Editor’s note: For this interview, we are joined by writer and editor Jennifer Dill. Jennifer joins us on loan from her primary publication Second Society Report who covers music and culture in the local Boston, MA scene.
Diplomacy. Definition: “the profession, activity, or skill of managing international relations, typically by a country’s representatives abroad.” Alternatively, “the art of dealing with people sensitively and effectively.” Or, Diplomacy: a duo that is soon to be Silver Lake, California’s newest hit band.
Formed earlier this year, Diplomacy is the brainchild of DJ/producer Tim Wu and actor Jack Falahee. After meeting at their Michigan high school, the two stayed close over the past decade as they each pursued their creative careers. For Wu, that meant creating music under the name Elephante, and for Falahee, acting in various shows including a lead role in ABC’s How To Get Away with Murder. And while the two are no longer in their Michigan High School, their careers have led both of them to Los Angeles, where they have re-connected and formed their newest collaboration: Diplomacy.
With one song, titled “Silver Lake Queen,” out now, the duo are currently busy building their fan base and getting their name out there.
Lucky for us, Falahee and Wu were able to take some time out of their press day in New York City to chat about all things Diplomacy, new music, and even a potential tour.
To start, how are you guys today? I know it sounds like you’ve had a pretty busy morning.
Jack Falahee: Yeah, pretty good. We just did some coloring, so we both feel less stressed.
Tim Wu: Got our scrapbooking in, got our daily dose of art. Things are looking up. How are you?
That’s awesome, and I’m good! So to dive in, I know you guys both come from backgrounds other than Diplomacy and Jack you have been an actor for most of your career and Tim I know you are a DJ and producer, how is Diplomacy different from your other projects?
TW: So when we started, we really wanted to make sure it was more than just Jack singing on one of my songs, and we go way back and we know each other from high school, but we really wanted to combine that shared history from all the years we’ve known each other with all the different travels and experiences we had. We really wanted it to take on a life on its own, and just through our collaborative process and the different style of music, the different way we write the songs, we really think it emerged as its own unique combination of us, too.
How did you guys choose the musical direction of Diplomacy? I know it’s different from Elephante in a lot of ways, but how did you decide what sound or style you’d want to pursue?
TW: I think we talked a lot about our influences growing up, and what sort of sounds we both remembered fondly and inspired us. But also it really started with the lyrics and the stories that we were trying to tell. Like our new single that’s coming out in January is called “Iris” and it’s almost a scene from a movie where it’s in a dive bar basement. There’s fog and purple neon, and it’s sort of what sort of sounds do I think of, what sort of textures do I think of, and oh I want something gooey and rich and dripping, so it sort of followed the story we are trying to tell.
I know you just mentioned a new single, are you guys planning to release an EP or album in the future?
JF: We have that single coming out, and then in February at an undisclosed time, we’re putting an EP out. And you know Tim’s on tour right now with Elephante, and I’m filming right now, so we’re both busy, but on our days off we’ve been getting in the studio and working on an album that will be released at some time in the future, but who knows when.
Is that EP going to follow the same vibe as “Silver Lake Queen” and “Iris” or is every track going to be different?
JF: I mean, they definitely sound different, but there is a bit of a narrative through-line. A lot of the songs were inspired by some of my personal diary entries, so they are organically became this sort of, these little vignettes of my memory that Tim and I expanded on, abstracted and fictionalized, so they’re definitely is some themes and motifs that you see span across the EP. So hopefully, it is a little bit of a story that listeners can go on with us.
When you guys are writing songs, what comes first, the music or the lyrics? Do you split up who does what, or do you do everything as a collaborative effort?
TW: They go hand and hand, really. You try to find sounds that inspire memories and lyrics that inspire sounds. As Jack mentioned, we were working, a lot of the songs were born out of us going through his diary. He was brave enough to let me kind of read through some stories he had written down, and I found this really wonderful stream of consciousness prose and just digging through that and finding what interested us. We’re always in the room together writing and coming up with ideas, and then I would kind of go off and fill it out on the producing side and then send it over to Jack, and then Jack would sit with it, and then he would come back, and it was a really collaborative effort.
I know you mentioned you have known each other since high school, so why did you choose to just start Diplomacy now? Why not before?
JF: Yeah, I mean it took us a little bit of a winding road for us to both get out to LA pursuing our individual careers, and even longer than that for us to get a strong footing in our careers and to gain the confidence I think that you need in order to survive in our respective industries. And I think through that maturation we were both able to get to a point where we could then collaborate together on something.
