Dance the milky way
A German reggae-folk-dance-pop band — it sounds like some sort of Eurovision joke. But Milky Chance — Clemens Rehbein (vocals and instrumentals) and Philipp Dausch (production) — are anything but.
The school friends from the small German town of Kassel exploded on to the music scene last year, becoming one of the finds of 2014.
And, in essence, it is all thanks to one song.
Their reggae-dance uber-hit Stolen Dance has been played a monumental 155 million times on Spotify, 112 million times on YouTube and countless times on all forms of radio — the type of crossover hit that doesn’t come around too often.
And on Australia Day it finished fourth in Triple J’s Hottest 100 countdown. Like a mix of Xavier Rudd, Bob Marley and, weirdly, deep house, the song from new album Sadnesessary has captured the imagination of music lovers across the world.
And according to the likable German duo, it is a big surprise to them as well.
“It’s crazy, ” Rehbein says, talking to The West Australian backstage after playing the Southbound festival earlier this month.
“If someone could explain it that would be good . . . but you know it has been exciting to see a song go up and up.
“And when we play it live it’s cool to look up and see the crowd, it makes you feel happy.” He is referring to the reaction at Southbound and their multiple gigs across the world.
But, the age-old question, did they know it was a hit when they wrote it?
“When we finished the song his (Rehbein’s) mum said ‘this is going to be a hit’, ” Dausch says with a laugh. “Mama knows best.”
It is this laid-back attitude surrounding success — and the pressures of life in general — that comes across in Milky Chance’s music, and Rehbein and Dausch’s demeanour.
They are so far removed from the stereotypical Germans it is almost laughable.
On stage Rehbein just grooves along to the beat — with traditional moccasins on his feet — while Dausch barely acknowledges the crowd apart from a few smiles and a wave here and there.
Their sound is also well removed from the archetypal German music — apart from the faint deep house element swirling through some of the tracks.
As Dausch explains, the Milky Chance sound — which is difficult to define — is simply a combination of all the music they enjoy.
“When we were growing up we both chose to listen to a lot of music that was not German music, ” he says. “We like everything: hip-hop, singer-songwriter, jazz, deep house, all over the world but just not from Germany.
“Of course, a lot of artists come from Berlin but a lot of German-speaking music is not really what we like. It’s not what we listen to.”
They don’t perform music in their native tongue, as Rehbein says he prefers to sing in English, as German is “too rough”.
“It’s a very intellectual language, ” he says. “They want to explain things and make it easier to understand, whereas English is more mysterious I guess.”
“When I started songwriting it was always in English, to me it’s easier to write songs in English.”
He says his singing style — which channels Marley or even Ben Harper — is like the Milky Chance sound: a combination of his preferred musical styles.
“I think there’s a lot of different sounds to it you know, ” he says. “It’s a melting pot.
“We try to just put in everything we know, we listen to a lot of different things so we try to put it all in our music
“But I think it’s dangerous to try and explain success, but I think definitely what we can say is that our music is open-minded.”
Interestingly, the duo also own their own record label — a move Dausch describes as a “childish dream”.
“We wanted to have power over how the music should be spread and how we should make it, ” he says.
“It was a dreamy idea when we were friends. It’s also important for us to have the core (of our business) at home in Kassel, and stay at home to record.
“It helps business-wise and lets us keep an eye on what’s going on.”
Next step for Milky Chance is more touring of the US and Europe, the recording of new material and a possible return to Australia later this year.
“Australia has been really good to us, the response couldn’t be better.”
‘I think it’s dangerous to try and explain success, but I think definitely what we can say is that our music is open-minded.’ Phillipp Dausch
Sadnecessary is out now.
© The West Australian
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