Milky Chance’s quirky sound meets instant success 

click to enlarge Philipp Dausch, left, and Clemens Rehbein are Milky Chance. - COURTESY JAMES KENDALL
  • Philipp Dausch, left, and Clemens Rehbein are Milky Chance.
Clemens Rehbein and Philipp Dausch of the German techno-folk duo Milky Chance had no idea their 2013 debut “Sadnecessary” would become an overseas smash.

Rather than shop the curious sound – which features soulful singer Rehbein plucking acoustic guitar in reggae-meets-flamenco fashion while DJ-producer Dausch adds undulating beats – to major labels, they released it on their own Lichtdicht Records.

“We didn’t have any idea of making some big release of our album. We just did it because we wanted to have the recording experience, just for ourselves,” says Rehbein, who appears with Milky Chance in a sold-out San Francisco concert this week.

Describing how he tracked the album at his parents’ house using only a computer, an interface, a single six-string and a microphone, he says, “It was like being in a bubble. We felt very comfortable, so we just did what we wanted to do. And it made us very happy.”

While the “Sadnecessary” sessions lasted only two weeks, mixing took a month longer.

“Because we weren’t really into mixing,” says Rehbein. “So it was like pushing different buttons, just to see what happens. It took a lot of time to get the sound we wanted in the end.”

After posting three cuts on YouTube, including the overwhelmingly popular “Stolen Dance,” the team launched its label and pressed an initial 500 albums in its tiny hometown of Kassel. The run instantly sold out.

“That was our very first music business experience, and it was surprisingly great,” says Rehbein, who wasn’t sure anyone would understand Milky Chance outside of Germany. “But then we released it online, so that people from other places could buy it, too.”

Last year, “Sadnecessary” was reissued in the U.S. on Republic, through Lichtdicht, which, in translation, complements the group’s curious moniker: “In German, it means the same as ‘milky’ – ‘opaque,’ where you can’t see much light shining through,” he says.

Rehbein and Dausch first noticed each other in class, in 11th grade. They hung out, made music together and went on to form a jazzy combo called Flown Tones with a drummer and keyboardist; Rehbein played bass.

After those two members quit, Rehbein and Dausch resolved to continue making music themselves, DIY-style.

Rehbein cites his primary vocal influences as Bob Marley, Ray Charles and U.K. folkie Ben Howard, whom he was delighted to recently meet backstage in Europe.

He says Milky Chance “is not necessarily about inventing new things. It’s more about how you put existing genres together in a different way. You know, like schnitzel!”


Milky Chance

Where: Regency Ballroom, 1300 Van Ness Ave., S.F.

When: 8 p.m. April 14

Tickets: $20 (sold out)

Contact: (888) 929-7849,

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Tom Lanham

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