Track by track: Krewella breaks down “zer0” album in their own words

Krewella is a name unanimously recognizable in and out of dance music, and yet, they haven’t released much new music, or gone on tour, in nearly three years. That changed this year, when the new iteration of the group released their first album as a duo made up of Jahan and Yasmine Yousaf. While Krewella has always a been female forward, dance music meets pop operation, the release of zer0 marked a refreshed and newly energized reentrance into the world, focused on its members’ cultural histories and how it has informed their relationship with music.

zer0 debuted in January, where it charted across iTunes charts and the like. In March, it received its seemingly first round of remixes. Now, while it’s still lingering in our heads, the Yousaf sisters have given us a deeper glimpse into their latest album in their own words. Though they’ve had to cancel their coordinating tour dates – also their first solo headlining tour in three years – we are sure they will be back out on the road once restrictions are lifted and concerts and festivals can safely resume around the world. For now, the picture that the duo paints can simmer until that live show brings it to life.

1. Zer0

When you finally come up for air, amidst drowning in the circus of life, when you finally close your eyes and quiet the chaos of the mind, there is a comforting stranger within that emerges. While anything unfamiliar can be daunting and uncomfortable, “zer0” curiously pries peels back layers of this illusion of “self,” and follows spiritual breadcrumbs to who you were before acquired belief systems, constructs of love and family, learned gender, social identity, knowledge and intellect, and material desires. When the noise dissolves, what remains are empty, vast fields of the true self to discover. “zer0” describes the realization of this seemingly unknown and elusive aspect of self, the longing to return to innocence and connect with what has been there all along, and finding peace in that nothingness.

2. Mana

Mana is an ode to the multi-dimensional, universal human. They encompass the spectrum of feminine and masculine; the spiritual and material; creator and destroyer; the king and queen.  We channeled the essence of this limitless being when writing the record, unrestricted by rules of arrangement or conformity of genre.

3. Good On You

This song lyrically is a nod to sensuality and the connection of two beings, focusing on what’s underneath the surface that creates a foundation of feeling verses the superficial aspects such as anything attributed to a number or vanity. Continuing with the theme of “zero”, it’s an exploration of what love lies beneath, once all the layers are peeled back. The sense of another human being able to fully see you, in your most unguarded state, your most willing and open state; that is the spirit of Good On You. Sonically this song is one of the most South-Asian charged tracks on the album. We worked with Nucleya, a renowned DJ and producer from India, on the song and tried to infuse our east-meets-west mantra into it to the fullest.

4. Anxiety feat.Arrested Youth

Sometimes all a musician can do to make sense of the mess in their minds is write a song. “Anxiety” was birthed out of confusion, hopelessness, and a hint of faith that the universe has a way of giving us the ability to untangle the mess. Rock bottom can sometimes mean a downward spiral, but if substances, destruction, and anything self-detrimental doesn’t whet your appetite, all you’re left with is the option to sit in your unraveling delusions. Breathing and trudging through hurt, shame, responsibility, and desperation, this sensation is arguably equally as masochistic as other methods of moving through a low period. We knew we had to create this song in the most honest and emotional way possible, which to us was including elements that felt unmistakably human. Live guitars, vocal pads and leads supporting many parts of the song, organic percussion infused with electronic, and the addition of our incredible collaborator Arrested Youth came together over the almost year and a half we worked on this song to complete it.

5. Paradise

The Pakistani collaborator on the second verse of “Paradise,” Asim Azhar, is probably one of the most enthusiastic, professional, and punctual artists we’ve ever experienced working with. Within 24 hours of engaging on WhatsApp, he presented us with a scratch vocal of the second verse. While the song is mostly in the position of the feminine, with spiritual, lustful lyrics, describing the openness of the heart to be moved by love, along with organic Pakistani drums, whimsical melodies, and soft synths, we found that Asim’s voice folded in a gentle masculine presence that gave the song more dimension. Featuring Asim on “Paradise” also felt like we were bringing the song home, in a sense, considering we have Pakistani roots.

