MILKY CHANCE: Expanding their sonic vision on new album

Clemens Rehbein of Berlin-based music duo Milky Chance talks candidly to Headliner about the band’s upcoming fourth studio album, the huge North American tour they’ve got planned for later this year, and why the chemistry between them is as strong as it’s ever been…

Originating in Kassel, Germany, Rehbein (guitar, vocals) and Phillipp Dausch (bass, percussion, production) were in fact school friends way before their musical partnership blossomed into what it is today. The duo released their debut album Sadnecessary in 2013 - much to the delight of millennial indie fans who were treated to an irresistible pastiche of electronic and folk-tinged rock through viral singles Stolen Dance and Down By The River.

Ten years, countless live shows and three albums later, Milky Chance are now poised to drop their fourth studio album, Living In A Haze, set for release on June 9. Having clocked up a decade of musical success, Headliner was curious to find out if the band still operates like a well-oiled machine.

“It definitely has changed, in a very good way,” begins Rehbein when questioned on the matter. “I feel like we're even more of a band now than we were during that time, because in our first two or three years we just kept looking back at it like a big happy accident.

“We weren’t prepared for anything; we’d just finished high school in 2012 and during that time we uploaded a few songs on YouTube,” he reflects fondly. “We got together that summer and recorded another bunch of songs in my childhood bedroom at my parent’s house, which is when we started thinking about turning that into an album. The stuff on YouTube started getting more attention and we could feel something happening, so we played our first show in our hometown to a crowd of about 150 people and were just blown away by the audience’s reaction.”

It wasn’t long before Rehbein and Dausch embarked on their first domestic tour in May 2013. Admitting that they “didn’t even really rehearse back then”, Rehbein says it was out of necessity that two more band members, Antonio Greger and Sebastian Schmidt, were eventually brought on board to support their fast-growing live shows.

“2016 was the first time where we felt like properly talking about live shows, and knew exactly what we wanted to do for them," he says. "We were a four-piece by then, and that was the first time where we thought, ‘Oh, this feels good.’ You know?”

Milky Chance’s upcoming record, Living In A Haze, has been described as an expansion of the band’s sonic vision, and includes some impressive guest features. That being said, Rehbein says that they have never been the type of band to have a concept in mind before entering the studio, and he's also excited to release an album during summer for the first time.

It's just us trying out new things, trying to find new sounds, and trying to surprise ourselves.

“It’s the same this time round,” he reveals. “We always work very intuitively, and things usually come to us naturally. For this album we've been trying out a lot of things. During the pandemic we had so much time and space to be creative, so we actually really enjoyed that time. We just went to the studio on a daily basis in Berlin and really dived into the creative process. We also started working with lots of other producers, songwriters and creatives from Berlin or overseas, which was very inspiring.

“All in all, it's just us trying out new things, trying to find new sounds, and trying to surprise ourselves - but also, it's us. It is our taste in music, which also develops of course, but it has the same DNA and that certain vibe.”

New song, Frequency Of Love, falls into this experimental category, offering a glimpse of the slightly different musical direction in which the band is now moving. Released as the B-Side to the titular track Living In A Haze, which is laden with beat-driven dance energy, Frequency Of Love instead goes down a deeper, more ethereal route.

“I feel like these two songs show the diverse musical range of the album,” offers Rehbein. “There's lots of songs on there, which are very different in a way, but which are also happening in the same universe.”

Last year, the band released an acoustic version of their debut album Sadnecessary, which went down a storm with fans.

“There were always people in the comment sections asking for it, because it suits the acoustic vibe very well,” explains Rehbein. “We love doing those stripped back versions; we just wanted to celebrate the first album and also give the fans a little surprise to enjoy. It was a lot of fun recording it - guitar is our first instrument which we use to write a lot of songs anyway, so it really felt and sounded natural getting right down to the source. I really enjoyed it, and who knows, maybe we’ll do the same with our other albums - we’ll see.”

Rehbein goes on to explain with excitement how they are about to embark on their biggest tour yet - 67 shows all over the US: “We’ll be on the road all summer long; it’s always beautiful to see people singing our songs back at us,” he says. “For my live setup I use Kemper. I get a good basic sound - sometimes I just use some reverb and delay when I play rhythm guitar on stage.

“One of our favourite pedals, that we also used a lot when producing this latest album, is the Chase Bliss blooper. It loops guitar or piano riffs and makes them sound really cool. It’s also weird and confusing sometimes in terms of what it does, but it immediately brings a really cool vibe.”

The band’s second studio album, Blossom, was recorded with entirely organic instrumentation, rather than with a digital setup. Rehbein insists that they usually operate a hybrid setup these days:

“It's always a mixture for us between digital, using Splice or creating our own samples, and lots of real instruments. It really depends on the song and the sound that you want to create. Whatever it needs to get there, we use!

“We also love to experiment, and recently started using a lot of synthesisers in the studio,” he adds. “It’s great when you play around turning knobs until some magic happens. You can play something on a piano, but then when you play the same chord on a Prophet, a different world opens up. It can be very inspiring, and can take you to someplace else, which I love. Once we're back home from the tour in September, we’ll take some time out to relax and then go straight back to the studio to get creative again.”

Milky Chance’s fourth studio album, Living In A Haze, is out June 9.

Listen to the full interview on Headliner Radio, here: