Rarely do you find artists who speak as highly and fondly of their fans as the fans do of the artists they love. What truly stands out about Krewella is its love; love for its fans and love for music. With some of the most dedicated followers in electronic music, Krewella strives to reflect back to its fans the love, passion, and energy that is given to it.
Whether on stage, in the studio or on a tour bus, the trio looks to its admirers as its inspiration and motivation, and it is probably this immeasurable force that has made Krewella one of the biggest acts in all of electronic music this past year.
Krewella and its rock-meets-rave brand exploded in 2013 as band members Jahan, Yasmine, and Kris covered the entirety of the music industry landscape, from mainstream airplay to EDM chart toppers, giving a voice to a new generation of electronic fans bored with the status quo. Although the story of Krewella is now one of great success with no limit in sight, it stretches back through a lifetime of preparation, work, and the desire to achieve its dreams.
The singer-songwriter front-women of Krewella, Jahan and Yasmine Yousaf, share more than just a passion for music and vocal prowess, they're also sisters. In Chicago, the two grew up in a house that was always filled with music and were raised by parents who didn't have any vocal or instrumental inclination themselves, but had a true passion for the art.
“Our parents have so much love for music,” reminisces Yasmine, the younger of the two sisters. “When we are home there is always music playing; when we are working, when we are cooking, when we are cleaning. Our parents opened our minds to ABBA, The Beatles, Depeche Mode. And later in our lives, our interest got a little heavier with acts like System of a Down and Incubus. Things like that really inspired our music today.”
Many consider Chicago to be the birthplace of house music, but the eclectic roots of Krewella were shaped by a conglomeration of many different genres. Jahan first met Kris, the group's production mastermind, in the gritty metal scene of the Windy City.
“I met Kris in 2007. He was the lead guitarist in a metal band and he was actually on the computer producing for the band,” explains Jahan. “Shortly after we met in the metal scene we’d just be goofing around with songs. He would produce a track and I’d write a hook over it, and that's our beginning.”
Jahan and Kris eventually began to search for a second vocalist to join their project. Unable to find anyone that fit their standards, Jahan sought the help of her sister, who at the time was fronting an indie band called Sunset and Camden.
“They pulled me into Jahan’s room one day when they were recording a track and said, ‘sing this,’ and I sang it on the mic and it just clicked,” explains Yasmine.
All goofing off was set aside on 6-8-10, a date tattooed on Jahan, Yasmine, and Kris. This was the day they dropped out of school, quit their jobs, and made a full dedication to music and each other.
“It was a leap of faith, but something in the back of my mind kept reassuring me that this would work out,” says Jahan. “I believe in the universe rewarding people that are hardworking and focused. You can work a 9-5 job, come home at night and play the guitar, that’s a hard-working person, but it's about focusing your hard work into one thing. Instead of working 9-5, we’d work 9am to 4am at writing and singing and performing.”
Despite their apparent optimism, after a few years of struggling without any signs of reaching their dreams, hope would sometimes begin to fade.
“We had moments where we felt like a failure and we really broke down,” says Jahan. “We thought maybe we should be writers or producers and work behind the scenes for other artists, or that, maybe, this just wasn’t the career for us. But having three people in the group, especially having a sister, creates a big support system.”
Jahan, Yasmine, and Kris finally began to see the light, and the pay-off to their tireless hard work was when their now-smash hit, “Alive,” began to gain recognition and hit radio airways in January of 2013.
With the momentum of that single behind it, and the band's fanbase rapidly growing, Krewella went back to the studio to create the album, Get Wet, which debuted on Billboards’s Hot 200 at #8 and reached number one in the dance charts.
“I think its safe to say we have a lot of dedicated fans, the Krew, and they don’t just like one song, they want to get to know us as people and really understand who we are, whether it's seeing us on tour or tweeting us, or checking out our music,” Yasmine explains on the motivation behind creating Get Wet.
“We have this insane connection with our fans, we have this beautiful extended family that I never thought I would have. I think that’s the reason why our album is a success - so many people asking for it. We knew we could count on people to not only care about just one single, but to care about the full story of an album.”
Krewella claims that about half of Get Wet was inspired by fans' stories of joy, pain, and sadness, which the members could relate to with their own struggles and life experience. One story that still resonates with the group is actually the untimely loss of one of those fans.