6. Like We feat. Yung Baby Tate, Alaya

This is one of the first tracks we made for the album and it heavily informed the creation process for so many songs that followed because of how many different personalities, cultural flavors, and new techniques we infused. This song is a celebration of the various aspects that make our experiences unique, but also act as diverse pieces of the puzzle that come together to create and even more exciting whole. This is especially important to us because growing into our identity of “mixed kids” (*hat tip* to our record label), we’ve embraced the blend of our parents two very opposing backgrounds more and more as we’ve grown. We were so lucky to have Yung Baby Tate & Alaya magnify this song with their talents, both bringing character and essence from their two separate worlds into their respective verses on Like We. 

7. Scissors

Scissors is about the difficult decision to part ways with someone, after the realization that the relationship is not serving you anymore. Many times this is perceived as “selfishness,” but serving the self is love of self. Love of self that’s fostered through pursuit of evolving, goals, health, clarity…whatever it is that makes someone tick. And there are some relationship dynamics that just don’t have a safe space for this experience of growth that one might be yearning for. Sometimes you don’t even know who you could become until you just fucking jump. 

8. Ghost

A shiver of loneliness, covered by a hard impenetrable outer shell. Or a satisfying aloneness, strongly lead by this strength of independence. That is the dance this song tip toes between, and the line between is quite blurry. We intended the mood of this song to swing between cold, then anguished, then powerful all within the verse, prehook, chorus— only to be swept up in a down-tempo but highly energetic drop. We always strive to dissect our most inexplicable feelings, and this track lyrically and sonically embodies the notion of how far we’ll go to protect ourselves after catastrophe; how pain transforms us; how comforting it can be to find ourselves alone after the storm has passed. Having Rico Nasty on the second verse was the perfect addition of a woman with grit and her own piece of the story to include. The vocal sample in the intro and tucked underneath the chorus is actually our father singing a “raga,” or a Pakistani chant, which he made up on the spot while visiting us in the studio one day.

9. Martyr

Martyr is our attempt to describe the indescribable sensation that everything we thought our existence is based on might not be real. It is about the questioning and dissolving our own beliefs, material possessions, ambitions, attachments, and identities, and seeing the emptiness behind these symbols. Maybe so much of what we suffer over is a function of believing our thoughts are reality, and that realization can be liberating. But so much disorientation and confusion comes with opening of the mind. Deconstructing our former, rigid belief systems can leave one empty and paralyzed by the freedom. How can one move forward if there doesn’t seem to be a point to any of this? But can faith, the very thing we questioned, can be the source of healing? “I never loved you the way I loved you right now.” Maybe the empty, vacant shell actually contains fertile soil for seeds of new found spirituality, through devotion to self, a higher power, or a belief system that brings forth the soul within? Everything is questioned because anything is possible. 

10. Overboard

Birthed out of a deep, dark, and unexplored crevice of our combined human experiences, Overboard came from a place we haven’t created from before. As much as that was exciting, it was daunting. There are a hoard of emotions that we tend to file away because the mere thought of thinking about them is overwhelming or frightening. This song inspects the buried desires to quit or give up; to escape; to be nothing; to accept that maybe everything you constructed for yourself isn’t actually as real or sturdy as you hoped. Maybe it isn’t really rock bottom, but a strange and sharp path to the other side. And maybe you emerge as a version of yourself that you’re uncomfortable or unfamiliar with, unrecognizable to those who know you best, but shedding all the illusions is the only way you can get to the nucleus of your true self. At the end of the day we just want listeners to take away whatever feeling or message they crave or automatically reflex to, because even those feelings that are on the verge of devastating or complete numbness deserve a definition or set of words to help explain them. 

11. Greenlights

We were so inspired to write a song that exhibited the meaning of ‘more life’ because we’re constantly searching for different ways to tear down our own insecurities, barriers, or whatever else gets in the way of us growing as people. Movement is so important to us whether on stage or in any other aspect of life and giving others a reason to push further through our music is a dream for us.”

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