They are innocent, if ignorant tweets. "I love krewella like her music is amazing and her vocals are just perf." Legions of Krewella fans jump in defense on Twitter. Krewella is not a her, it is a them, they correct.
Krewella is a band‚ yes, a band of contradictions, surprises and unexpected influences. Krewella does not quite fit in with the EDM herd, and therefore resonates deeply with anyone who does not quite fit in. To wit: It is one of the biggest rising names in dance music, but its beat-maker proclaims, "People standing behind tables putting their hands in the air is remedial." The group name-drops Fall Out Boy, Blink 182, the Faint and Timbaland as inspirations. It is ostensibly an electronic act, though one formed by singer-songwriters and a guitar shredder who put live performance above all else, who cherish being flesh to flesh with their flock. Krewella is difficult to pigeonhole, and thus speaks to all those who view themselves as difficult to pigeonhole. Which is all of us. To understand Krewella, you have to go back to the beginning."
Chicago's Fulton River District is an industrial corridor of warehouses, carnicerias and factories stretching westward from the Loop. The interiors of these old brick buildings have been chopped up and rehabbed into lofts, nightclubs, condos, galleries and chic restaurants. Though some old businesses in this meatpacking district still just pack meat in the shadow of the El tracks.
In 2010, a trio of young musicians from suburban Northbrook rented a loft in the heart of the neighborhood. The oldest, Kris ‚ÄúRain Man‚Äù Trindl, 22 at the time, a metalhead who first picked up a guitar at age 11, tried to look his most presentable when meeting with the apartment agent. He wore a peacoat. Kris and his two bandmates, sisters Yasmine and Jahan Yousaf, then 18 and 20, respectively, moved into the 2,500-square-foot space with cardboard boxes and empty beer cases as furniture. They slept on mattresses on the floor. Kris ran his computer through a flat-screen television. He turned his closet into a vocal booth, drilling holes in the walls to thread cables, insulating the interior with comforters and foam padding. Inside that closet, Jahan and Yasmine belted the vocals to "Alive" as Kris crafted the amphetamine-pumping beats and longing piano arpeggios of the hopeful dance anthem on the hardwood in his bedroom.
"Cardboard is a pretty good acoustic fucking dampener," notes Kris. "But we probably didn't get our security deposit back," says Jahan. That recording would go on to reach Billboard's Mainstream Top 40.
Wait, let's rewind to 2007. Kris, Jahan and Yasmine met while attending Glenbrook North High School‚ the alma mater of both John Hughes and Ferris Bueller. Jahan recalls first encountering Kris, who was older and already out of school, at his parties. "He was such a star," she says. "People wanted the same guitars he had, the same pants he had. He was a bad boy."
At one soiree, at some point in the night, Jahan sensed that Kris had disappeared. She hunted him down, finding him shut away in his room. "He was programming, while everyone was playing beer pong." Kris asked Jahan to sing on the song he was secretly creating. Nelly Furtado's collaboration with Timbaland, Loose, had changed the headbanger's outlook on music. Now he wanted to make pop tunes like that.
Kris remembers first seeing Jahan at a concert his metal band was somehow playing at the Northbrook Public Library. The librarians were not thrilled. Hard to say which metal band it was. Kris cycled through ten of them. The excitable and quick-talking Killswitch Engage superfan can rattle off their names: Murder Midnight, Hero, Apostasy, et al. Meanwhile Jahan was in a group, too, a choir group for ten years. The two quickly decided a second vocalist was needed. After unsuccessfully trying out a couple of candidates, Jahan brought in her little sister, Yasmine. Though, she had been fronting a moody teenage indie band called Sunset and Camden, a moniker taken from the intersection in Singin' in the Rain.