Jahan and Yasmine Yousaf, the sisters behind the EDM duo Krewella, create the music you must have on your summer playlist.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY JOHN HONG
STYLING BY LISA MARTINEZ
HAIR BY BEN TERRY AT SOLOARTISTS.COM USING R+CO & T3MICRO
STORY BY ETHEL NAVALES
Watching Jahan and Yasmine Yousaf casually lean on one another for their photo shoot, you get the sense of just how close and connected these sisters really are. The trendsetting duo radiate confidence, realness, and are undeniably — there’s really no other word for it — cool. This is probably why Jahan, 26, and her younger sibling Yasmine, 24, more popularly known by their band name, Krewella, have become such well-known and well-loved artists in the electronic dance music scene. Creating addictive music since 2007, Krewella has graced the stage of EDM festivals around the world, from Las Vegas’ Electric Daisy Carnival to the Sunburn Festival in Goa, India. Most recently, they’ve released a new EP titled “Ammunition.”
The talented sisters sat down with “Composure” to talk about their music, their past, and most importantly, their future.
Composure Magazine: You two undoubtedly share an incredibly strong bond. What sort of relationship did you have with one another growing up? What about now?
Yasmine: We were both very independent children but loved to come together and be creative. We could make a game out of anything and adored spending entire days in our basement with our Fender Squier electric guitar and kids’ beginner drum kit. As sisters, you will always have quarrels, but it is a bond that can never be tarnished or broken.
Jahan: Because we share the same DNA, have never lived apart, and create experiences together, we have incredibly similar personality traits. We’re both pretty outspoken and opinionated, and we’re talkative around our friends and music colleagues. But we also both consider ourselves to be introverted in the sense that our bodies and souls desperately need isolation to regather our energy before we give it back to the world. Our differences become apparent when we balance each other out. For example, there have been a couple times in the past where I wanted to respond to some adversity or rumor in a public way that would have escalated the situation, and Yasmine was there to remind me that my actions wouldn’t be in line with my values as a human.
Yasmine: The best part is that we have an unbreakable bond — we will never betray each other, and we get to experience this wonderful life together. Bandmates, related or not, will fight from time to time; it’s being family that [helps us] repair and mend these fights to make a stronger bond in the end. We feel incredibly blessed to have each other.
CM: That’s really special. Is it true that you even have matching tattoos?
Yasmine: We actually have three matching tattoos! The first tattoo we both ever got was the date “6-8-10” on our necks. It’s our “dedication to Krewella” date, and we wanted to get it on our necks to represent that there was no turning back. The second matching tat we have is a “KREWLIFE” tattoo. We actually got this one with our whole team on tour in 2013. Our third matching tat is something we just got recently on our necks near the first. Each of us has one half of a yin and yang [symbol], representing our relationship and sisterhood.
CM: How old were you two when you first got interested in music?
Jahan: We were raised in an environment where there was always eclectic music playing in the living room or car. Our mom had a collection of old classics like Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin, and our dad is Pakistani so he exposed us to Bollywood records that Yasmine and I would try to imitate singing as little kids. Around our early teenage years, we spent a lot of time exploring the Web for indie records and stumbling into a vortex of obscure genres. We started developing Krewella as a hobby in 2007, and then decided to take it seriously as a career in 2010 when we dropped out of college and quit our side-hustle jobs.
CM: It sounds like it wouldn’t have come as a surprise that you chose to pursue music full-time. How did your family react to this decision?
Jahan: Our mom was incredibly supportive. She actually gave us a loan to pay rent for our loft in Chicago when we told her that we were quitting our jobs. As a successful independent graphic designer who dropped out of college herself, she was more than understanding of our risky decisions. [But] our dad was a bit nervous since our status as full-time students gave us health insurance privileges. Looking back, it’s crazy to see how times have changed in that something as vital as maintaining health care can prevent someone from pursuing his or her artistic passion in life. Both of our parents are currently enthusiastic about our recent music release and are incredibly supportive of our touring lifestyle.
CM: How did you come up with the name Krewella?
Jahan: I thought of the name Krewella a little before Yasmine joined the group, actually. It just came to my mind, and I didn’t question it! I loved how it felt powerful, aggressive, and feminine. Recently, a friend told us that Krewella sounds like a female god. Her interpretation of our name gave me new eyes for Krewella.
CM: What has been your most memorable or favorite experience together as Krewella?
Yasmine: There are too many to pinpoint one as the favorite, but one that comes to mind immediately is our first year playing Tomorrowland in 2014. Not only is it such a legendary festival that anyone would be honored to play, but we flew our mother out to come experience it with us. After the set, we went back to the bar in the artist area and downed a few beers with her and a bunch of the other artists on the lineup. By the third round, the entire place was chanting “Krewella’s mom! Krewella’s mom! Krewella’s mom!” It was such a beautiful and hilarious moment.
CM: Most people may not know, but Krewella was originally a trio. How did the dynamic shift when you went from three to two?
Jahan: After months of battling the backlash from the change in the dynamic and many moments of uncertainty regarding the future of Krewella, Yasmine and I have come to realize that everything that happened was meant to be. I think the entire process of picking up the pieces brought us to a new era of self-discovery and reflection, which fueled our songwriting. As sisters, our bond grew closer, and we consider ourselves an unstoppable two-person team now.
CM: How has your music evolved over the years?
Yasmine: Overall, the music is more personal, more in tune with our authentic and genuine selves. Now that it’s just the two of us, we’ve also been more compelled to introduce Pakistani elements into our music as an ode to our heritage. It’s a rush to be able to get this real and experimental with our music. I’d like to think that we’ve never felt this free during the creative process as we do now, and we hope that it shines through the music.
CM: Tell us about your latest, “Ammunition.” What inspired those songs? What story are you sharing there?
Jahan: The concept for “Ammunition” is about spinning a negative experience or obstacle and using it to your advantage. We wrote about the moments we wanted to give up and times we needed closure and turned those emotions into songs. Towards the end of the process, we felt like we got most of the bitter emotions off of our chests, and underneath it all, we found ourselves feeling confident and ready to move on.
CM: What’s coming up next for Krewella?
Jahan: Even before the “Ammunition” EP was released, we were working on the next body of work. Krewella never stops — only to walk the dog or for a coffee break! As of now, we have enough demos for a lifetime of EPs. We have a music video for “Broken Record” in the works, a follow-up single to the EP, and the Sweatbox Tour in North America in the fall.
Yasmine: In five years, I definitely think we’ll still be grinding on Krewella, hopefully having created three or four more albums and touring the world. Ten years is a different story — I can almost see my sister having a family or us pursuing one of our side dream jobs we have together (one of the fantasies is a donut shop, just to give you an idea!). I’m sure we’ll always be making music over our lifetime together, though. Krewella is a forever thing for us.
CM: What advice do you have for young women trying to break into the industry?
Jahan: Times are changing. Perfection is passé. Raw is real. The more haters you have, the less
f—ks you give. Derogatory assumptions shouldn’t be taken personally; they are a reflection of a close-minded individual. Stand tall, and assert yourself. Surround yourself with women who inspire you, and if you don’t know any, then read about them and learn from their attitude and perseverance.
For tour dates, check out krewella.com.