Most new college grads wake up thinking: Now what? After years of pulling all-nighters, doing group projects, and working too many unpaid internships to count, college culminates—in a big question mark. But for identical twins Akash and Krish Chandani, of the R&B duo THEMXXNLIGHT, there’s no question, no melodramatic panic about what lies ahead. Having landed three feature tracks on Wiz Khalifa’s “Rolling Papers 2,” which dropped this July—barely two months after graduation—the Chandani brothers have already made bigger moves in their dream careers than most 20-somethings. And having a pair of engineering degrees to fall back on doesn’t hurt either.
But how did two average Bay Area brown kids born to Indian-American immigrants get to this point? It all started as most good success stories do—with a fateful call. Or, at least in the case of the Chandanis, a fateful Tweet. The duo had been recording music in their homegrown studio since their freshman year of college and publishing their tracks on SoundCloud, amassing a modest fanbase, which included Wiz Khalifa’s right-hand man and in-house producer at Taylor Gang.
“Sledgren messaged us in July 2017 on Twitter saying he found our song, ‘Drunk’ and believed we had amazing voices and tweeted that we are ‘the future of R&B,’” say Akash and Krish say in an email interview. “And we have built an amazing relationship since then.”
On 7/13, we made history as the first ever South-Asian American R&B artist and the first Engineering majors to be featured on a mainstream platform. We are very thankful for @imsledgren @wizkhalifa and @taylorgang for helping us make the impossible, possible. Dreams really do come true. Mr. Williams (Prod. @imsledgren) All of a Sudden (Prod. @chrisdreamer & @imsledgren) Homework (Prod. @imsledgren) All 3 hooks written and sung by THEMXXNLIGHT. ROLLING PAPERS 2. Out now. ??
Unlike some identical twins, Akash and Krish relish in being each other’s halves. While Akash is two inches taller and Krish is older by an hour, the brothers are proud to share most things in common—their looks, interests, and talents.
Both, for instance, had an affinity for the arts as kids. They grew up playing multiple instruments—from the saxophone to drums, guitar, violin, and piano—as well as participating in Bollywood dance teams. Perhaps even more notable was their aptitude for sports as well as academics and the arts. Both brothers played as shooting guards, sometimes rotating between the position of point guard, saying in most games they “would both be the go-to shooters.”
The Chandanis had such an aptitude for the court, in fact, they played for their college team at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in upstate New York. It was, they say, the freedom to pursue passions in tandem that swayed their decision to enroll here specifically. But as with most college kids, their interests were bound to change a little. Music crept back into their lives when they began recording their own music at the encouragement of friends. Four years and high-profile collaboration later, it’s their number one priority.
“We always had a passion for music but never had time to explore it. During the cold winter of our freshman year in upstate New York, we decided to try out recording because some of our friends told us we had good voices. Ever since then, we haven’t looked back, and music has taken over our lives.”
In music, the brothers admit, their individuality shines. While they both contribute vocals to their tracks, they say their approach to creating music differs as do their creative strengths —Akash excelling at trap beats, while Krish at slower melodies and Indian-style vocals. They take inspiration from artists like The Weeknd and Majid Jordan as well as A.R. Rahman and Atif Aslam. It’s what the brothers say contributes to their classical yet modern interpretation of R&B. This is probably the most apparent on the track, “All of a Sudden,” which was featured on Rolling Papers 2 and follows a certain sing-songy-ness that’s classic to so many memorable Bollywood tunes.
“We don’t try to emulate or copy a sound because there is no way to attract an untapped fan base that way,” Akash and Krish say of their style. “Our sound is unique, yet familiar.”
So, what do the Chandani brothers’ parents have to say about their passion-turned-priority? In 2018, they certainly aren’t the first South Asian creatives to reject the traditional path to success that’s rooted in academics to make a name for themselves in the entertainment world. But it’s undeniably atypical, if not chock-full of stigma and risk, for a couple of fresh engineering grads to commit to careers in music—R&B at that. Like the best success stories, though, this one, too, has a set of beaming parents cheering on their talented kids to do whatever makes them… happy.
“Our parents have always been supportive of our endeavors, whether it was in sports, art, or music,” Akash and Krish say of their upbringing. “As a family, we wanted to be different and expand our horizon in terms of our impact on society. Our parents always encouraged us to pursue many activities outside of academia, which allowed us to gain many life skills and experiences at such an early age. After being featured on Wiz Khalifa’s latest album, our parents even gave us the go-ahead to do our best to make it to the top.”
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So, what’s next for THEMXXNLIGHT? The duo says they have multiple projects in the works, including an EP set to release later this month, a few Hindi-language tracks produced by Sledgren and Taylor Gang, and a full-length album, “Mood,” dropping soon after.
On the to-do list: Bollywood.