And I know for me, as a first-time musician I guess, there is a lot more vulnerability in writing music than in acting, perhaps. Because you know, at the end of the day on a set, I show up and I’m saying someone else’s lines that they’ve written, and someone else is directing me, and someone else is editing my performance together, and at the end of the day I’m just a part of a machine really. But with music, you’re putting yourself on the line, especially as an independent musician. So I think it took a bit of nudging on Tim’s part to help me along, but we’re finally here.
Have you always been pursuing a career in music? I know, Jack, you got your start at NYU in the Tisch school, so you have a drama background, but were you always interested in creating your own music, or is that something Tim kinda helped pushed you along with too?
JF: Yeah, I mean I went to Tisch for musical theater, so I originally had aspirations of doing broadway musicals- and still do- but that’s sort of where I saw myself, and then my acting career took me into a different direction, which fortunately brought Tim and I back together on the west coast. I had a certain amount of envy watching Tim’s career take off, and frankly, at the end of the day I would go to the Elephante concerts and be like “well shit that looks fun,” (laughs).
I have definitely seen a lot of clips of them on your Instagram (laughs).
JF: Yeah, they’re a blast. If you have a chance, you should probably go!
I will definitely check it out if I see a show come to Boston! A question for Tim now, I know you’ve been making music for some time under Elephante, but have you always wanted to have two different projects going on? Is there any reason why you’re doing two different genres, are you going to continue with Elephante or do you want Diplomacy to sort of take over?
TW: No, I love the Elephante stuff. That is certainly going to continue and go strong. You know, I have a bit of an untraditional background compared to other producers in dance music. I grew up as a singer/songwriter with a guitar and singing, so the Diplomacy stuff was born out of a desire- I was making songs and doing stuff that wasn’t really dance stuff ,and it was always a fun thing for me. But then to have Diplomacy to really push the boundaries of what I was making and we did consider just having Jack sing over some Elephante music, but it became apparent that we wanted it to be something more than that and to take on a life of it’s own. But yeah, it’s just one of those things where I’m a big – my philosophy is to make things you’re excited by and figure out what to do with it later, and just figure out what works for the art. You know, Diplomacy in a way was really creatively refreshing for the Elephante stuff, too, because it let me get some stuff out that I was trying to shoehorn into Elephante, but also got me excited about some new stuff. So [Diplomacy] really is just another side of me.
What other artists influence your sound or what you hope for Diplomacy to become? Are there any artists you listen to and think ‘wow I really want to take this from them, or this sound from this person,” etc.?
TW: The Killers meets Lana Del Ray meets Flume. We have that sort of alt-rock thing that we loved growing up, and the singer-songwriter elements of Lana, and then incorporating some of the electronic elements from the stuff I’ve developed as Elephante.
Very nice! So why the name Diplomacy? What does that mean to you guys?
JF: It started out in LA we would have these weekly check-ins to make sure that we were both keeping our heads above water and we would just sit down and play board games, and one board game was this board game called Diplomacy. And Tim and I had gone back and forth about “should we-shouldn’t we” start a band, and I was sort of badgering him like “What would we even call it?” and Tim looked down and said, “Diplomacy.” It started as a sort of a joke, but as we started writing the music, we noticed all of these dichotomies in our music of the past and future self, like who you are, who you want to become. Tim and I’s shared backgrounds but different pursuits professionally, and just all of these different negotiations in our lives, and what ended up being very present in the music.
Definitely a unique story. And my last question for you guys is what do you hope for listeners to take away from your music?
TW: I think it’s just really important for us to create a world around the music. It is very based in very real, very raw stories, and we just wanna, we encourage listeners to just dive into the world. Dive into the visual content, into the music videos, Instagram content. To us, it’s more than just a song. If you like the song, that’s great, but we want to give fans and listeners more than just that three-minute experience. Just dive in, and put your own life into it. See how it makes you feel and create your own story out of it.
Actually one last thing- can fans expect a tour from you any time soon or will that be in the distant, distant future?
JF: I mean, yeah, I think probably, in the future… at some point. Best case scenario fans should reference an ouija board and figure out tour dates that are definitely happening sometime between now and our being deceased (laughs). Sorry, I can’t be more specific.
No, I understand. And I think asking an ouija board is probably the best way to find anything out.
JF: Yes, but be careful with that.
TW: Don’t conjure any evil spirits
Make sure you have sage ready to burn.
TW: Safety first.
And any last things you’d like to share that maybe I didn’t ask?
JF: I don’t think so, but if people are feeling stressed, we highly recommend coloring or scrapbooking. It did wonders for us today.
I will definitely make a note of that. Thank you for your time, and I look forward to seeing what you guys put out next!
JF + TW: Thank you! We appreciate your support.
Be sure to check out Diplomacy’s debut single “Silver Lake Queen” available now, and keep your eyes peeled January 18th for their next release “Iris.”