Schwarz Don’t Crack

Schwarz Don't Crack_3_photo by Vitali Gelwich
Foto: Vitali Gelwich

Sebastian und Ahmad im Interview mit couchFM

Future R&B – Dieser Begriff taucht seit geraumer Zeit immer wieder in der Musikpresse auf, um eine neue musikalische Strömung beschreiben: Die Verschmelzung von klassischem R&B und elektronischer Musik. Kein Revival, eher eine Weiterentwicklung des 90er-Jahre-Genres. Neben Künstlern wie Kelela, How To Dress Well oder FKA Twigs ist auch das deutsch-amerikanische Duo Schwarz Don’t Crack dieser Musikrichtung zuzuordnen.
Gemeinsam haben der süddeutsche Produzent Sebastian Kreis und der New Yorker Sänger Ahmad Larnes eine Klangsynthese aus minimalistischen Beats und gefühlvollem, souligem Gesang geschaffen. Ihr Sound ist warm, dunkel und sexy. Ende Januar ist ihre erste EP erschienen, die so heißt, wie die Band selbst: „Schwarz Don’t Crack“. Musikredakteurin Tanja hat sich mit dem Duo getroffen und die beiden mit Fragen zu ihrem musikalischen Schaffen gelöchert.

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VON TANJA
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couchFM: How would you describe your music? 

Sebastian: I guess, it’s some kind of mixture of Electronica and R&B sounds.

Ahmad: The vocal kind of adds this kind of soulful element to it, but think when we’re writing we’re not consciously trying to make a certain genre of music. I just think that whatever the end product is, (…) I mean clearly it’s R&B, but (…) it may not just be R&B. I think when it’s a black vocal, it’s instantly R&B or it’s instantly Soul or whatever, but I think you could also exist outside of that genre as well.

couchFM: What do you think of the term “Future R&B”?

Ahmad: When people say future it’s just like how do you know what the future is going to be like? It’s today, it’s current, it’s today R&B. R&B is Michael Jackson, R&B is FKA Twigs, R&B is Aretha Franklin. (…) R&B has different facets like Rock has and like Hip Hop has and Jazz has. I just think that because it’s a sound and it has more electronic elements, I guess that’s why they say future. Because the future is going to be super electronic, I guess. I don’t know. (…) It’s kind of lame a little bit actually. I don’t know, I mean it’s just my opinion.

SDC_BW3_photo by Dirk Oelmann and Johannes Orthmayr
Foto: Oelmann and Johannes Orthmayr

couchFM: What do you like about R&B in particular?

Sebastian: What I think I like about R&B is the rhythm. Just like R&B drummers or who program R&B beats, they seem to have the ability to make the drum sound sloppy and tight at the same moment. And it sounds super interesting to me, if you listen to this “Voodoo” record from D’Angelo, it’s just the way they play on it, like the interplaying between drums and bass, it’s just so much more interesting than rock music, where it’s just a simple beat and I think that’s the point that was always interesting for me in R&B music.

couchFM: How did you guys meet? 

Ahmad: When I arrived in Berlin from New York in 2011 with the purpose of doing music I put an ad on Craigslist, searching for a producer and I put the kind of music I like and the kind of sound I was hoping to kind of connect with. And about a month or so there was lots of crap producers that were kind of reaching out to me. And then finally Sebastian saw the ad and I think he was also looking for singers and stuff as well. And so I went into the studio with him and then it was a little rocky, but only it was because I was sick. But eventually we started writing together. That’s kind of how it started.
couchFM: Why did you come to Berlin in the first place?

Sebastian: I was done with my school, it was just a boring place where I come from. I mean it’s still boring. And I just wanted to get out and make music. And Berlin seems to be the place where it’s possible to find the right people. And you know, I like that it’s a little more international here and I like that people don’t really have the village mentality, so that’s cool.

Ahmad: I guess that I came here because I was pretty much over living in New York. And I was in a band in Los Angeles and I was just really not happy. I wasn’t happy living in America, I really just wanted a change. I was in Berlin in 2010 for a month and so I kind of had a frame of reference, so I knew I wanted to go back to Berlin, so I actually turned to Berlin a year later to live. Just to do music, I mean just to do exactly what we’re doing.

SDC_BW1_photo by Vitali Gelwich
Foto: Vitali Gelwich

couchFM: How do you guys write songs? What is your creative process like? 

