Most DJ producers live a breakneck lifestyle, but give a true creative a little space and watch the magic unfold. Bass-loving sister duo Krewella hails from Chicago but moved to Los Angeles to hone in the electric lifestyle. After touring 2017’s New World EP, Jahan and Yasmine Yousaf took a year off from the road to focus on the studio, and with Thursday’s (Aug. 22) release of “Mana,” emerged with an empowered new sound that pushes Krewella’s style and tempo while reflecting the sisters’ deepest sense of self.
“Mana” is a feminist anthem that aims to inspire confidence in all being with a gritty bass rhythm and sensual Middle Eastern/Asian-inspired percussion. It’s paired with a maximalist video that finds the connection between the ancient roots of humanity and the technological fever of today. It’s the beginning of a broader exploration of spiritual concepts, experimental techniques and heavier grooves. Billboard Dance caught up with Krewella to learn more.
Why don’t you start with the inspiration for “Mana” and when you actually wrote it and recorded it?
Yasmine: We wrote it a really long time ago, probably early summer of last year. It when one of those random days where we had a studio session with no agenda, one of those days where we felt really free and creative. From that free feeling, Mana was born. At first, it was just top line with really aggressive drums, really aggressive bass. [Later], we felt like the message in the lyric lent itself to having a bass moment. It wasn’t until a couple months later that we went back to the song and were like “we need to add a drop.” The song was created kind of 50/50 at two different time.
That end part is just, it roars, I don’t know how else to say it.
Yasmine: We wanted to treat it like a journey, having a lot of ups and until the final crescendo.
Jahan: I think it mirrors life in general. The song itself, creating it was such a learning experience, because we were detaching from this formatted way of writing. Once you release music and there’s evidence of success, you tend to think “oh, that’s what works.” During this transition period for us, we we’re really exploring what’s beyond the obvious or predictable structure that we typically would go to. That’s when it pushes you into realms of experimentation. It’s more so honoring what you feel is intuitively right rather than what’s rationally right, or what’s working on dance playlists on Spotify, or what’s working based on what other artists are releasing. It was purely based on what our gut intuition was telling us in the studio.
This song encompasses a variety of different opposing dualities. If you look at the hook, it has ethereal, floating melodies juxtaposed with aggressive lyrics. There are lots of organic vocalizations. We love merging natural elements such as our vocals, chanting percussive sounds mixed with more electronic, digital sound. It really encompasses all of these opposing forces together, synthesizing them.
Yasmine: The same goes for the New World EP. That was a really big turning point for us, because we started using our voices in more than just the vocals obviously and in vocal chop moments. We started using our voices as actual instruments like percussive instruments and transitional instruments. “Mana” is the moment where we used our voices the most in that way. We really try to add this human element mixed in with the electronic element as much as we could.
I’d love to hear about some of these instruments, especially in the beginning. It has kind of like a Middle Eastern flair to it, but I don’t really know what those instruments are. Are they samples or instrumentation?
Yasmine: Unfortunately samples, because we don’t own any of these drums ourselves or string instruments. Maybe someday we can build up our collection. I’ve definitely been lurking Craigslist, but for now, we are doing a lot of sampling and those instruments are your tablas, dhols and udus, as far as the percussive instruments. On this song, we didn’t go too in-depth with any other Middle Eastern or South Asian instruments that are non-percussive, but we have a ton of them on our upcoming project.
Jahan: I definitely have to slide in just to give credit to one of our favorite collaborators named Cody Tarpleyy. Since New World, he’s probably been the main person we work with, and the reason we love working with him is because he’s so curious about her ethnic roots, and exploring the music that we grew up on, whether it’s Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan or Bollywood music, and also the Western music as well. He educates himself on those instruments, and it’s been really gratifying for us to be able to create with someone who cares about our roots, creating music from a deeper place for us.
You just mentioned even more new music. Can you say anything about what’s to come?
Yasmine: Unfortunately we can’t say anything too concrete. I will say, and I know this sounds really cryptic, but the next five or six months are just going to unfold very rapidly. I can’t even cap it at five or six months. The next year is going to rapidly unfold with new things, every month hopefully. This is like the floodgates opening with this first single.
“Flood gates.” That makes me think about the video.
Jahan: We wanted to give creative rein to the director who’s original mission was to create a lyric video. His name is Gabriel. He’s a French artist, so Yasmine and I sent the song with loose guidelines for what we wanted; references to ancient iconography, spirituality, divine elements, mythology juxtaposed with the modern world in technology. He just went ham. He did everything from scratch. He photographed us against a green screen and then imposed his own animation in the background. Calling it a lyric video ended up devaluing what he did, so we called it a music video, and I like to think of the video as a portal into the world that we’re about to step in. That portal, that world, and that realm is so multifaceted and multi-dimensional. It’s not one layer. It has deep layers, as all of us humans have beneath what we think is the self. Within the psyche and within our ancestry, within our experience, within our history and our relationships. You’ll see that in the video. It’s very stimulating and an extremely sensational version of that universe that exists within the self, and then in turn, its connection to the cosmos.
I love that connection between modernity and ancient human cultures.
Jahan: It’s something that we’re thinking about more and more as a society as we’re seeing rapid modernization.We’re seeing more and more that it’s at the expense of nature. It’s at the expense of ethnic groups, humanity and other living forms. That’s why we’re seeing more of people wanting to be cognizant of where they come from. It’s all about finding that balance. Yasmine and I talk a lot about the pendulum swing. Sometimes you go from one extreme to the other in order to find the center place.
Yasmine: We just hope this song makes people feel really powerful when they listen to it – and that’s any person, any man, any woman, any non-binary and binary, any person out there from anywhere – that they feel very powerful when they listen to “Mana.”