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What’s in your bag, Krewella?

Memories, mindfulness, and music

Photography by Chris Sullivan for The Verge

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What’s in Your Bag? is a recurring feature in which we ask people to tell us a bit more about their everyday gadgets by opening their bags and hearts to us. This week, we’re featuring electronic musicians (and sisters) Krewella.

The Verge meets Jahan and Yasmine Yousaf, aka Krewella, at Chicago’s Felix Hotel. The duo is known for numerous dance anthem hits like “Team,” “Alive,” and “Live For The Night,” as well as their equally explosive performances / DJ sets. Over the years, the Krewella sound has incorporated everything from pop to dubstep to their Pakistani roots, all with a constant thread of disarming, heart-on-sleeve honesty.

This Chicago trip winds up being a bittersweet homecoming. Although the sisters now live in Los Angeles, Chicago is where they grew up, and walking down the hotel hallway, Yasmine suddenly realizes none of their family members live here anymore. “Is it still home,” she muses while searching for the room’s keycard, “if there is no family you can connect to a place?”

If home is where your family is, then Jahan and Yasmine are always at home. They’re practically glued to each other at all times and as Krewella, the two have written music together, performed together, and toured together for a decade. (Krewella is currently on tour, hitting up stops like Tomorrowland and Lollapalooza Paris over the next few months.) Naturally, they’re super close. As a result, they often speak about their habits and life mantras in plural: “We eat super clean,” “We’re both always reading,” “We might be sleep deprived.”

While they might share some lifestyle choices (okay, a lot of lifestyle choices), personality shifts between the two start to unfold as they walk us through their things. They both love books, for example, but while Yasmine burns through one every few days, Jahan needs time to process what she reads, earnestly highlighting as she goes so as not to forget the important bits. The further we delve, the more obvious it becomes that the things Krewella travels with highlight the values they hold most dear — memories, mindfulness, and music. Find out what else these sisters carry in their bag while on tour, below.

Yasmine: We’re both always reading. I’m obsessed with my books. I love my books. You know that question, like, if your house is burning down and you can only save one thing... can I save all of my books? I don’t care about anything else. My dog and my books. I’m good. I would be crushed if I lost my collection.

I recently bought The Twelve-Mile Straight because I went to the National Museum of African American History and Culture in DC. It was the most incredible museum I’ve ever been to in my life. There were multiple times where I was in tears. It’s very emotional and also very heartwarming at times. So informative. So well done.

It got me back into a phase of wanting to learn more about the history of African-Americans and black people in this country and their struggles. This book is set in 1930s Georgia. It’s a period piece about a sharecropper and his community. It’s a fictional story, but very true to its time and very telling and disturbing. I think it’s important to be uncomfortable and read about these things and learn.

Jahan: The Miracle of Mindfulness was recommended and actually given to me by our manager Nathan. He knows that meditation has been a struggle for me for years now. I have a very overworked brain and I get really restless. I feel like meditation and mindfulness are a missing piece in my life. So, this book is giving me the tools to understand how to engage in mindful behavior.

What I need to do now is put that knowledge into practice in everyday life. I’m trying to be mindful in every single task I’m doing, whether it’s driving or washing the dishes or doing vocal warm-ups; committing to whatever that act is with complete love and being present at the same time. I think we live in an overstimulated world. We’re always trying to multitask and we don’t give our full attention to the thing at hand.

The highlighter, believe it or not, is such an integral part of my reading experience. I tend to go into la la land when I’m reading. I’ll read five pages and have to go back and re-read where I glazed over. The highlighter forces me to really pay attention to every single sentence, and I do like to revisit passages because I’m forgetful.

Yasmine: We both have a Kindle. I burn through books so quickly. Mine is set up with 50 unread books at all times. I probably read three books a week. I’m always reading in my free time.

Jahan: I’m like... one book every three months. I’ve always been a slow learner and I read slowly. I think I just get distracted easily. I do like to alternate between books because sometimes I have to switch up the vibe.

Yasmine: We share the GoPro, but the disposable and Canon cameras are mine. Jahan and I have always loved real photos because we have so many photo albums at home. Half of them are from when we were children, and then there was this huge 10-year break of not having any photos. We were like, fuck this, we need to have photo albums of our own from our era, not just the ‘90s and ‘80s. So, we started building up this collection of photos. Disposable cameras are the easiest way to do that on the road.

The Canon is a PowerShot. I had a strong urge a couple years ago to start taking good photos. It’s like, the easiest camera you can buy as an amateur photographer. I love the quality and it takes great video, too. I have some amazing videos from Asian or European countries where I leave it on as we’re driving. It’s more just for me. I am not a photographer. I have a cool-ass camera, but I do not claim to be a photographer. It’s an easy way to shoot cool, fun photos. It’s beautiful — a snapshot of time.

The GoPro is for live shows if we want to catch some really raw footage that our videographer wouldn’t be able to get because we’re like, selfie-style with it with the crowd.

Jahan: The Monster headphones were given to us. They’re very abused and evidence of how hard we go at our shows. I think they’re a few years old. Once a pair of headphones is unusable and distorted, I’ll throw them out in the crowd.

