In the five years since Chicago high-school students Robby Hauldren and Freddy Kennett met at a Madeon concert and subsequently formed Louis the Child, the two have enjoyed an eye-popping ascent as artists, producers, and remixers — establishing themselves, in the process, as genre-defying innovators and an exciting young voice in American electronic music. They have racked up more than 100 million streams of their singles (breakthrough hit “It’s Strange” featuring K.Flay, “Weekend” featuring Icona Pop, “Fire” featuring Evalyn, and latest single “Right to It” featuring Ashe), remixes (Chance The Rapper’s “All Night,” Miike Snow’s “Genghis Khan,” and Ty Dolla Sign’s “Blasé”), and the tracks on their well-received 2017 EP Love Is Alive. Kennett also helped write one of 2016’s biggest hits, “Closer” by The Chainsmokers. Early tours supporting Madeon, The Chainsmokers, and Big Gigantic have given way to headlining runs, including this fall’s Last To Leave tour, and appearances at such major festivals as Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, Outside Lands, Electric Forest, Austin City Limits, and Coachella.
It was when Louis The Child were invited to perform at Coachella last year that Hauldren and Kennett realized that they “had made it to the next rung on the ladder,” as Hauldren, 21, puts it. He found out they had been offered a slot in the Sahara Tent while standing in his dorm room at the University of Southern California, where he was a freshman studying music business. “It was wild to think that all these kids in my dorm were going to this festival that I’m going to play,” he recalls. “Then we get there and the stage is humongous. We pulled up in a golf cart and the whole tent was full. We played in the afternoon and I was expecting to see an open field in the back, but we walked out and it was like, ‘Wow, I don’t see any grass.’ There were just people everywhere.”
Those festival-goers were no doubt drawn to Louis The Child’s irresistible electronic/pop blend, their sonic versatility, and the emotional range they’ve displayed on such feel-good, stadium-ready anthems as “It’s Strange” (“a love song about connection,” says Kennett, 20) that has over 34 million streams, “Weekend,” which features a beat Kennett made while on a cruise with his family, and now their latest, the lilting, summery “Right to It.” Of the latter, Hauldren says: “Freddy started playing this bass line and everyone was like, ‘Yes, that.’ It’s crazy when you have that kind of energy in a room where all of a sudden everyone is instantly inspired. We wrote the entire song a couple of hours later. It has a Sunday barbeque, day-drinking type of vibe. We were like, ‘Let’s just write a song that would feel incredible when you’re hanging out, just kicking it on a beautiful day.’” “When it comes to writing, we like to make sure a song is emotive and tells a story that people can relate to,” adds Kennett. “We like clear emotion and making people feel connected.”
Both Kennett and Hauldren felt the transformative power of music at a young age. Kennett started on piano, learning notes and scales and then became enamored with the drums at nine. “My next-door neighbor was playing drums up in his attic and I could hear the noise coming through the open window,” he says. “I wandered over and asked him to teach me. I was like, ‘I need to learn whatever it is you’re doing.’” Kennett studied jazz drumming through Chicago’s Midwest Young Artists program, where he was introduced to classic and jazz theory, while also gravitating toward alternative rock artists like Modest Mouse and Black Keys. In seventh grade, he discovered British dubstep artist Rusko, which sparked his love for electronic music.
Hauldren grew up in a musical family. His grandfather, Lynn, wrote the ubiquitous Empire Carpet jingle and originated the bespectacled Empire Man character in the TV commercials, and his cousins are opera singer Matthew Polenzani and indie folk-singer Rose Polenzani. Hauldren’s father played guitar and piano and introduced his son to classic rock artists like Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin. “I think having a dad who played guitar and piano, and wanting to be like him, I was like, ‘I want to play the guitar, too.’” Hauldren took piano lessons, then learned drums and guitar. He played in a few bands and was DJ’ing under the name Haul Pass before meeting Kennett, who was producing tracks as Fatboy, one fateful March night at a Madeon show in 2012.
Both students at New Trier High School in the Chicago suburb of Winnetka, Kennett and Hauldren bonded over Madeon, Skrillex, and Porter Robinson, and started creating tracks together. They dubbed themselves Louis the Child and began performing at small venues over the next few years, building word-of-mouth through the numerous remixes they put on Soundcloud. “When we were first starting out, we were 15 and 16 years old,” Hauldren says. “No one wanted to bring a 15- and 16-year-old into a club, especially since we weren’t going to bring people in, so we couldn’t get shows. We figured ‘Let’s focus on releasing music on the internet and get the whole world to see us and build the demand there.”
Then in 2015 Taylor Swift included “It’s Strange” in a list of “New Songs That Will Make Your Life Awesome (I Promise)” that she posted to her social media. Lorde tweeted out the song’s lyrics, and the following year, “It’s Strange” was included on the FIFA 16 video game soundtrack. Doors began to open. Big support tours and festival gigs began to materialize and Louis the Child were on their way.
“I think our music connects with people because we don’t just draw from one source,” says Kennett of their eclectic sound. “We draw from everything. That’s how people listen to music these days and so do we. We love electronic, pop, hop-hip, indie, jazz. We don't want Louis The Child to be restricted to any one genre. We just want to make modern music.” Adds Hauldren: “And we hope it makes people feel happy, inspired, and connected.”