Rising melodic bass duo ARMHMR has quickly grown into one of the most successful acts in all of electronic music. With official remixes for the Chainsmokers and Adventure Club accumulating millions of plays and support from just about every major DJ around the world, it's safe to say that this duo is headed nowhere but to the top of the scene. With over 68k followers in the first year of going public on Soundcloud, ARMHMR has made a name for themselves by cultivating unique experiences with each and every track they release.
By intertwining their film scoring roots with captivating melodies, unconditional samples, surprising breaks, and cinematic intros, Joseph Abella and Joseph Chung come together to create a group unlike any other in the game. Their latest original release "WANT U" has quickly racked up over 200k plays in the first two weeks of going public. I was lucky enough to catch up with these humble individuals making thier Colorado debut at a sold out Global Dub Festival at the historic Red Rocks Ampitheatre this past weekend.
This epic set ranged from Boombox Cartel's "Alamo" to Eptic & Trampa's remix of "Get With the Program", RL Grime's "Reims", Marshmello's remix of "Alarm", Donald Buck's "Bloodclat", and San Holo's "Light" followed by the Crankdat remix to compliment multiple unreleased tracks along with fan favorites such as their newest remix of the Chainsmoker's & Coldplay's "Something Just Like This". All in all, this set was nothing but absolute perfection from start to finish. Our conversation was both insightful and motivating to anyone looking to get involved in music either as a fan or as a producer. At first glimpse this interview might seem a little lengthy but I can assure you it's worth reading from start to finish. With out further adu, I'm proud to present an interview with some of the most hospitable artist I've dealt with in quite some time.
*BFS = Bass Feeds the Soul JA = Joseph Abella JC = Joseph Chung*
BFS: Wow guys that set was absolutely incredible! What was your experience like getting to perform at Red Rocks to all those people?
JA: The crowd was absolutely amazing. This was a once in a lifetime experience.
JC: We’ve heard so much about this venue and to be able to play it is an absolute dream come true.
BFS: Awesome! Glad to hear it. Dating back to the beginning, what originally got you guys into music? Was this venue an inspiration for you at any point?
JA: Definitely. Red Rocks is one of those legendary venues that you just have to play. For years as we were coming up in the scene we idolized certain locations and getting the chance to play this venue in particular was extremely fulfilling.
JC: We originally made music because we absolutely love it. Music is our passion and to be able to step on that stage and perform for thousands of people was just icing on the cake.
BFS: For sure! In my opinion one of the reasons you guys were able to get to this point so fast was because of how mindful you were of building up ARMHMR as a business and a brand rather than just as a hobby. Would you mind speaking a bit about the creation of the group and what this idea of branding means to you?
JC: To begin with, ARMHMR was created because I listened to a lot of old school electronic music (Boys Noize, MSTRKRFT, Digitalism). I loved the directions they were going in and I loved the alliteration of removing vowels and changing up the spelling. As far as the business side of things, if you love a project so much that you want to do it for the rest of your life, you HAVE to treat it as a business in order to maintain that longevity and stay relevant. We love building up this project as a business because it means doing anything needed in order to make it succeed.
JA: Building something from the ground up is hands down the coolest thing we’ve ever been a part of. We started off playing the side rooms with only one or two people and to be able to grow this project into what it’s become today for people that we’ve never met to enjoy is so amazing and inspiring.
BFS: Would you mind speaking about your life before ARMNHMR?
JA: I was studying to be an engineer in college. I don’t think I would have gotten to the point I am today if it hadn’t been for meeting Joe. It’s crazy how things work out in a certain way because I was already on track to do something else.
JC: This project was fate. That’s the most special part about it. We were both on track to do completely different things and at the time Joe was a film major and I was a public health major. Something hit and there was a reason why we met.
BFS: What does the name ARMNHMR mean?
