on there that’s co-produced by Sledgren. Roy Woods has a full EP in the works and we have a collab project with him too that we’re excited about.
How does your Indian heritage play a part in your music?
It definitely plays a big part. Jay Sean inspired us a lot, it feels like the entire world still doesn’t know he’s British Indian. Obviously, NAV with XO, signed to The Weeknd, we would love to be a part of that. It’s clear that The Weeknd supports artists no matter what their culture is. Him putting on NAV was pretty crazy, and a great step for our community. Again, NAV paved the path for South Asian artists to really make it in genres other than Bollywood music.
How does it feel to be role models for minority groups pursuing careers in music?
“There is a lot of pressure to please the community so it’s hard to find the balance for us. Based on feedback from the community, I think we can be good role models. Local high schoolers come up to us like, ‘Yo, you guys are legends, you’re the biggest inspiration for the Indian community’. What’s great as well is that people from all over India are also noticing us.”
Hear THEMXXNLIGHT on Wiz Khalifa’s latest album, Fly Times, Vol.1: The Good Fly Young, and stream their most recent single ‘Good Things’.
All images provided by THEMXXNLIGHT