Clemens Rehbein, one half of German duo Milky Chance, sounds like he’s just woken up. One can only imagine what his trademark afro-like hair would look like in a bedhead state. But his groggy demeanour dissipates quickly, and suddenly there’s an endearing and charming Rehbein on the other end of the phone, a guy who actually laughs at the humour behind the questions posed to him.
For example, Rehbein plays the role of musician and vocalist in Milky Chance, while high-school friend Philipp Dausch is the DJ. An interesting set-up and certainly one that warrants asking about: so, who does what in those lush, melodic productions?
Rehbein reacts with a laugh and then attempts to play down his role. “I will start with just some chords, some harmonies and a melody,” he says. “And then [we] meet and we start producing the songs… you could say he [Philipp] is the ‘brain’ because he knows all about the technical stuff, how the software studio shit [works].”
Watch: Milky Chance – Stolen Dance
The result of this unique partnership is their debut album Sadnecessary, which is set for release in Australia on Friday, 20th June. While the title might seem a bit of a downer, especially when contrasted with the rich textures of the songs, it seems to fit the general demeanour of this young singer-songwriter, who on his band’s homepage is quoted as saying, “Melancholy is something that I carry within me.”
“[It describes] how we use [it] to create something that [is] just kinda happy in a danceable mood and brings you forward, but always with the melancholy part in your belly,” he elaborates, once again with a laugh, this time at his choice of words. “[Melancholy] is a very beautiful feeling. It can move you in a very special way.”
Sadnecessary is a strange cargo that set sail on a flagship dubbed Stolen Dance, which is currently the subject of heavy rotation on Triple J. According to Rehbein, the song captures “less a story than a feeling,” one where you miss someone but you can’t keep doing it “because of the circumstances, but you don’t give up… and that’s what makes you feel stronger, more happy.”
These ideals of “never giving up” and “bringing yourself forward” are what drive Milky Chance. Evident in the fact that Sadnecessary was in fact recorded in the home of Rehbein’s parents. He laughs again when I ask half-facetiously if that was how he imagined his first album would come to fruition.
“No,” he says. “There was never the idea of making it big or making music a profession, it was just for fun. And then more and more people [started] listening to it and then we had the idea of, ‘Okay, let’s start a label, let’s start our own label’… the idea was very simple, just make some record and sell them but there was no business plan.”
Milky Chance’s swift emergence in the public sphere meant that by the time they’d reached the end of their 2013 tour of their homeland and greater Europe, they’d progressed onto larger venues than the pubs and clubs in which they’d first launched the tour. “It was that moment where we recognised [in] ourselves [that] we got something… it was heart-warming and overwhelming,” says Rehbein.
Watch: Milky Chance – Down by the River
And that’s only at home. But with the band’s foothold in Europe secured and their profile quickly growing overseas, why is Sadnecessary receiving a staggered international release when the duo who made it own the record label?
“The album took us two weeks recording and two weeks to [do the] mixing, so we had one month to create that album and everything went very quick. It just shows you it takes a lot of time and a lot of work to bring the album to the people… Now we realise how much work it is to bring that album over to Australia or to the US. We can’t make it all at the same time. You don’t realise how big the world is.”
But the two will soon understand just how big the world is when they head over here for what Rehbein told Triple J would be a number of festival dates. “I don’t know which one it will be. I don’t know the name,” Rehbein tells me. “We will play some festivals there, or one.” As for what Aussie fans can expect from their debut performances?
“We are louder than on the album so we have got like songs that are more forward and with more power but also very chilled. We don’t do a big show, we just enjoy sharing good music with the people,” says Rehbein.
Milky Chance’s debut album, ‘Sadnecessary’, is out now. Stream it below.