JC: It was originally spelled “Arm & Hammer”. As I mentioned before I was super into guys like MSTRKRFT and I loved the way their name looked. I decided to do the same thing with the spelling of our name and that’s how ARMNHMR came to be. This was 5 years ago by the way so taking out vowels in your name wasn’t really a thing back then. And to be honest, if I could change the name today would I do it? F*ck Yea. I’m not afraid to say it. But, I will say that ARMNHMR has turned into a household name and that’s a really beautiful thing in and of itself.
BFS: It’s only been a year since you guys have gone public. I’m sure there was a ton of work that went into your career prior to releasing your first track. Would you mind speaking about the hard work and perseverance that got you to the point you’re at today?
JC: Behind every successful artist there are so many things that you don’t see. 4 or 5 years of countless grinding. We came up through the club scene where you literally needed to bring a certain amount of people or you weren’t going to get booked again. We had to do SO much work to get these people into these clubs. Fast forward to now and we got through it. It just goes to show how much you can achieve if you just keep going. You gotta keep working no matter what.
BFS: What advice do you have to producers who have been producing for a long time and feel like giving up because they haven’t quite found their sound or they haven’t been able to make an impact on the scene in the way that they had originally hoped? For you guys, I think you blew up so quickly because you hit this melodic bass scene at the perfect time. How did you develop your sound into what it is today?
JA: For the real OG ARMNHMR fans, we did Melbourne house and we did progressive house. You name a genre coming up between 2012 and 2015 and we did it. For any producers out there who are struggling, just work on recreating your favorite tracks. With time and perseverance you will have an “ah-ha” moment where you realize that you can create anything that you want. You need to have the ability to fight through those brick walls. I think everyone is capable but not everyone is dedicated. We’ve been doing this for 5 years and beyon anything else we want to connect with our fans by showing that we are not extraordinary people. We put in the time and the effort and kept pushing despite seeing people fail around us and now here we are today playing one of the most legendary venues on the planet.
JC: There are so many people who have put in a tremendous amount of time and got nowhere. That’s definitely extremely unfortunate but at the end of the day it’s all about who you invest in. From both a business and a personal level your friends and close acquaintances are 100% going to be the ones who help you get over that wall. You need to make sure they know how important this is to you because this is truly all or nothing. People don’t really understand that concept until they’ve been there but we don’t have a plan B. It’s both a blessing and a curse because we don’t want to have a plan B but it’s definitely a bit unnerving to recognize that if this doesn’t work, we’re screwed.
BFS: Definitely! Following that idea I don’t think a lot of people realize the monetary commitment that comes along with launching a brand. Whether it’s pouring money into marketing, promotion, or social media platforms could you talk a bit about what this commitment has been like for you as group and how you’ve developed the team that you work with today?
JC: We put a LOT of money into making sure that ARMNHMR grows. We work so hard because ARMNHMR is our career and it needs to keep growing in order for us to succeed. You need to sacrifice your income. These are the things that really make or break how serious you are about your brand. Our manager Alex is willing to go to the ends of the earth to make sure ARMNHMR grows. In the past, Joe was struggling just to pay rent. But that’s what you have to do in order for your brand to succeed. You need to put all your money into the brand. If you don’t succeed and you aren’t investing everything back into your brand, that’s exactly why you aren’t succeeding.
BFS: What advice would you have for artists looking to launch a brand. What’s the RIGHT way to launch a profile?
JC: INTEGRITY. How bad do you want it? Are you sad to the point where you’re depressed that you aren’t doing well? How important is this to you? To Joe and me this is literally everything to us. We’ve been working SO hard for 5 years straight to get to this point. How much are you willing to sacrifice in order to succeed? You need to put it all on the line. It’s not all just about the music. In a perfect world it would be all about the music but in the world we live in today, you NEED to treat it like a business. Otherwise, you’re not going to get close to succeeding. It’s tough but that’s just how it is.
BFS: Couldn’t agree more. I was looking back over your profile and I notice from the very first track you guys put up you started amassing crazy stats. I know this has to do with the quality and creativity of the track but would you mind speaking a bit about the promotion that went into your first few releases in order to get it in the ears of the right people?
