PHILIPP DAUSCH AND CLEMENS REHBEIN IN NEW YORK, OCTOBER 2014. STYLING: ANDREAS KOKKINO. T-SHIRTS (ON BOTH): ALEXANDER WANG. GROOMING PRODUCTS: KERASTASE, INCLUDING FORME FATALE. GROOMING: DENNIS DEVOY FOR KERASTASE/ART DEPT. SPECIAL THANKS: TEN TON STUDIO.
Teenage social politics are fraught terrain, no matter the country, but they paid off for the artful young men in the German electro-folk duo Milky Chance. “We met in high school music class and chilled together from day one, covering Ray Charles songs and jazz standards,” explains singer-songwriter Clemens Rehbein of the band’s other half, DJ-producer Philipp Dausch. “Then we had the possibility to play in the school band, but the teacher was not our friend. So we decided to start our own.”
That youthful jamming became the core of Sadnecessary (Lichtdicht/Republic), the debut album of the Kassel-based duo. Recorded unassumingly over two weeks in Rehbein’s childhood home (using music software on a MacBook Pro, a guitar, and a microphone), the record is an imaginative blend of internationally sourced styles, from Rehbein’s lovelorn, reggae-tinged vocals—a husky delivery that nods to Bob Marley—to Dausch’s propulsive yet minimalist electropop beats. Fittingly for their origins, the musicians, both 22, dish out plenty of playful jazz elements, such as the swinging syncopation and beatnik fingerpicked guitar on lead single “Stolen Dance,” the track that begat the pair’s swift fame in Europe and the U.S. this year, netting over 80 million views on YouTube.
“The album is all about love, and how it moves you. But we never thought it would get to this point,” says the soft-spoken Rehbein, smoothing back his gravity-defying shock of dark hair. “After we recorded the record, we were planning to go around Europe for fun, in a bus. Then plans changed.” Now that Sadnecessaryhas been released stateside, the pair are going around in considerably higher style. They logged their first American show in October at the Bowery Ballroom in New York—a sold-out evening that revealed the group to be preternaturally confident onstage—and plan to traverse even more terrain into 2015 with back-to-back tours in the U.S., Australia, and Europe.
“Our parents worry that this is too much for us, all this traveling and stress,” admits Dausch, grinning in clear disagreement. “They wonder if we should slow down a little. But I don’t think so.”