It had been two years since German electro-pop reggae duo, Milky Chance, had released their last full-length album.
A day ahead of the release of their much-anticipated album, Mind the Moon, Clemens Rehbein (lead vocalist and guitarist) took some time to talk to me.
He answers the phone with a casual coolness, “Ay, wassup?”
He explains that he’s on a train returning home to Kassel, Germany after doing a bit of singles and album promo in Munich, and warns that the tunnel ahead might cause the line to cut out.
The words had barely escaped his lips when the line cut out, but 20 seconds later he’s back and ready, “There shouldn’t come another tunnel any more. I think we’re safe,” he reassures.
I joke about how technology tends to fail you when you really can’t afford it and it’s the perfect time to relive their 2015 Rocking the Daisies tragedy, when the sound cut out not only on their set, but on Cat Empire’s as well. He remembers it well, but it’s a blip stain on an otherwise phenomenal trip to South Africa.
“We’d never been [to South Africa], like none of us, so we were really excited to go. Me and Antonio [Greger, third member and touring guitarist] actually stayed longer for like a month, and we did a South Africa, Namibia, Botswana tour. And we loved it. And all the concerts were great,” he reminisces.
Playing In the City in Joburg was a highlight for Rehbein, “We played with The Kooks, and they’re like one of our teenage favourites, you know, so yeah that was awesome!”
They released their break-out hit, “Stolen Dance”, in 2012. It very quickly gained traction on Soundcloud and in no time they went from playing a couple of local festivals to embarking on a 100-show international tour, something I suspect must’ve caught them completely off guard. He laughs and agrees, “We weren’t ready, you know? And that was the big thing in that chapter of our lives. For the first couple of years it was very overwhelming. [Stolen Dance] was a door opener, and we’re very grateful for where we are now, but we can’t deny that back then a lot of things felt very rushed and there were times when we were like, ‘What the hell is going on?”
We talk about the success of “Stolen Dance” versus the rest of their debut album while they were still coming up. Rehbein speaks with a humble assuredness, “Stolen Dance” was an opener and it was kind of like the strongest chorus that we had but of course we have a lot more, you know? Especially live, a lot of people see us live and realize and recognize that. They see the whole thing and it speaks for itself.”
I’d never heard of the Shazam Hall of Fame before, but there they were, comfortably perched between John Legend and Katy Perry, with “Stolen Dance” holding the record for one of the most Shazamed songs of all time, so I have to ask him about this. “The Shazam [award] is pretty cool ‘cause people hear something, and they wanna know what it is, so that basically says our music spoke to them. So I think that might be the coolest [award], one that we are very proud of.”
They’d already dropped four singles off Mind the Moon, a favourite of mine being “Rush” featuring French rapper, Témé Tan. Contrary to anything I’ve ever heard them release, it has a strong hip hop influence, and his vocal delivery is stronger than I’ve ever heard.
“I think on that album, we tried to achieve better than what we’ve always had in us, and also I think what a lot of people always heard in our music, so there’s a lot of genres and it’s also kinda genre-less in a way and I really like that because we like all kinds of music,” he says very excitedly. He continues, “We also love to collaborate with different artists. On that song with Témé we were like, ‘Can you actually rap in French ‘cause that would sound so sick,’ and he did, and we loved it.”
The artists that they chose to collaborate with played a big hand in the evolution of their sound and I wonder how they go about choosing who they want to work with. “Yeah well we definitely have to love the music, you know, otherwise collabs really don’t make sense to us. So we met Tash Sultana from concerts we’ve played together, and tours and we just got along well and stayed in contact and we were like, ‘Hey we really like your music, do you wanna do a song?”, and that’s how “Daydreaming” came about.
He catches me completely off-guard with an unexpected collab, “But then for example Ladysmith Black Mambazo, who you should probably know, that’s just a choir that we’ve always loved, we sang their music in school, and we were big fans.”
He explains how a particular song on the album wasn’t taking shape, so they had an idea to contact the Grammy Award-winning choral group, “So we were like, ‘Maybe we should just leave it plain, and just like ask this big choir that we always loved to sing on it?’ And that’s what we did and they got back to us and said that they would do it because they liked it.”
While the new music maintains their very distinct Milky Chance sound, every song offers something fresh, “Each song has its own world and I don’t know, it’s not like one big concept. We’re very excited for the whole album. I think it’s our best one we did so far, you know? We’re very proud of it and we took the most time on it. We had experience, more than we had with the first one and the whole thing just makes us really happy.”