JA: Make friends. Make genuine relationships. We’ve come up with a lot of producers that are thriving today. We all help each other grow. We use competition in a healthy way. Being social and being able to get your name out there in the producer community is such a huge thing.
JC: You gotta invest in your friends. This is why we do well. We have so many important people around us. Quality over quantity. That’s exactly what we do. Our friends will go to the ends of the earth for us and that’s exactly why we’re here playing this venue today.
BFS: This musical community you guys are currently involved in whether it be the Chainsmokers or Adventure Club is obviously a huge deal and something that producers around the world would kill for. Would you mind speaking about how you established these relationships?
JC: We got lucky! It’s all about luck sometime. The Chainsmokers supported our original track “Fallen”. Scott from Slander heard it and thought it was dope and ended up sending it over to Alex from the Chainsmokers. From there on, the rest is history.
BFS: Totally! As far as gaining the respect of other successful producers what were some of the first ways you guys got yourselves on the radars of people who you looked up to but had never met?
JA: I think it’s just about putting yourself out there. We tried to meet as many people as possible because I think most people are genuine once you really get to know them. It’s about putting yourself out there and for a lot of producers this can be tough because we all have social anxiety and for the most part we’re all introverts at heart. It takes a special kind of person to be able to sit in front of a computer screen for 16 hours a day. You gotta get out of your comfort zone because you never know when the next person you meet might change your life forever. We were fortunate enough to grow up in the LA scene where producers like Slander and NGHTMRE were coming up right around us. I actually used to live with a few ICON graduates even though neither of us went to ICON ourselves. Making those key and genuine relationships are what really matter in life. When you meet these huge artists (the Chainsmokers, Adventure Club), they recognize that we’re genuine and it helps to build a friendship based off of trust rather than stats.
BFS: So you mentioned that you didn’t attend ICON. I take it you didn’t have much formal production and musical theory training growing up then?
JC: Neither of us had any formal music training. We both used to be in bands but that's about it. He played the guitar and I played the tenor and alto saxophone. I’m not saying don’t go to ICON but I am saying that it is very possible to do it without it.
BFS: Definitely! I feel like that’s a huge problem for our generation because people feel like they NEED to go to college in order to be successful when in reality there are so many producers all around us that didn’t go to college and are thriving today. Illenium is on this bill tonight and he’s a perfect example of how far you can get without a formal education.
JC: I agree! I think that’s where the resilience and perseverance comes from. Are you really willing to sacrifice everything? If you’re not then dude, you’re not cut out for it.
JA: For all the kids out there, when you’re in college or just growing up for that matter, if you know that you want to do music then you NEED to commit yourself to it. It does get harder the older you grow. In some regards we wish we had started when we were younger but at the same time it’s great because things are working out exactly as we had hoped. You really need to put in the time when you have.
BFS: How did your parents feel about you guys committing to music full time?
JA: To be completely honest growing up in an Asian-American family it was tough to tell my parents that I wanted to do music with my life. I don’t mean to be stereo-typical but it was hard to explain to our parents what we were doing. They were definitely supportive of us but I could tell at the same time that they were somewhat reserved because they had no idea what this path had in store. They won’t tell me that they don’t want me doing music but I know in their minds they’re hesitant because at the end of the day art is subjective. You can’t say something is good or bad because something that’s amazing to you might suck to someone else.
JC: My dad was a famous singer in Korea and my mom was a dancer and my sister was a singer who had great success in music on Youtube. In a lot of ways I was set up to do this an I’m extremely lucky to have been raised in such a musical environment.
BFS: Awesome well I’m really glad everything has been working out well so far! Are you guys ready to answer a few lightning round questions real fast?
Definitely! Let’s do this.
JA: Chinese Food
JC: Chicken Breast
Xbox or Playstation?
Favorite Game on those systems?