Yasmine: We both have those in-ears. They are Ultimate Ears and are so helpful because they don’t block any sound, they just block harmful frequencies. You can still hear the music. It’s a little softer than what it would be without them, but all they’re doing is blocking harmful frequencies. We can still enjoy the music, and we feel the music without ruining our ear health. They are custom molded so they fit really snug and you can head bang and whip around without them flying out.

Jahan: I’ve had my iPhone 6 for three and a half years. I refuse to get a new phone until that is completely unusable. I think it’s because Yasmine and I grew up a household where we don’t like wasting. We like to maximize the potential of the equipment that we’re using. Plus, the only thing wrong with it is that I can’t take selfies and don’t give a shit about not taking selfies! The tape is okay and holding it together for now. I dropped it in the kitchen while I was multitasking and as long as I can text and make calls and I’m with Yas, I don’t feel like I need to have a fully functioning phone.

Yasmine: I like the laptop. I recently started stickering it because it makes me feel like a teenager again. I don’t know why we kept the laptop clean for so long!

Jahan: This sticker is important — Travel Krew — it’s a network of amazing hardcore fans who travel all over the United States. They’ve nurtured this amazing community on their own outside of us and they help other fans with transportation and figuring out how to save costs on travel. It’s almost like this cool travel agency.

Yasmine: We’ve been using the Traktor X1 since the dawn of our DJing. This is actually an old X1. They’ve updated this piece of equipment and I refuse to get the new one. I would have to remap all of the programming in Traktor. It took me a long time, so it’s out of laziness, but I don’t want the new one! Using the X1 is part backup if anything fails, because we use Traktor on our computer. But, it’s also for effects, for cueing... it’s very multi-purpose. You make it what you want.

Yasmine: The mascara is CliniqueFIT. It’s their workout line, but if you go to a Krewella show you will understand. We’re jumping around and sweating the whole time so basically it’s like a workout. It’s my show mascara, but it’s also my everyday mascara because I just like the way it goes on.

Jahan: My friend Sylvia is a pharmacist and has been trying to convince me to switch over to organic tampons for years. Your body absorbs all the pesticides in cotton [tampons]. I thought, something that we’re putting in us, every single month, day after day, we should probably be investing in the cleanest version of that. I made the switch a couple months ago.

Yasmine: Four Stigmatic makes mushroom mixes and elixirs. They’re not mushrooms like portobello...

Jahan: ...or magic mushrooms. [Laughs]

Yasmine: They’re superfood mushrooms. This one has chaga, which is actually really good for your energy and brain function. If we need a boost and don’t want to take caffeine, chaga is really good. They have other elixirs, like one to calm you down before going to bed or if you have anxiety.

Justin’s almond butter is so self-explanatory. We eat super clean and that’s just a good go-to snack if we’re hungry, which is always.

Native is a natural deodorant. We both switched to this about six months ago. I was using Secret for 15 years, and it has aluminum in it, which causes Alzheimer’s. This company’s ingredients are really clean. It doesn’t work as well. I can’t even lie about that, it’s just not going to work like normal deodorant.

Jahan and I are super hard on our knees. We’re jumping around all the time and we work out a lot, so the Vital Proteins collagen packet is really good for our joints and ligaments. It’s a baggie of collagen powder mixed with flavors. You can put in water or in a smoothie or açaí bowl. This is marine collagen, so sometimes if you put it straight in water it’s a little fishy, but in a smoothie you’d never know.

Jahan: The Icy Hot patch is for injuries that can happen on the road, whether it’s joints or sprained ankles, which I tend to do a lot because I have weak ankles. It’s really handy. I’m actually currently recovering from a sprained ankle and this is good if I’m swelling but don’t have ice accessible or if I’m on a plane.

This toothpaste is clay based. It’s bentonite clay and MCT oil which is in coconuts. You could pretty much eat this. It’s not as pungent as what most people are used to. You know when you use Crest and your mouth is tingling? Natural toothpaste doesn’t have that effect because it doesn’t have things like sodium laureth sulfate, which causes the foaming. It’ll look ugly, like you’re spitting out mud. Our dad’s motto is “stay closer to nature” so we keep that in mind any time we’re buying topicals, supplements, snacks, anything that’s going to be in our body or on our body.

CBD spray is really handy to have on the road. We’ll get back to our hotel after a show at 3 or 4AM. By the time we get in bed, even though we might be sleep deprived, we’re still so wired from the adrenaline and excitement of being around so many fans. CBD helps to calm and relax you if you’re overstimulated.

Yasmine: The first time I ever tried anything CBD, I was so chill I didn’t want to get off the couch.

Jahan: The roll-on fragrance is from Smashbox. Yasmine and I smell really bad after shows because we’re so uninhibited and go really hard... and natural deodorant [laughs]. So I like to have this on me before we do a meet and greet, or if we’re getting off a plane and have that weird sweaty plane stench. It’s a nice, coconut-y, tropical scent. I think it’s a few years old.

Yasmine: I have never monogrammed anything in my fucking life. But one of our managers, Jake, bought this for my birthday a couple years ago and it is the nicest backpack. It’s TSA compliant, has a pocket for literally anything you can think of, and is so sturdy it will probably last me the rest of my life. I hate the fact that it says Yazzy on it. I love Jake to death and he was spot on with the actual backpack. So, maybe I’ll just paint over it or something and then I’ll be totally good. Shout out Tumi for being so expensive, but so awesome.

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