How Cash Cash Went From Warped Tour To EDM Triple Threat
If you were a pop-punk obsessed preteen like I was, you listened to Cash Cash way before their EDM hit “Take Me Home” featuring Bebe Rexha debuted in 2013.
I saw Cash Cash live for the first time at a small venue in Northern Virginia called Jammin’ Java. It was a coffee shop by day, live music venue by night, and my mom loved it because it was a 15 minute drive from our house, plus she felt that it was safe enough that she could allow my sister and I to have fun at the concert without her supervision. Jean Paul Makhlouf sang the lyrics to their most well known song at the time, “Party In Your Bedroom” and jumped into the crowd of about 50 pre-teen girls who fawned over him.
The last time I saw Cash Cash was at Marquee Day Club in Las Vegas. There were thousands of partiers in attendance, no pre-teens in sight, and my mom probably wouldn’t approve of this venue quite as much.
Cash Cash always had an electronic influence and synth-pop sound, but how did they go from opening for bands like Cobra Starship (who have since essentially disappeared from the charts) to headlining some of the biggest clubs and festivals in the US?
We talked to Jean Paul Malkhouf, 1/3 of the Cash Cash trio, about transitioning from artist to producer to DJ, working with some of today’s biggest talent, and how music genres are changing.
When I spoke with Jean Paul, he was back in New Jersey, at the trios home studio. When I asked where he was off to next, he trailed off…
“I never know where I’m going until a couple days before,” Jean Paul admitted. “It’s all a blur.”
The DJ group is constantly jetting from the East coast to the West coast, as they have residencies at Marquee in Vegas and Premiere nightclub in Atlantic City. They recently filmed their music video for “Broken Drum” at Marquee and in Vegas’ surrounding areas over Memorial Day Weekend.
“The whole three days were just over the top,” said Jean Paul. “We started out in the desert and saw some areas of Vegas that we didn’t even know existed. They were so breathtaking and gorgeous. You see some of it when you’re flying in, but it’s not the same when you’re in it. We were driving in these awesome old cars and we had drones. There was like a broken down plane sticking out of the ground, old cars, crazy vintage shit.”
“Broken Drum” is a track from their just recently released album, “Blood, Sweat, and 3 Years,” has been three years in the making. The album rocketed to the #1 spot in the Itunes Dance chart. Many of their previously released singles, such as the previously mentioned Bebe Rexha track, are included in the album. Although they hadn’t released an album for three years, it didn’t deter them from touring constantly and releasing hits. The question is, do DJs even need to release albums? Does anyone even need to release albums in a culture where hardly anyone buys physical copies of CDs anymore?
“It’s tough to answer. I’d say albums aren’t as important to fans as they are to artists nowadays. We grew up with albums and having them define part of our lives. I can throw on an album and say, ‘that’s college,’ or ‘that’s high school,’ or ‘that’s when I broke up with my ex girlfriend.'” (Jean Paul credits Jimmy Eat World’s “Bleed American” as the album that got him through his heartbreak, in case you were wondering.)
“I think there are music lovers who still feel that. The few artists that put albums out, people gravitate towards them. David Guetta and Calvin Harris put out albums and they’re great. We’d been doing singles and we decided we’d do an album. It basically encompasses everything it’s the last three years, new songs, it is what it says it is. It’s our blood, sweat, and the last three years.”
But even earlier than three years ago, Cash Cash was still making music under the same name. Jean Paul, his brother Alex, and Samuel Frisch came together under the name Cash Cash officially in 2008 (they had been playing music under a previous name prior to that). They signed with Universal Republic Records and toured with other bands with similar sounds such as Metro Station, Breathe Carolina, Forever The Sickest Kids, and Cobra Starship.
“We were always an electronic pop band…we were always producing our own music, so it was a smooth transition,” says Jean Paul. “We were doing remixes for other artists right when we started. Our drummer left the group and we wanted to keep playing shows. We started DJing and doing some performances. It was a really slow process, it was kind of just the way things were going. When we left our first record deal we said, ‘let’s just focus on being producers and recording and working with other artists, singers, rappers.’ We loved writing songs and producing. All of a sudden EDM started to bubble online with the blogs and festivals and it gave producers a chance to be artists. We could suddenly be producers and artists at the same time.”
Jean Paul says that he doesn’t miss singing, for the most part.
“We still do acoustic versions like ‘Take Me Home’ with Bebe or ‘Aftershock’ with Jackie Lee. “We’ll all sing harmonies and stuff. Every once in a while I get to sing and have fun. We have so much more fun working with artists that can take things so much further than my voice.”
Although him and his brother no longer sing, they do play a large role in writing lyrics for those that do sing on their tracks.
“That’s the one thing that differentiates us from a lot of producer DJs. A lot of them don’t have time [to write lyrics], they just get a capellas and add music. There are three of us, so we have more time.”
Some of their featured artists, like Bebe Rexha, are brought to Cash Cash’s home studio in New Jersey.
“They meet my parents and stuff. It’s great, we like to be really connected with the artists.”
Other artists, like Nelly or Christina Perri, spend all day in LA studios with Cash Cash.
“We just partied with [Nelly] until like, 5 in the morning. We’re very hands on with all the artists. Sometimes, like on “Devil,” [with] Busta Rhymes, we did most of it over the phone and we told him what we wanted…but, there’s only so much you can do on Skype and via internet.
Although Cash Cash’s sound has changed slightly and eight years have gone by since the formation of the group, their fans have grown with them.
“They’ll come up to us and say, ‘I’ve been with Skrillex when he was in [From First To Last],’ same with Breathe Carolina. It’s just music lovers, they see the transition. Some fans are like, ‘I’m really glad you’ve found and refined your sound.'”
Makhlouf sees festivals as an example of how people are diversifying their music tastes rather than sticking to one or two genres.
“At Firefly we played the dance stage and thought no one would be there, but everyone from Foo Fighters came to our stage and watched our set. Listening to one genre of music is boring, there’s so much out there. EDM is open to that. You also see that in our album with merging genres.”
He cites Owl Black, Avicii, and Walk The Moon at other artists who are crossing over genres.
“It’s exciting when you see these collaborations, it keeps taking it further and further.”
Cash Cash spent three years perfecting their debut album, and when you see the list of talent included in the credits, you can see why.
“We wanted to make a really diverse record, we didn’t want to put out a bunch of random songs that all sound the same. We mashed them up together getting guys like Busta Rhymes, Christina Perri; [people] on the opposite end of EDM. It’s fun for us to just mix different genres, I think we definitely succeeded.”