Photography Bert Spangemacher
Interview Justin Ross
Schwarz Dont Crack is the latest band to emerge from an unusually creative combination that could only come from Berlin. The ambitious duo has plans to conquer the world, and this hybrid act from Berlin and New York has all the goods to do so with Ahmad’s sultry and seductive vocal talents and Sebastian’s catchy dance beats.
Their latest single ‘Getaway’ was just released on Spotify in advance of their album release later this summer and their upcoming tour. Sebastian Kreis, one half of Berlin-based electronic R&B group Schwarz Dont Crack joined us at the 4SEE studio to talk about life in Berlin, their unique music and upcoming album with frontman Ahmad Larmes, and of course his favorite pair of sunglasses.
Justin: You live in Berlin?
Sebastian: I’m here for six years now… way too long!
Justin: Tell me about yourself, where are you from?
Sebastian: I was born in East Germany, in Halle, not so far from Berlin, about 200km. When I was ten I moved to Southern Germany with my mom. It was very boring there, a small town with simple people. I always wanted to be a musician so I knew that I needed to go to a big city. As a German, Berlin is an obvious choice, a first step at least.
Justin: Did you study music or are you self-taught?
Sebastian: I’m completely self-taught.
Justin: What type of music, electronic?
Sebastian: It depends, there are definitely some organic elements in my music, but for this project with Schwarz Dont Crack, it is mostly electronic sounds. One day I start with a synth sound, but the next day I might start with drums, it is always different. I just go with whatever feels right for the moment.
Justin: Some people describe the sound of Schwarz Dont Crack as a synth-based R&B. What do you think?
Sebastian: I like all kinds of music… except for Ska maybe [laughter]. I definitely do like R&B, but I’m not sure if this sound is strictly R&B. In a way every song is a pop song. If it’s R&B or electronic, that is determined by the production really. So I guess this is somewhere between electronic, R&B, and pop. For me it is more important that it has some kind of interesting twist to it, and I care less about the names actually.
Justin: How did the project with Schwarz Dont Crack begin? How did you meet?
Sebastian: I read an ad on Craigslist. Ahmad just put up a post saying that he was looking for a producer to collaborate with. I wrote him a message and sent him some tracks and then we met up and instantly wrote our first song “Day by Day” which was also on our first EP. Ever since then we have been writing music together.
Justin: How long ago was that?
Sebastian: It’s already been four or five years now.
Justin: Does Ahmad live in Berlin or how do you guys work together?
Sebastian: Yah, he lives in Berlin as well. He lived in Paris for some time, but these days he lives in Berlin. Most of the time I send him some rough tracks and then he has some ideas and then we put it together. It is pretty uncomplicated. He writes some lyrics over it and we arrange it together. Then I will always go back and change the production to make it ninety percent ready and then we will choose the right tracks for the release and we will re-record the vocals to make it the best quality.
Justin: What about your name Schwarz Dont Crack, where does it come from?
Sebastian: We were at a party with one of Ahmad’s American friends, and they found the word schwarz super funny, probably because of its sound. Ahmad came up to me and said let’s call our project “black don’t crack” but then at this party they kept laughing about schwarz and since it’s the German word for black, we ended up calling our band “Schwarz Dont Crack”.
Justin: It seems kind of fitting somehow because like you both it is a hybrid, you are German, he is American, he is black, you are white, and your sound also has this fusion happening.
Sebastian: I like the name because a lot of people say it is a really great name, and a lot of people also say it is a terrible name, that kind of polarizing quality is always good.
Justin: Tell me about your latest single “All My Love”?
Sebastian: Actually we have a newer one that just came out last week called “Getaway” which is the lead single for our new record.
Justin: Are you going to tour the new record?
Sebastian: We are going to play Melt Festival this year in July. And we definitely plan to play a tour when the album comes out.
Justin: When does the album come out?
Sebastian: It will be out at the beginning of August.
Justin: How about your style, how would you describe it?
Sebastian: I think I’m influenced by the Rolling Stones. I usually just go to some second-hand shop and look for weird patterns, prints and colors. I definitely like the late ’60s early ’70s Keith Richards kind of style.
Justin: Do you wear glasses sometimes?
Sebastian: I actually think I might need glasses soon! But right now I’m more into sunglasses, I definitely do like sunglasses.
Justin: What kind of sunglasses?
Sebastian: I like classic ones like Ray-Ban, and I also like vintage ones, with big round frames.
The smooth sounds of Schwarz Dont Crack continue to woo fans and seep deep into your soul. Sebastian’s energetic beats keep the whole idea fresh and what could have been a culture clash ends up being a match made in heaven. Sebastian’s love for vintage ’70s inspired looks with colorful patterns is absolutely on point. It is a perfect counterpoint to Ahmad, who being a New Yorker has got urban style down. In many ways, the two parts of the duo couldn’t be more different, but the result is music to our ears.