Krewella’s Yasmine Yousaf never wants to be your background music

Krewella wants to get in your face at Light this weekend.
Photo: Joe Janet

If you haven’t heard Krewella’s single “Alive,” color us impressed. The infectious pop crossover hit has been saturating airwaves and nightclubs across the country, carrying the dance music wunderkinds on a seemingly unstoppable trajectory to EDM stardom. But the Chicago trio—producer Rain Man and sisters Yasmine and Jahan Yousaf—are more than your typical DJs behind the deck, bridging the gap between pop, rock and EDM with live shows that are as likely to include live harmonies and mosh pits as they are beat-matching. They recently landed their first Vegas residency at Mandalay Bay’s Light Nightclub, and return with their party-hearty antics this Friday. We spoke with singer/DJ Yasmine about connecting with the crowd, indie-rock roots and how she never wants to be your background music.

How did your residency with Light come about? It was really cool for us, because when they first approached us, everyone who was already announced for the residency were huge names like Baauer and Zedd and Skrillex. It was a huge honor to even be considered in the same group as them. The first impression we had of it was the first night we played there, and it blew us away. It’s a crazy club. It’s probably my favorite place that I’ve been to in Vegas, and we’ve been all over.

What was the process of creating your show there? They had us send them a few really big tracks that we’re playing, both our own singles and tracks that we like remixing, and they coordinated all the light and fog and crazy sh*t they do there to those songs. So every time we play there, there’s going to be something new going on. Which is really cool, because that doesn’t really happen in a lot of other clubs.

What’s been the biggest change for the group since you put out your EP last June? It’s the shows that have been a lot different. Everyone sings along to our lyrics now. When we play our really big single, “Alive,” we’ll turn down the music and people are just blaring along. It’s the coolest feeling in the world.

Was there one moment when you realized just how huge things were getting? Two days before our EP was released on June 18, 2012, we put it up for stream on rollingstone.com as an exclusive pre-release in the morning. We were playing a festival in our hometown of Chicago that afternoon, and literally six hours after it had been streaming, people were already singing along at our show. It had an impact right from the start for us to be able to see that.

What’s been the biggest challenge of having that sudden momentum? Definitely finding time to make new music. We just finished our first album and we spent more than a year working on it. It was a little bit of a struggle to balance touring with getting in the studio and writing and producing. Even down to music videos and album artwork, even that gets hard to do sometimes when you’re constantly on the road. But this is something we’ve been thrown into and are totally blessed and happy and ready for more.

Tell me more about the album— has the past year of success shaped what it’s going to sound like, or did you already have a vision in mind? It’s a 12-track album with, I think, two bonus tracks. We’re still working out those little details. It’ll be out in September. It’s been a long road that began as a very blurry vision. We just wanted to start writing and get stuff going. Over time we started to realize that there were certain songs we were all gravitating towards that we wanted our album to sound like. It was a trial and error-type of process, to be honest. You can hear some early childhood influences and teenage influences that we have of punk rock and metal bands, but that is all still tied into the electronic sound we have.

You are really known for your live shows. What makes a good live show in the dance music world today? I think the most important thing is to never stop the energy and always be able to keep the listener. That hour and a half that you have people’s attention, make them a part of it. It’s more than getting people to sing along and put their hands up. You need to do it in a way where you get up close. My sister will go up to the front of the crowd and take the mic and just hype on it, and people go nuts. Everyone is trying to take her hand and reach out to her. They want to be a part of it.

I feel like you don’t see very much of that in the EDM world. Yeah. As much as DJing is such an art form and I love watching it, I do come from rock music. I come from an indie rock band and singing and hyping on a mic. It’s more personal. I think sometimes DJs can get lost behind the booth, and people just forget that they’re there. I never want to be your background music. I want to be in people’s faces, like, “Hey, f*ckin’ listen to me! I’m right here; I’m giving you all I have!”

Tell me about making the switch from rock to dance music. How do those earlier influences impact the music you make now? When I was around 11 and Jahan was 13, we always used to listen to bands like Good Charlotte, Sum 41, Green Day, Fall Out Boy. Then I went into indie rock, and that’s when I started as the singer of this indie rock band that lasted about four years for me. I wrote tons of music with them, and that inspired me so much. I listened to nothing but Death Cab For Cutie and Modest Mouse, but Jahan and I also grew up on The Cure, Depeche Mode, Pet Shop Boys, all those. At the same time we were also listening to things like ABBA. We were all over the place. But now coming back around, when we started making this album, we started pulling from those places again.

We have this song on the album —I’m not really supposed to talk about this, but whatever—that’s a collaboration with Patrick Stump from Fall Out Boy and Travis Barker from Blink-182. It’s the three of us together on one song, and it’s like the culmination of my adolescent years, the coolest thing that’s every happened to me. When we were in the studio with Patrick Stump writing this song, it was one of those moments when I realized there’s no other type of music I’d rather be making. ... I don’t even know how to place us anymore. But that’s I guess a good thing. You don’t cater to one kind of fan. You cater to the people who never lost that love for pop-punk when they were 12, as much as anyone else.

Krewella August 9, 10 p.m., $20 women, $50 men. Light Nightclub, 588-5656.

Tags: Nightlife
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