The single "Stolen Dance," which kicks off with the echoing tap-tap-tap of a metronome and evolves into a midtempo sway with laid-back vocals and an infectious melody, first became a viral smash online, morphing into the most unlikely of global hits back in 2014. The song successfully launched a duo with the peculiar moniker of Milky Chance into the mainstream, quickly making them alt-rock radio darlings.
However, despite the song's genre-blending sound and seemingly advanced minimalist production style, "Stolen Dance" was simply the product of some high school friends working on their MacBook in their parent's house in a sleepy German city. It's the same low-key hometown dynamic that has always fueled the group's music, right up to their new song "Blossom," which Billboard is premiering here.
"We'd record in [vocalist and guitarist] Clemens [Rehbein]'s parents house," explains group percussionist/producer Philipp Dausch of those early teenage days with his creative partner. "I remember his mom was always underneath us when we were recording, and since we had our speakers very loud she'd always listen to what we were working on. When we recorded 'Stolen Dance,' we went downstairs and she happened to be there. She said, 'That song is really special, I really like it.' That was the first time we heard any feedback about it."
Rehbein's mother's praise turned out to be prescient as "Stolen Dance" quickly caught fire, and Rehbein and Dausch were suddenly thrust into a life of constant touring, leaving behind their home city of Kassel, Germany.
"Kassel is an urban area, but it's very cozy with green pastures and castles," Dausch explains. "We have a lot of old places even though a lot of it was bombed out in the second World War. We're surrounded by mountains and it gets cloudy, but in a nice way, I'd say. We have a lot of woods where we take nice walks and hikes. It's actually not a place where there is a lot going on."
So, to follow-up the worldwide success of "Stolen Dance," Dausch and Rehbein made it a priority to skip town, in order to get their creative juices flowing, right? Not quite. "When you create something, you should be in a mood and in a place where you feel comfortable," Dausch explains. "We knew we'd be comfortable at home because we like it here a lot. We like the calmness, we like the green, we like the woods, and we like that it's a bit hidden. We enjoy that, because when we were on tour, we saw cities all the time."
Three long years after the release of debut album Sadnecessary, Dausch and Rehbein settled down in an attempt to craft their next act, the result of which is sophomore LP Blossom. It's an album that Dausch explains retains the essential vibes of Milky Chance, while expanding on them at the same time.
"We were actually really, really excited about making new music," relates Dausch of the process, which also occurred in a home studio -- though, this time it was in his own home. "After we cut our demos, we took them to a bigger studio about an hour from me in Rothenburg, which is a small village where mostly cows live, and tried to further our production techniques."
As a result, the duo relied on real instruments instead of digital and advanced their musicality, while also making a concerted effort to retain their DIY Macbook-uniqueness. "A song like 'Cocoon' serves as a bridge between our last album and this new one," Dausch describes, referring to Blossom's lead single -- which, like "Stolen Dance," is climbing up the charts around the world. The album's title track, premiered here, is another classic Milky track. It's a catchy blend house, folk and indie rock, with a sing-along chorus.
"For that first album we were quite limited production-wise, but for this one we were able to work with more possibilities," Dausch says. "the goal was to sound more minimalistic and manmade. For example, we used a real kick drum instead of a sample kick." (The group's process is showcased in an extensive interactive online documentary about the making of the album naturally dubbed Blossomentary.)
After a full year's work, an album that was created in the midst of German cows is likely to be another alternative hit and Rehbein and Dausch are ready to depart Kassel to see the world once again. "It's crazy that it's possible that we can live doing what we love," Dausch considers. "After working on what we did to what it gave back to us… To get this chance is definitely amazing."
Blossom comes out March 17 on Republic Records.