“There is a group that came backstage at a show after contacting our manager, and they told us about one of their friends who had committed suicide,” says Yasmine, clearly still affected by their story.
“He was a huge Krewella fan and had been to many shows. They told us that the song they played at his funeral was ‘Alive.’ Even talking about it right now is very heavy for me. We’ve all been in dark, terrible places, I go through them as well, whether they are things that are just in my head, or things that are happening to me. We are all human, and we’ve all experienced pain. We want to create music that transcends that.”
With the inspiration from Krewella's fans, its many years of musical experience, and the members' roles of producing, singing, and songwriting divided up, Get Wet began to take shape.
“If you look at the big picture, the album actually took almost two years to create, one year compiling all the songs and one year to produce the final product,” says Yasmine. “'Live for Tonight,' we wrote the vocals of that song about three months before we even wrote 'Alive.' It never came out because we didn’t feel like we had the right beat under it. The song went through six productions and Kris was still not happy with it.”
The final product is an album that breaks the boundaries of musical genre, something Krewella considers an important part of keeping their artistic integrity. “I will never put a genre on our music,” says Yasmine. “Obviously it’s electronic, it’s programs on the computer, but everything nowadays is electronic; pop music, hip-hop, it's all electronic, even metal.
I just refuse to put our music in a genre because that puts you in a box. I never want to be confined to labels, words, and descriptions that limit the music you make. I think we are in the post-modern era where there are so many genres juxtaposed together. We are a prime example of those post-modern era artists, we’re bringin the rock to the rave, we’re pooling our rock influences: punk rock, alternative, and indie, and Kris is a metal head — you can hear it in his breakdowns. We are in the 21st century and we are embracing technology and using technology to form a new style of music based on all these genres.”
On the heels of their chart-topping success, Krewella reached back out to its fans who had inspired the band so much. It launched its Get Wet live tour in September to bring an in-your-face live show to over 50 cities in the US. The trio not only brought its explosive onstage act, but also a superstructure dubbed The Volcano, a high-tech masterpiece created to push the boundaries of onstage production.
The Volcano, which is 30 ft x 18 ft high, was designed by Vello Virkhaus and Amanda Hamilton of V Squared Labs, who collaborated with Stephano Novelli to bring the volcano to life. its massive features include reflection-mapped crystal structures, that are equipped with LED video and/or LED tape. As incredible as The Volcano is though, it's still no match for the head-banging, high energy live performances of Krewella.
“The live performances have gotten to be so explosive,” Yasmine says with characteristic verve. “I love DJing, but there is something about live performing. I live for live music and being able to step out from behind the DJ booth, grab a mic, and sing my heart out is beautiful. It makes me feel like I’m giving people more of an experience.”
“Every single night feels like a movie, that’s the only way I can describe [it],” Jahan adds. “It feels like an action thriller adventure movie performing in front of thousands of people. We started out just DJing and staying behind the booth at first, but the plan all along was to come out and sing for everybody - perform and go back to the decks when it’s time to mix in a new song. This is what Krewella is meant to be, a hybrid live act.”
The hybrid live act is one of such incredible power that it leaves fans in absolute awe. But just as fans gush about Krewella, they proudly talk about their favorite moments with fans they meet and see on their tour. Andrew, who traveled thousands of miles to see seven shows, was caked and given a happy birthday serenade on stage by the group. A random older gentleman stood out to Jahan as someone she admired for going against the grain and attending one of their shows, despite what opinion people might have, and they are even touched by fans carrying Pakistani flags, which represent the sisters' heritage.
“I love when there are people with crutches or wheelchairs in the crowd and they are crowd surfing,” says Jahan. “I’m not encouraging people to do that but I do like people not being limited by their physical condition. I love when people liberate themselves and let the music take full control of them. I think back to high school when you had cliques and the popular kids would talk shit about the kids that were different. But here we are, at a dance show, with people caring and lifting up people in their wheelchairs and just accepting and loving them. I love to take claim and ownership of those moments. It happens at our shows.”
Krewella’s tour is set to wrap up in December, but the group continues to make plans to move into the future with new music, and is upgrading its live act, with plans to add more instruments to its live shows, as well as to modify and keep expanding on The Volcano. But, most importantly, it is in the process of creating a new album.
“We are taking January and February off to write the second album, we actually started making new music on the bus tour,” says Jahan.
“We just want to keep giving back to the fans because they give it to us and we owe it to them.”