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Interview: Milky Chance's Clemens Rehbein on 'Blossom', luck, and exploring New Zealand.

The slow-burn success of Milky Chance reached stratospheric heights in Summer 2015 when the German duo’s neatly crafted earworm ‘Stolen Dance’ became an unexpected Summer anthem, amassing over 300 million plays on Spotify and reaching number one in ten countries, including Australia, France and Ireland. This Spring, they followed up their debut album ‘Sadnecessary’ – from which the aforementioned track came – with ‘Blossom’, a record that demonstrates the breadth of influences and genres incorporated by the pair, with everything from R&B to reggae to electronica to folk getting its fair time across the record’s 14 tracks.

Later this month they’ll be playing at The Powerstation in Auckland, before a fortnight of shows across Australia, followed by gigs in 16 other countries before the year’s out. We got to catch up with Clemens Rehbein, the outfit’s vocalist and guitarist, during a short European tour to discuss the new record, his relationship with luck and how success affected the band’s creative process.

"...I like that you can use words concerning their content but also what they’re picturing just by hearing..."

COUP DE MAIN: We’re loving your new album ‘Blossom’! One track on the album, ‘Doing Good’, plays with the notion that we’re all going round lying to each other, saying that we’re “doing good” and hiding our truth. So, be honest, how are you doing this morning?
CLEMENS REHBEIN: Ummm, I’m okay. I’ll really be honest to the message of the song. I’m okay. I mean, we have fun on the tour, I’m really excited [to be] on tour again and we’re having fun onstage playing music. But there’s also some struggle going on. I’m doing good, but there’s also some stuff I have to figure out myself. That was the truth!.
CDM: The songs from ‘Sadnecessary’ amassed over half a billion plays on Spotify. How has this success influenced or impacted the process of making ‘Blossom’?

CLEMENS: We went back to our comfort zone, just the two of us in a really, really small home studio. We tried to get that intimate vibe we had for our first album. We were really good at pushing away and [forgetting] all about the other stuff, all the stuff we experiencing in the last few years. We just didn’t think about that when we started working on the music. It was just having that state of mind, isolating yourself, focussing on the music, putting all your energy into that. That was really important to us. Of course, all the experiences over the past few years influenced us and they were inspiring for us, for me in writing songs. I think all that new knowledge influenced the process of ‘Blossom’, but not in terms of [thinking] about how we can produce songs that might be played on the radio. We just tried to keep the focus..
CDM: The video for the song ‘Doing Good’ is a gorgeous and realistic portrayal of San Francisco that shows both the glamorous and impoverished sides of the city. What was it about that San Francisco that made you decide it was the right setting for that song?

CLEMENS: We were just on tour and we needed a video! At that time we were in San Francisco. We thought, it might be, as you said, a cool place to show that there’s always two [contrasting] things going on. It’s a beautiful city and there’s beautiful people and it can be a really nice life, but there’s a lot of struggle going on..
CDM: From San Francisco you take us down the Central Californian coast to Half Moon Bay, a location name checked on ‘Ego’, a touching love song about being distant from a loved one. In fact, the title seems at odds with how loving the rest of the song is – ‘ego’ often comes with negative connotations. Could you explain the use of the concept of the ‘ego’ in the song?

CLEMENS: Yeah, I see what you’re saying. I picked the words because of the sound, because it doesn’t really fit into the rest of the lyrics. Sometimes I like that you can use words concerning their content but also what they’re picturing just by hearing..
CDM: One track on ‘Blossom’ is titled ‘Peripeteia’, which means “a sudden reversal of fortune or change in circumstances”. As it happens, the album was released on St. Patrick’s Day and, of course, you have the word ‘chance’ in your band name. To that end, how much of a role do you believe luck has played in your life and career?

CLEMENS: That’s a big question! Well, first it wasn’t planned, we didn’t mean it. It’s a funny coincidence. A lot of times we’re talking about [luck] when people [ask] us about how all the success happened. I think we were just really lucky. Of course, there’s some music which is not too bad and we just try hard to put all our effort into being good musicians. But [sometimes] you just have to be in the right place [at] the right time. We just recorded an album for fun because we wanted that experience personally. Then it got bigger and bigger and it just happened to us. So I think there must be some luck in [our] success!.
CDM: Is there a song on ‘Blossom’ that you think most demonstrates how you’ve changed as a band, or a writer, or a performer, since ‘Sadnecessary’?

CLEMENS: I think the whole album really demonstrates how we developed as musicians. There are a lot more instruments, we played all the instruments, so I think that just shows how we developed as live musicians too. You can hear that especially in ‘Doing Good’ and ‘Alive’ because we just had a jam on these songs. We were in the studio, Philipp and me, we just started jamming out, Phillipp on the drums, me on the guitar. And then after thirty minutes we had a whole song done. So that shows our background as musicians, because we both come from bands where we just used to have jams and play and let it happen..
CDM: You played at the Powerstation in Auckland back at the start of 2015 and we can’t wait for your return to that venue later this month. What do you remember of your time in New Zealand two years ago? Was there anything you wanted to do, but didn’t get a chance to and that you’re hoping to do this time round?

CLEMENS: I just want to see more of the country! We didn’t see that much of Auckland, but fortunately New Zealand was actually the only time that we took a break of two weeks. We went in a campervan and drove all around New Zealand. Personally for me, that was one of the most beautiful experiences I had. We saw so many gorgeous places. I just want to come back and see more. It was a really nice time, really beautiful.

Watch the 'Doing Good' music video below...