Sebastian: I think we always start with some kind of beat and then we develop a good vocal. And I know for my part where the beat comes from it’s always different. Sometimes it’s usually just, it starts with one interesting sound and then I start adding some stuff. It can start with drums, it can start with a melody or just like some ambient sound, it’s always different. I don’t really have a rule for making beats. (…) I think it’s more interesting when it kind of develops free.

Ahmad: Usually Sebastian will give me a beat, it’s usually kind of a loop though, it’s not finished at all. So I write to a track that may be like, I don’t know, a minute long and then he’ll like extend it or something, but I’ll write to it. Sometimes I write at home and then I come into the studio, I have an idea and I put it down. Or we’re in the studio and I hear it for the first time and I’ll start writing to it. The subject of the song, the subject matter of the song, it all depends on, you know, like, the melody. (…) So the melody comes first, the vocal melody comes first and I’ll see, go through a few of them until I find one that is, that we both like. (…) And from that point you start to think about the lyrics. Sometimes they just come into your head instantly (…), once I get a melody and I’ll just go with that topic, whatever the topic is. (…) I’ve never been in the studio with Sebastian, we’ve created a track from scratch together. I don’t make music, I’m a singer, I’m a songwriter and I wish I knew how to do that, but I don’t. So we have our designated roles.


couchFM: Your first EP was released in January. How do you feel about that?

Sebastian: So it’s our first EP and it’s a much more relevant step further than the single was. And I mean, we had the songs on the EP for a little longer time, but kind of revisited all of them, so they all sound a little different now. And yeah, I think it feels good, it’s like a good, the next step to the record, which we’re working on now. And it’s cool that it all happened, we had some good feedback and a nice video.

Ahmad: I feel like me and Sebastian, we really want the world to hear it. We’re hoping that our label is going to push it in America. (…) So we need to like really push our music, push as much as possible and hopefully people will hear it, outside of Germany, outside of, I don’t know, just around the world, you know. It would be nice to have that kind of awareness.


couchFM: What are your musical influences? 

Ahmad: I love Prince, I’m a huge Prince fan. And I love old school stuff, I’m really into like Chaka Khan and I love Aaliyah. I don’t feel like I’m influenced like really by, like vocal yeah, I think that I’m influenced by a lot of singers, a lot of soul singers, but, you know, I’m not really, when I think about what influences me today (…) I think my own personal struggle influences me more than anyone or any place or anything, you know. I think that what I go through, like personally, like it really just does like, nowadays it has like a super powerful influence on me.

Sebastian: Yeah I mean it’s hard to just name people, I mean I listen to all kinds of stuff, but you know, obviously My Bloody Valentine isn’t really going to be an influence on this project. So for this project my main influences was people like Timberland and Pharrell.

couchFM: Why are you making music at all? What’s so special about it for you personally?

Ahmad: I mean it just seems like a natural expression of who I am as a person, you know. It seems like the only thing that seems natural that I can do and do well, I guess, is sing, you know. It’s all that I can imagine doing at this point in my life. And if I weren’t able to, I would feel as if like I had murdered a part of myself, so it’s a part of my DNA, you know.

Sebastian: I mean, first it’s probably the only thing I can and I think I just hated all my fucking classmates, the fucking A levels and then I got a job at a bank and I thought it was really stupid, I just wanted to be different. And music was the thing I always loved and I spent most of the time listening to music, so I thought “Why not let’s make music?” And as he said, it’s an obvious choice.
couchFM: What’s the meaning of “Schwarz Don’t Crack”? 

Ahmad: In America there’s a term called „Black don’t crack“ and it’s like, you know, it’s because black people, because of the skin, we age, we stay younger longer, you know, that kind of shit. And so my friend was in town from Texas and we were just laughing about it. (…) So Sebastian turned “black” into “Schwarz” and so we were like “Oh, Schwarz Don’t Crack”. So after we laughed a little bit we decided to use that as our band name. So it’s like an adage, an old adage from America.

couchFM: Can you describe the other one in three words? 

Ahmad: Dark, introverted, talented.

Sebastian: Fast, driven, emotional.

couchFM: Thank you so much for your time and the best of luck for the future!

SDC_BW2_photo by Dirk Oelmann and Johannes Orthmayr


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Autorin: Tanja

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