Whether you’ve realized it or not, you’ve heard of Krewella. Turn on any top 40 radio station, and there’s a (very, very) large chance you’ll hear their impossible-to-forget single “Alive” from their debut album Get Wet. The L.A-via-Chicago EDM trio features singer/songwriter sisters Jahan and Yasmine Yousaf and DJ/producer Kris “Rain Man” Trindl. Not only did their first record release reach number 8 on the U.S. Billboard charts, but they’re also headlining Ultra Music Festival, and Lollapalooza this summer. Whew! So, we caught up with the girls right here in L.A. to talk all-things festival, and let them take some Nasty Gal Collection Spring 2014 pieces for a spin.
Where do you look for music inspiration?
Everyday experiences, relationships with people, observing people—that’s all it is—observing life, how people interact with us, and how people interact with each other. Also, touring. Our fans an the stories they tell are a huge inspiration. They’ll stop us at a show if they’re backstage with us and tell us how one of our songs impacted them or was a part of a really sad or happy moment in their life. What inspires us music-wise is really going back to our roots and things we used to listen to 10 years ago, like a lot of Linkin Park influences and Fall Out Boy and System of a Down. We’re getting grittier. It used to be that a good night out inspired us, but we don’t do that much anymore.
What’s the thought process behind how you pack for a tour?
Black. I have a stack of leggings in my closet, and I just pull the entire stack out. The thing about black is it’s easy. We don’t like spending much time packing because it’s usually 10 minutes before we leave in the morning. We’re very last minute with that stuff, so it’s convenient.
If we walked into your closet, what’s the first thing we would see?
Our closets are pretty much all black, but the first thing you see when you open the closet is a blue dreadlock wig. A blue dreadlock wig on the left and an old stuffed animal on the right. Everything else is leggings. I throw shit—underwear, bras—all around in my closet. I think I lose things, but they’re there. They’re right before my eyes. It’s like a black vortex, but it’s not too bad though.
How does your onstage style differ from your everyday look?
It’s not that different. A lot of the times, if we’re going to the studio, I’m just wearing leggings and a tank top. Sometimes I can’t wear jeans onstage because they’re so constricting, so I’ll wear my jeans for just hanging out. We don’t like wearing anything that gets in the way of our ability to sing—just rage onstage.
Speaking of raging, how do you guys manage to look so good while sweating?
I would not say I look good. [laughs] I have to say, when we first started touring I did wear a lot more makeup, and I noticed that my skin did break out more and my makeup would just end up all over my face. Now we do just simple liner and mascara. You basically have to assume it’s like jumping into a pool. What would you wear to jump in a pool and swim? That’s how you prepare for it.
Also, tell us your awesome headbanging secrets.
A lot of it is building up tolerance. When we have one show after a monthlong break, and we head bang, the next day we’re like, “Ohhh my god.” But after a week, you’re like, “All right, I can do this.” Every performer should stretch. We don’t, we tend to forget. Every single performance we do vocal warmups beforehand, but we should probably just stretch more. I actually did Pilates for the first time the other day, and it actually really helped where I was sore from performing.
What’s the most memorable thing that’s happened at a festival?
At our first festival, Meltdown, Jahan tore up her leg. We were crowd surfing together. It was our first festival ever—really great set. I remember during the last song, it was the Dirtyphonics remix of “Killin It,” and we were crowd surfing. She gets gashed and is gushing blood and doesn’t even realize it. She had to get stitches! But it was a good first experience. I think.
Have you ever looked into the crowd from the stage and saw something insane happening?
We were playing this super underground rave for Halloween and there were a bunch of kids dressed up in crazy costumes doing who knows what, and there was this kid right in the front who was licking the speakers during our set. We were like, “Whaaaaat??”
Was there ever a moment where you feel like you made it?
No, because we still don’t feel like we made it, and I don’t ever think we will. But there are moments when we feel very proud—like Meltdown—when people are singing along. I think that’s an indicator of that something is clicking. They were also chanting our name before we went on, and that had never happened before. So things like that, when big firsts happen.
What words of advice do you want to pass on to aspiring female musicians?
Well, being a girl in any industry unfortunately is a little more of a crutch, and you have to try harder to be better than the guys. The best thing is to never let that affect the way you make your art—never make it because you think you’re the underdog. Imagine that you’re on the same level as everyone else, and there’s no gender difference. Men and women, same level. You’re going to have a much better attitude about the art you’re making then. It’s never going to feel like, “I’m handicapped in what I’m doing.”
What problems have you encountered being a female musician?
No really apparent explicit problems, but there are always contingencies. The glass ceiling still exists—it’s just not as obvious as you think it is. Those contingencies are basically preventing people from getting to a certain level just because of the way we all judge each other. You may not be aware of it, but the way a male judges us might affect his opinion of our music, and he’s not fully aware of it. That in itself is something that could prevent you from being successful, something you’re really not in control of.
Who are some female musicians that you find inspirational?
I think Gwen Stefani is such a badass chick. She always ran with a band of dudes, but you never thought of it as, “She’s that chick with the group, and she’s just that one girl.” It was like she was in a band, and it felt like rock music. It didn’t feel like girly shit. A bunch of dudes listened to No Doubt too. They’re legendary. I think it’s so cool when you can surpass the gender lines and just be a rock band.
So, how do you stay confident among all the things you go through?
You never do things that make you feel uncomfortable. Even with this shoot, I wouldn’t wear things that made me feel uncomfortable or show too much skin. In the end, we go on stage wearing big ass bro tanks and leggings and combat boots, and I feel like we’ve set some sort of standard for ourselves of how we want to appear to people. I don’t want to appear like a sex icon. I don’t want to appear as someone who people only listen to our music because of the way we look. I think we set that standard. We’re pretty nasty on stage—there’s nothing sexy about it.
Is there a moment in your career that you feel really changed you?
Yes. A couple. Backstage in Milwaukee, I think it was a year ago, there were these fans backstage. They had a friend that committed suicide, and his favorite song was “Alive.” One of the friends was saying every day he’d pick him up on the way to the gym and play “Alive.” When he passed away, “Alive” was the funeral song. I never thought that a song we wrote would become someone’s funeral song. Hearing stuff like that really affects the way you write music because you realize what an impact you have. That’s an ode to someone’s life basically, at a funeral. It’s really powerful and kind of puts you in your place as an artist.