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Interview: Milky Chance

Despite the way I waste my life away in this endless pit of cyberspace I somehow missed Milky Chance’s meteoric and swift rise to Internet stardom. I actually first heard them at a music festival when my sister dragged me to their set. I was apprehensive about watching a band at the main stage whose name is Milky Chance (what does it mean?!) but obviously the point of this story is that they ended up impressing the shit out of me.

Milky Chance are a rare band with a genuinely pleasant success story and a lack of ill sentiment towards the music industry. Their rise was quick and seemingly painless — after uploading and releasing their debut album Sadnecessary, the duo found overnight fame thanks in large part to the success of their first single “Stolen Dance.” In the four years between Sadnecessary and Blossom, Milky Chance have not released a single thing. Instead they’ve been on nonstop victory tours hitting every town and music festival humanly possible.

On March 17th Clemens Rehbein and Philipp Dausch, the duo behind Milky Chance, will release their second album Blossom which is neither a massive sonic departure nor a sophomore slump. The bare bones of the new record are the same as the first — strong spaced out drum beats, slow and simple guitars and an eclectic sound inspired by all corners of the musical map. The rest of Blossom however, is more developed, complex and mature. The crux of Blossom is still the rhythms laid out by guitars and drums, but their repertoire has expanded to include piano, bass and essentially every other instrument under the sun.

The record is surprisingly long — 14 tracks with 5 bonus acoustic tracks. Blossom begins on a peak with it’s title track, echoing soft synth that builds into layered guitars bouncing off the walls of their insular world. Milky Chance then shifts gears as they demonstrate the full unbounded potential of their genre-bending, with the conga drum laden, reggae infused “Clouds.” They hit one of several high points on “Bad Things” which features Izzy Bizu as they intertwine their voices in a discussion about the worth of a relationship. Blossom ends with “Heartless” which echoes the same raspy strained vocals and difficult emotions of “Feathery,” the final track of Sadnecessary.

Before the release of Blossom, and it’s accompanying Before Blossom tour, I hopped on the phone with vocalist and guitar player Clemens for a pre-tour chat.

What are you guys getting up to in the last few days before the tour?

Clemens: The tour starts in London where we have our first show. We’ve just been in Kassel doing rehearsals for the last few days, we’re preparing for the shows and working everything out. This is the first time we’re actually playing most of the songs from the new album on a real tour. Last year we played three of the songs, as a preview, just to seem some reactions you know? We’ll play like 70% new stuff and 30% old stuff, a mixture.

Do you guys still live in your hometown, Kassel?

Clemens: Yeah we still live here, we haven’t moved. The last three or four years… all that crazy stuff happened to us very fast — all that touring, being on the road for several months and seeing so many different places, it’s like a rollercoaster. We found out that its very healthy for us and keeps us feeling good too, to come back home to Kassel where we’re surround by all our families. It’s just a really good place where we feel very rooted and safe.

It’s been four years since Sadnecessary,why did Blossom take so long?

Clemens: Oh man [laughs]. We were just really busy! If you come to a city — like you go to New York and you play a show there, most of the people want you to come back but there are also four other continents where you go touring, it just takes a lot of time to tour the world [laughs].

That honestly makes sense, I guess it’s just that with the internet music gets released so quickly now, the pace is so fast.

Clemens: The world we live in right now, the 21st century it’s really fast, too fast you know? I would love to be living back in the day where everything is a little slowed down [laughs]. It also has advantages you can connect with people all around the world very easily no matter where you’re from or what your background is which is also really cool.

Speaking of—what’s your relationship like with the Internet considering how it played into the success of “Stolen Dance?”

Clemens: Nowadays it’s really important if you want to be a musician — social media, Facebook, Instagram. Its the way you connect to the fans and the people directly. Soundcloud, YouTube all the stuff its really cool especially for the beginning, if you don’t have a label company working for you, or radios playing your song you can just upload it to YouTube and maybe it blows up, or not! But also because everyone can do it, it may be kind of hard to be seen or to be heard.

Are you sick of playing “Stolen Dance?”

Clemens: [laughs] No, we’re actually not. We change it sometimes when we are playing it live. The cool thing about playing it live is that every song feels different, every day is a different day. You can put in different emotions every night, if one day you feel really angry or really sad you can just put your emotions into it so it can feel different every show. It makes it work for us, or for me [laughs].

Are you guys still on your own record label?

Clemens: Yes kind of, I mean it’s a really long story, we have our own but its a different one than we had before. It just never seemed to be working out for us because it became too big. In the beginning we were just five people like “hey yeah lets start our own label and lets put out some music and see what happens” just really easy. We had just finished high school at that time, when we started doing this we didn’t have any knowledge [laughs]. One day we recognized that maybe we need some help here and some help here to make it work because this is stuff we’ve never done before and it’s just too much. In the end its better to put our energy into the music.

What was the experience like recording Blossom versus Sadnecessary?

Clemens: Recording, it was really different because we wanted to start using less sample based stuff. We want to do larger music with an electronic vibe but create it with real instruments. The way we used to record was always a mixture, like we used drums and then recording samples we made by tapping our feet on the ground, hitting the table with our finger, doing stuff like that. Now on stage, we’re four guys and we’re just working on that. We always had a vision of becoming a live band and of playing all of the music.

What’s the fourth instrument?

Clemens: It’s a drummer

Doesn’t Philipp play the drums?

Clemens: He’s doing the same stuff, he plays percussion. But our music always had that back beat, that electronic back beat too. So we just added the drummer who’s playing the steady beats and it’s nice, it’s cool, it’s fun!

I know everyone hates this question, it’s like Sophie’s Choice but is there a particular song on Blossom that you want to reflect on?

Clemens: Recording “Alive,” was fun. That song we were just jamming — Philipp and I just started jamming in the studio and out of that this song came into existence and it was really fun working on this one. Music wise I guess it’s one of my favorite songs.

Can you walk me through “Piano Song?” Most of the songs aren’t explicitly sad, but this one seems pretty somber through and through.

Clemens: I started writing songs on the piano in the last one and a half years so its a new thing to me. It just opened up a new way of understanding, or a new way of writing a song. I wouldn’t say it’s depressed but it’s about those darker moments that you can have. I was just trying to work through a lot of feelings and issues that I have myself.

There’s a track on the album, I’m not really even sure how to pronounce it — “Peripeteia” I literally had to google it which is embarrassing since I’m a writer.

Clemens: [laughs] Yeah the thing is like it’s a weird word but I don’t knowwell what came up when you googled it? What is google teaching you?

A sudden reversal in fate or fortune?

Clemens: Okay cool, just wanted to make sure that we’re on the same page [laughs]. Yeah this song it’s about duality — the chorus is a lot of hopefulness so there are a lot of wishes, a lot of hope that everything is going to work out better but the verse is like the opposite of all that — a lot of sorrow, a lot of sadness if anything.

Your music is so all over the spectrum genre wise but that’s true for a lot of bands. Do you think genre is an outdated concept?

Clemens: I don’t think in genres, I don’t talk genres but I understand that it’s a good help to describe music. Music is just music so I’m open to everything, we listen to African choirs, we listen to Nirvana, we listen to Ray Charles, we listen to deep house music, we listen to I don’t know… Snoop Dogg [laughs]. As long as it makes you move and makes you be open to the world.

Milky Chance on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. They’re currently on the last leg of a sold out North American tour and play their record release show Friday the 17th at Le Poisson Rouge

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