JA: Destiny. But I will say we’re more computer guys. We love League of Legends.
What’s something that’s overrated and underrated?
JC: Hennesy is overrated. Tequila is underrated.
JA: Yeezy’s are overrated! Clash of clans is underrated.
Pet peeve and/or something that's unacceptable?
JC: When people ask too many questions. When people ask me too many questions beyond what I need to know it gets exhausting.
JA: Non-productive time. I can’t conceptualize the act of being bored when there are always so many great things to do.
BFS: I hope I’m not falling into the realm of asking too many questions right now!
Oh no definitely not! We’re having a great time and appreciate you taking the time to interview us this has been an awesome conversation.
BFS: For sure! Well just to wrap things up here I know you had mentioned how you hate wasting time. In my personal experience when I’ve really dedicated myself to something I’ve noticed that it tends to both positively and negatively effect the relationships around me. Have you guys had any similar experiences in your lives?
JC: For me personally, it was tough at first. At the end of the day, it’s who you hang out with and who you associate with. when they see you succeed they’ll understand why you didn’t want to go out on those Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. The friends who accept you for who you really are are the ones who you need to cherish because they really know you better than anyone else. When we played at NRG last night, those are the friends who came out to support us. And they’ve seen us play a million times! But it’s super cool that these same people are there for you when you have nothing to when you’re finally succeeding.
JA: Your close friends will know how much you sacrifice. I’ve had to turn down going out so many times. The ones who stay around and are genuinely invested in your success are the ones who care about your happiness. Ultimately you need to be happy with yourself.
BFS: Definitely! it seems like you guys are super happy with yourselves and it’s a huge testament to why you’ve been able to build this project into what it is today!
JA: We have the coolest jobs in the world man. We get to go around the world and meet people we would have never met otherwise. I have absolutely nothing to be upset about.
BFS: Cool well just a couple of quick producer questions for those who are still reading! If you could only have 3 VST’s what would you use?
JC: Sylenth, Sausage Fattener, and Spire
JA: Valhalla, Serum, and Neutron
BFS: When you guys were finally perfecting your sound, how did you feel about using presets?
JA: We tried to be as original as possible. The more we grew as producers the further we tried to distance ourselves from using sounds that other people had created. In order to stand out you’ve got to use your own samples and patches.
JC: I mean you CAN use presets but what works for us is we sample things that other people wouldn’t normally think to sample. I by no means think it’s wrong to sample other people’s stuff but figuring out how to make it work is crucial.
JA: And when I say sampling we mean like taking a random ass baby’s laugh and turning it into something completely new and unique. I don’t necessarily condone exactly sampling something from someone else’s track but rather figuring out how to use a certain sample in a way that’s out of the box. Don’t try to be someone else. You need to try to pave your own path.
BFS: For sure guys and I think something that stands out to me the most about you guys is those epic cinematic intros. Would you mind talking about how those come into existence and what gave you the inspiration to do them?
JA: Those ideas are all around us. As a film major I was super into foley and soundscapes. The idea of setting an atmosphere is huge especially in music.
JC: We take the element of surprise very seriously. What can we do to refresh something that’s already been done. In my opinion a good intro is a great way to captivate the listener.
BFS: Totally! As a closing thought here where do you guys see the whole melodic bass scene headed over the next few years? Are there any elements that are really standing out to you guys?
JC: Melodic music is continually on the rise. We’re really about creating tracks that are timeless. 10 or 15 years from now what am I going to be listening to? If we can make timeless music then I think people will always be able to relate back regardless of what year it is.
JA: I think authenticity is huge. We try to be authentic to ourselves and to us, ARMHMR is being able to show everyone that we’re just regular guys who happen to be able to portray our lives through our music.
BFS: Awesome well thank you guys so much this has been a phenomenal conversation!
JC: THANK YOU!!!!
JA: Thanks so much man it’s been a blast!
Keep up with ARMNHMR via these socials:
Interview Conducted and Transcribed By: Cooper Turley