In August, Billboard Dance spoke to Krewella‘s Jahan and Yasmine Yousaf about how time off the road gave the sisters a stronger perspective on exactly who Krewella was and what it wanted to be. The single “Mana,” released in tandum with the interview, tapped deeper into the Yousaf’s Pakistani heritage while pushing Krewella’s empowering bass-trap style to even bangier heights.
The pair said there was more to come, and today (Dec. 3), Krewella officially announces Zer0, their sophomore album set for release in January 2020. It’s a transformative body of work that represents a new chapter in Krewella’s career, the result of all that introspection and personal growth.
The announcement is paired with a second single. “Good On You” is an even slinkier jam, co-produced by Indian bass lover Nucleya.
We got back on the phone with Jahan and Yasmine days after their return from India, where they performed with their new collaborator and shot a music video on site in one of the country’s ancient holy cities. They were still amped from a photo shoot and full of childlike excitement. Check out the Q&A below.
I’m excited to be talking with you again. Now you can tell us all about the forthcoming album!
Jahan: It feels unreal right now. We’re both in this whirlwind. The past couple weeks we’ve been going from country to country. We haven’t had much time to slow down and process what is coming up for us, which is all this work finally unfolding and sharing that with people beyond the creatives we’ve been working with. It’s a reminder to be really present. A lot of us artists tend to keep thinking about what’s next, what’s coming after that, so we’re definitely just focused on savoring every moment that we can and really looking forward to a new era. That’s really what it feels like, this transformation into an evolved version of Krewella.
Yasmine: I have been feeling extremely giddy all day. Even our manager was like, “You’re not usually this excited,” which is horrible, but I think Jahan is right. We’re always thinking about what’s coming next. We don’t really stop to celebrate or even really think about how cool it is or be proud of ourselves. Today, I feel extremely giddy, like a child, and I rarely feel like this.
You left off with New World Pt.1. You’ve even called it a cliffhanger yourself. This is seemingly very much its own thing.
Jahan: We actually intended to create a New World Pt. II, but we ended up going above and beyond what a Pt. II EP would seem like. It felt like something bigger or more meaningful. We wanted to capture a deeper, more complicated and complex emotional, spiritual and cultural layers. That felt like more songs, like we needed more space on a body of work to capture that. We just kept writing. We don’t want to stop, and eventually it was enough to make an album.
What’s the story behind the title, Zer0?
Jahan: It started off as just a conversation. We were talking in a car on the way to Malibu on the Pacific Coast Highway. It was a beautiful drive, very gloomy, very misty, and…we were talking about the extreme opposing emotions that you can feel, or the extreme opposing values. If you feel extreme desperation, the exact opposite of that can be felt at the exact same moment, and there’s a place in between those two extremes. That is “zero.” Zero is infinity, but it’s also emptiness, purity, innocence, something void of concepts or opinions or projection.
Yasmine: All these things are very figurative and in our minds, but on a literal level, if you think about the lives we lived in the last decade or so, it’s been one extreme to the other. It’s been extremely high highs to extremely low lows. It’s taking so much time out of our lives to go tour, and then go back to a lonely hotel room. It’s all these crazy things existing together, and that place that Jahan is talking about in the middle, that place called zero, is what we’ve tried to dig out of ourselves; where the pendulum has stopped swinging from left to right and settles in the middle. It’s such a dreamy, almost surreal place to be, because it doesn’t exist for very long. Catching moments of it is what we’ve done and what we’ve written about, and when you listen to the album, you’ll notice that there are songs that are opposite emotions of each other.
Jahan: We love that it has so many layers to it. We’ve had pinnacle moments of our career, and we’ve also had low moments. To really carry through those low moments, you have to think about who am I as an individual without Krewella, without the numbers, without people’s perception of me, without brands, without a record label, and without this identity that we’ve created. Thinking of ourselves really as an entity separate of all these titles and labels or genres. I think we really tapped into that, and it was helpful taking time off the road. If you’re constantly in this cycle of tour, go home and straight to the studio and then promo mode, you don’t have this space to really step back and look at your life outside of that.
“Good On You” is a collaboration with Nuclyea. How did you meet?
Jahan: The funny thing is we didn’t meet him in person until last week. We met him on Skype and vibed out. He sent us a track. We wrote a top line, dismantled it and put it back together. Nuclyea makes a lot of trap and bassy stuff. We took it in a bit of a different direction, and it became a hybrid of both our sounds. The song is probably the most ethnically-charged song we’ve ever made. It has a lot of different sound palettes from our Pakistani and his Indian roots. We’ve always been leaning towards that, but we’ve really leaned in hard for this one.
When we talked about “Mana,” you told me a little bit about the instrument samples for that. Can you speak to the sounds we’re hearing here? I sounds like there’s a vocal on the hook.
Yasmine: That was Nuclyea, the vocal chop in the drop. Some of the instruments being used in the track, there’s dhols and tablas. That little sample in the intro, they’re strings that were sampled and reassembled, which is a very Bollywood/Pakistan thing. In all of the classic music, there’s strings in everything.
Jahan: In the middle of the drop, like eight bars in, the ch-ch. You’ll hear this a lot in Bollywood music. It’s basically the sound of jewelry clinking together. It’s called chudiyan. Yasmine brought in brass bangles to the studio one day and we kind of clanked them around. We actually did the same thing for “Team,” which we released a couple of years ago. We love bringing in that color. When I hear that sound, it feels like gold in the color palette.
Obviously, you’re having fun in the studio, if you’re jangling your bangles around.
Jahan: That’s what it’s about. We’ve done studio sessions where it does feel like it’s — not contrived, but more about “hey, we have to do this because we have to have a demo by the end of the session because the label is expecting X-amount of demos we can put together for the next body of work.” It feels more like creating for a marketplace. What we love about Zer0 is the process. We made a conscious effort to weirdly enough put — not less effort, but a different kind of effort where it’s more about enjoying ourselves in the studio, having fun, and creating from a place that feels more authentic rather than what works for a genre or industry.
There’s also a video coming — can you tell us about that?
Yasmine: It’s one of the most colorful music videos we’ve ever made. It’s gonna be so inherently interesting, because we filmed it in such an aesthetically amazing, beautiful place. It’s not only the place, it’s the people. There’s so much color in the video, and we’re really excited to have filmed it in India. We love going there, playing there. I think it’s a really special moment for our Indian fans. They’ll really identify with it. Bridging the gap between our Pakistani heritage, being able to go to India and do things like that, it’s extremely important to us. It’s so special. The video is being edited since we just shot, but the world will see it soon.
Jahan: Meanwhile, the lyric video is out. We had this awesome, badass designer named Rachael Johnston. She did the animation for it. Some of our references for the whole album is surreal, ethnic, otherworldly, bringing together the future with ancient visuals. That’s something you’ll see a lyric video, kind of reminiscent of what we did for the “Mana” visualization. You see certain technotronic elements combined with nature and organic elements. That represents the album as well, because we do sample a lot of organic elements, like as you heard with Yasmin’s jewelry, but at the same time, dance beats.
What do you hope fans take away from Zer0?
Yasmine: There’s a million things right now that feel important, but with this album, we’ve really tried to scour the globe for influences for collaborators. It’s an extremely international project. We just want people to listen to it and feel like they’re a part of something really, really big. This project is for the world, it’s not just for one place or one market act. We’re really excited about that, as you’ll be able to hear on “Good On You.”
Anything else in the pipeline?
Yasmine: We will also be touring in 2020. We’re currently locking in our next big tour, so that’s on the horizon as well.