Milky Chance took over the airwaves in 2013 with “Stolen Dance,” a track that went viral online before breaking out as a radio hit. Clemens Rehbein and Philipp Dausch, the duo behind Milky Chance, soon realized they were onto something and hashed out a debut album, Sadnecessary. Four years later, their second record Blossom is out, and has beaten all the odds to be just as good — if not more mature and focused— than their debut. The band are currently making the festival rounds, and before their Bonnaroo main stage performance, AXS spoke with them about the changes they’ve made going into Blossom.
AXS: What is it like being from a small town in Germany and having made it into the big leagues?
Clemens Rehbein (C.R.): Exciting
Philipp Dausch (P.D.): It’s exciting. It feels sometimes a little unreal, but also just makes you grateful, as well. It’s a that happened that you can take a lot of things out of. It’s great.
AXS: When forming Milky Chance, what made you decide to stick with just the two of you, instead of adding more members?
C.R.: Well we are a four piece on stage, as a live band. I think we just felt that the chemistry and how we work together, and also building it up for some time, we felt comfortable with it and didn’t see any reason to change it.
AXS: How did you grow into the four piece that you are now then?
C.R.: It happened step by step over the past few years while we were touring. Antonio [Greger], a friend of ours, he was joining after the first year just for a few songs, with the harmonica. After awhile we decided why shouldn’t he play guitar for the other songs and stuff. We added a drummer this year. The music that we produce, it’s bigger than just two people on stage.
P.D.: If you want to do it live.
C.R.: We are not DJs, we’re live musicians, you know? We just needed more people to bring it live on stage. That’s the reason why. Maybe there’s more to come.
P.D.: Eventually we’re a big band.
AXS: A lot of bands go through sophomore slump with their second album, especially following a big first release. You guys didn’t, how did you pull it off?
P.D.: Focusing a lot.
C.R.: Focusing on the music. We started working on the demos in 2016, in February, in Philipp’s flat. Very intimate, very isolated, so that’s the best way you can focus on the music and forget all about the opinions or the people waiting for something. It just worked out really good, I guess.
P.D.: We had come away from all the excitement, touring life, the attention. For us, it was the best way to do it.
AXS: Your first song, “Stolen Dance,” blew up in a really viral way. Did that get the reaction that you thought it would?
C.R.: No! [laughs] Never!
P.D.: The reaction brought all of this to existence. The songs were loaded up, it was five songs but also “Stolen Dance.” They were loaded up and got attention, so this just made us like ok, maybe we should start playing it live. Maybe we should do a band. Because before, we weren’t even a band. We just recorded different songs for fun, just because we had time. We just wanted to do something. It’s kind of the other way around.
C.R.: We got attention, and after that we were like maybe we should try it out. We met a lot of musicians, we do a lot of music, want to get a lot of attention. We work hard for it, and we were really lucky to get this.
P.D.: We were kind of thrown in. A lot of people go a long ways to get there, and we were just kind of like, phew.
AXS: How do you choose which songs make it into the setlist for your live shows?
C.R.: Now we try to have a mixture of old and new stuff.
P.D.: It’s just trying out, we try a couple songs on all sorts of positions, then you just get a feeling for what works well. It’s like a curve over the course of the concert, a wave. It’s kind of like, if you have a feeling, that’s a nice way to play it.
AXS: What draws you to using acoustic guitar as well as electric?
C.R.: I think we just like the mixture. The woodiness, the rawness.
P.D.: He writes the songs on acoustic guitar, so sometimes the song just stays better if you don’t change it to electric guitar. Sometimes, though, to make it a little more produced, it’s better to use an electric guitar.
C.R.: The mixture of acoustic and electric is really nice. Most of the time we use the acoustic for a rhythm, and then when there’s a riff we play it on the electric guitar. I think it’s just something we defined while producing the second album.
P.D.: We can’t decide. We’re very indecisive.
AXS: You’ve managed to avoid being labeled in one genre. Was that intentional, or just how your songs have led you?
C.R.: Well that wasn’t intentional.
P.D.: I would say you can say that about us, if you want to see it in that way. Most people are influenced, or strongly in, one genre, and identify that. We more identify with liking too much, so we can’t decide. But it was not a conscious thing, it was not like “hey our music should be this, and this, and this.”
C.R.: We are influenced by a lot of different stuff.
AXS: I’m sure you’ve noticed, in America we are obsessed with social media. Is that the same thing in Germany?
P.D.: It’s a thing everywhere.
C.R.: It’s worldwide. Sometimes, it feels maybe it’s a little more celebrated here.
P.D.: It’s becoming more and more on the same level. For example, Snapchat came out a few years later in Germany as here, but now it’s huge. It’s the same reaction.
AXS: If you can only pick one word to describe your music, what word do you use?
P.D.: Melting pot.
C.R.: Mixed salad.
P.D.: These are all two words.