The ladies of Krewella extol the virtues of seeing a sea of dudes singing along to female vocals
Hearing a song on the radio for the first time is always exciting. Hearing your own song on the radio for the first time is even cooler. When Krewella came to Denver earlier this summer for Global Dance Festival, we got to witness this monumental moment for the act, as well as see them experience Red Rocks (where the outfit will return tomorrow night to warm up for Savoy) for the first time. The Chicago-based trio, which is made up of sisters Jahan and Yasmine Yousaf and producer Rainman (aka Kris Trindl), took some time between their three sets that day, which included a stop at Beatport, followed by a set at Global and then a final spin at Beta, to chat with us about dropping out of high school, how it feels to be "Killin' It" and how awesome it is to see dudes singing along to female vocals.
Westword: How did the three of you get involved in music?
Yasmin Yousaf: I was fourteen when we started writing music, or maybe fifteen.
Kris Trindl: [Jahan] went to college and was a communications major, and I was a sound major. I've been playing music, mainly guitar, since I was fourteen. I was playing a lot of metal music, and then moved into the electronic music. I used to use this software where we could record riffs or drum lines, then we could send them to each other, since we all didn't live together. So we could practice before and play together the following Friday or something. I started using better software, mainly Fruity Loops and Reason, and now Ableton.
Jahan Yousaf: I grew up on metal, indie pop, dance, old school. Our age group just has access to so much different music. I also think whatever happens naturally is the direction we will go in. I would really like to incorporate electric guitar chops into our songs, just something real hard.
Did you start off with local shows?
KT: In the Chicago underground scene...it's nothing like Global Dance Festival. You can't fuck with thousands of people.
Do they have electronic radio in Chicago?
JY: Yea, we have Dance Factory, but we really don't listen to the radio all that much. We had never heard our songs on the radio.
What's it like traveling around seeing your fan base?
JY: Dude! You have no clue! You just show up and wait and see what it's like. The best part is showing up and just raging.
How does it work to come into Beatport to play a set?
KT: We just released our album on Beatport exclusively, and it went number one! It was totally awesome. We were like, "Let's put it out on Beatport." And they wanted to do it exclusively rather than letting iTunes pick it up as well.
At a Beatport set, how do you decide what you are going to do?
JY: Since we are playing our own material, we just have pairs of songs that work, and then we go into some drum and bass. For any show, we have an idea of what we want to play, or the vibe we want to start off with, and then we will just base it off the audience energy.
YY: Everyone says Red Rocks is the capital rage central of the country, and I want to see that.
KT: And when the crowd goes hard, it makes the whole thing that much better.
What do you think about keeping the momentum going during the show, especially with songs like "Killin It," which has gotten a lot of radio play?
JY: What's really cool about "Killin It" is that there are very few drum and bass songs that feature female vocals. And it's awesome to see a bunch of dudes just singing along to the song. We never expected people, or mainly just guys, to sing along to our songs. To me, that makes me feel really good when guys dig your music as a female vocalist.
Did you know it was going to blow up?
KT: It was in January, and we had it marinating for a little bit, and I was like, 'We aren't going to put this out. This shit sucks."
JY: He hated it
KT: I didn't know we had a song that people would like. The best thing is when you're leaving a show and people are just yelling at us, "Killing it!"
Behind the production, you two are on vocals. What's it like coming out playing in front of all these people as two women in a primarily male dominated industry?
YY: It's empowering, but we want to stand for more than just being female DJs, and we have Kris. We just love getting sweaty and dirty and not giving a fuck. A lot of female DJs care, but it's really empowering to be able to control an audience with your music.
Who has the vocal training?
YY: I was in choir, and I was in an indie band, and then there was karaoke when I was 7.
JY: It never seemed like a realistic career.
KT: I came at them really hard a few years ago and told them to drop out of school and stuff like that. I remember Nathan and I were running boot camp for two or three years.
How did it happen into electronic music?
YY: It was kind of the evolution, and it was a lot of fucking up and writing bad songs.
JY: We had jobs at the same time, and there was drama. It came down to wondering how we were supposed to tell our parents and make it work. But you have to take risks to pursue your dream, and really just get at it.
What kind of jobs did you have before this?
KT: I did everything -- frozen yogurt times five, painting houses, bagging groceries...
YY: I was a little book store girl. I love reading when I get the chance. Not so much on tour, but I like to read.
JY: I was a server for a while.
Being from Chicago, have you ever been to Porn and Chicken?
JY: Yeah! We played Porn and Chicken! It was in a little back room on Halloween, and then we played the main room.
YY: I think we got $50 for that show, but Chicago throws down hard. It's raunchy and dirty.
What have you had to give up and sacrifice in order to be successful?
JY: Friends. The real friends understand and stick around because we are gone for so long. I have two real friends, but our team are our best friends. Our managers Jake and Nathan, we all went to the same high school. Nathan found us on MySpace a few years ago.
Do you still use Myspace?
KT: I checked mine a few months ago.
YY: It's hard to also not see my parents that much.
What did you listen to growing up?
YY: Lots of new wave, Abba, Dream Theater...
KT: My step dad taught me how to play guitar, and he's a beast. It was cool, though, I was on the phone with my mom and our song came on the radio.
JY: When the three of us came together, we were still in high school. It was an after school thing at the time. And Kris was the first one to drop out and drop everything. With our parents, they were really skeptical. They always thought it was just for fun because they wanted us to be doctors and get a degree. Being able to create something that is a piece of art work, that's very powerful.
KT: I have always been big into melodies, and when I was fourteen I was big into these programs that used MIDIs, and then I got into metal. I was into the intensity. It felt heavy. I was in rock bands, metal bands and making bad dance music, and, hopefully, now, making good dance music.
YY: I think something that is the same for the three of us is we didn't want to fall into something that we weren't passionate about.
KT: My parents were supportive of me doing me. Some people are pressured to go to the good school and be the best. Mine were more like, "Be you. Just don't get arrested and do drugs."
JY: I know we seem like huge assholes, but deep down, we are very aware emotionally, and we are very in touch with our emotions. That's translates in our music. As far as the music goes, when you hear fans talk about their experience and how it relates to your songs, that's a great feeling.
Who is the most sensitive?
JY: It depends on what time of the month.
KT: It depends on certain things.
JY: He is always PMS'ing. The three of us are sensitive people
KT: As time passes, the emotions go away.
How do you put it on hold when it comes to show time?
YY: The only thing that keeps us sane is doing this. Whenever something is going wrong, a show makes it better.
JY: The deeper we get into it, it makes me realize that there used to be things that were important to me that aren't anymore. Like shopping, it's so uninteresting now. For me, relationships are something we don't have time for. I am in love with what we are doing.
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