Whether you know it or not, you’ve been listening to tracks that have had electronic dance music group Cash Cash’s touch on them for nearly a decade.
The EDM group that started in a New Jersey suburb got its big break remixing tracks for top artists like Krewella (“Alive”), Kelly Clarkson (“Love So Soft”) and Bruno Mars (“Treasure”), among several others. A breakout EP released in 2008 helped the group — comprised of brothers Jean Paul Makhlouf and Alex Makhlouf and their longtime friend Sam Frisch — grab the attention of artists who wanted to remaster their pop songs to fit the increasingly popular dance music genre.
“We were always into pop music, but we loved so much from hip-hop to rock. We worked with teachers from all those different genres and got to bring them into the electronic dance music we were making, which was pretty diverse to begin with,” says Jean Paul. The group signed with Atlantic Records in 2013 and has been rolling out their own radio hits ever since, from “Take Me Home,” featuring Bebe Rexha to their latest, “Finest Hour.”
Ahead of their set at Electric Zoo’s 10th birthday bash this Labor Day weekend (Saturday), Jean Paul talks about the group’s success, creative process and more.
How did you guys first break into the music scene?
Sam and I, we’ve been playing music since we were in fifth grade. We just picked up instruments together, just playing guitar and bass with one another in our homes. Eventually we wanted to start recording music. Instead of going into studios — we realized it was too expensive and we weren’t getting our ideas out — we learned how to produce and record our own stuff. We learned from trial and error and eventually they went from sounding like little demos to professional music that found its way all over the world, on the radio, everywhere. It also helped that we were mixing for artists, because that got our hands wet with electronic music.
Cash Cash’s list of hit singles keeps growing; is there a formula for crafting an EDM radio hit?
It’s one of those things where after, or even as you’re making it, you get a feeling. When you listen back it gives you goose bumps, or it strikes something in you that is just beyond what you would normally get. But you never know, even when you think you have made something that may be one of your best, the rest of the world might not think so, and then vice versa.
You’ve worked with a growing list of pop artists, BeBe Rexha, Sofia Reyes, Conor Maynard, etc. What’s the collaboration process like?
A lot of the time, it starts off with just the music and then we start writing vocals to the music with the features, in the studio, or it’ll start with a finished vocal an artist will have and we’ll build the music to it. Sometimes we’ll do all two at the same time, and we’re building the track and the music at the same time in one room together. It really depends on the song. We produce, edit and record all the music ourselves. We have our hands on it the whole way.
Abir, of your latest hit “Finest Hour,” came to you with her lyrics and has said you completely transformed her song.
Yeah, that was a cool one. She came in and we just loved her voice. She had “Finest Hour” and we thought it was so close, like 80 percent there. There were a few lyrics that we changed at the end of the chorus. There’s little things you do that kind of bring it home and then it starts to feel like something special. So, we knew, together that we got it to 100 percent. That was pretty much it on that one though, it came together really quick. She has such a great voice. She was easy to work with.
This process involves a lot of collaboration. As a team of three, plus an artist, what happens if you guys don’t agree?
Two of us are brothers, so we really go into it a lot. But we’ve been working together for so long, we just know how to deal with each other’s anger and when we fight, we find a resolution pretty quick. Having three of us helps with that. We can roll on a majority wins basis.
What can we expect from the Cash Cash set at Electric Zoo?
Electric Zoo is going to be crazy. It’s pretty much a hometown show for us because we grew up in the tristate area and a lot of our fan base is out here. It’s just going to be an amazing moment. We played it a couple of years back and it was literally one of the loudest crowds you’ve ever heard. We have a video on our Instagram and it’s still to this day probably one of the loudest times we’ve heard crowds sing our songs. It’s just one of those things, a hometown show, you can’t beat that. It’s one of those really great experiences that you can’t really explain.
There’s just something about New York City, just like a vibe, you know, even if it’s a small club venue. … I can’t put my finger on it. It might just be the diversity of the city and the music lovers.
And doing a massive festival set like this one must add to that intensity.
Oh, totally. And all of our family and friends will come out. There will be something in the air that night. Sure.
If you go
Electric Zoo takes place Friday through Sunday at Randall’s Island Park, electriczoo.com, day passes from $89.99.