In the years since posting their first tracks to YouTube, Milky Chance have racked up billions of streams, headlined massive sold-out concerts around the world, performed on nearly every late night show, and played iconic festivals from Coachella and Lollapalooza to Bonnaroo and ACL. But when the COVID-19 pandemic struck and forced the breakout German duo to cancel an entire year’s worth of tour dates, guitarist/singer Clemens Rehbein and bassist/percussionist Phillipp Dausch found themselves right back where they started nearly a decade ago: just two music-loving friends with nothing but time and ambition on their hands.
“It honestly felt like the early days all over again,” says Rehbein. “Without any schedules or deadlines, we were back to making music just for ourselves, free to experiment and take risks and have fun with it.”
It’s that boundless sense of freedom and possibility that fuels the duo’s addictive new single (and first fully independent release on their own Muggelig Records label), “Colorado.” Written and recorded in a flash of inspiration, the track mixes indie rock grit with electro-pop shine, layering interlocking guitar and synthesizer hooks as it transforms the pain of heartbreak into something utterly transcendent and anthemic. Where much of Milky Chance’s earlier work incorporated acoustic reggae and folk influences, “Colorado” pulls more from the punk world, with a driving, muscular arrangement and raw, searing lyrics. “We had it all but what do I know,” Rehbein sings, balancing frustration and disappointment in equal measure. “I try to push away the sorrow / But today it’s too late / I’ll try tomorrow.”
“If there’s a silver lining to the past year,” says Dausch, “it’s been the chance to take our sound to places we might never otherwise have gone. You can get tunnel vision being constantly on the road, but having a break like this really gave us a fresh perspective on things.”
Indeed, Milky Chance have been in perpetual motion ever since the release of their star-making debut single, “Stolen Dance.” Recorded at Rehbein’s childhood home in Kassel, Germany, the track became an international juggernaut after the band posted it online in 2013, topping charts in more than a dozen countries before crossing the pond and hitting #1 on the Billboard Alternative Chart. Proving they were more than just a hit single, the pair returned later that same year with their critically acclaimed full-length debut, sadnecessary, which SPIN hailed as “lovely and understated” and the New York Times called “a beatnik spread of fingerpicked guitars and jazz-influenced synth pulses.” In the years to come, the duo would spend nearly all of their time on the road, pausing only briefly to record their similarly well-received follow-ups—2017’s Blossom and 2019’s Mind The Moon—before heading right back out on tour.
“From that first album to Mind The Moon all felt like one long run,” says Dausch. “We definitely evolved as a band over those years, particularly with our live setup growing into a four-piece, but it all felt like part of the same chapter. Finally having time at home broke us out of a lot our routines and offered us the space to grow as artists.”
While the two were always working, even when apart, things really began kicking into overdrive in August of 2020, when Rehbein moved to Berlin, where Dausch had been living for the past few years. Back in the same city once again like the old days, the pair began going into the studio together daily, working both on their own and remotely with a host of different co-writers and producers.
“The studio became this escape, this hideaway for us,” says Rehbein. “It was a place where anything was possible.”
It was that hunger for something fresh and new that led Dausch and Rehbein to stretch their sound in bold directions, opening up their creative process to outside collaborators in a big way for the first time.
“It always used to be just the two of us writing and producing,” says Dausch, “and while that’s mainly still the case, we wanted to use this time to really push ourselves beyond what we’ve grown comfortable with. Music is all about communication and connection, and working with other people introduced us to whole new worlds and put us in touch with parts of ourselves that we’d never really explored before.”
Pushing themselves in the studio naturally led Dausch and Rehbein to push themselves in other aspects of their careers, as well. Already industry leaders with their Milky Change initiative, which promotes eco-consciousness and sustainability in the music industry by planting trees to offset the carbon footprint of touring, the band decided to make the leap and go fully independent beginning with “Colorado.”
“Running our own label gives us the ability to be just as creative with how we get the music out to people as we are with how we make it,” says Dausch.
“There’s more responsibility,” adds Rehbein, “but there’s a lot more freedom, too.”
And so it all comes back to freedom for the duo: freedom to create, to explore, to be masters of their own destiny. Milky Chance have come a long way over the past ten years, but these days, they’re happy to be right back where they started.