7:54am PT by Eriq Gardner
EDM Superstars Krewella Mired In Legal Mess Involving DJ's Newfound Sobriety (Exclusive)
The story of Krewella starts out like an American fable: Two sisters and one former boyfriend from a Chicago, Illinois suburb form a music group, and using some social media savvy, rocket to fame as headliners of popular EDM festivals worldwide. Unfortunately, now the trouble happens: Kris Trindl, a founding member, is suing sisters Jahan Yousaf and Yasmine Yousaf for at least $5 million for kicking him out of the group and for allegedly violating an oath that dates back to the time when the three had "6-8-10" tattooed onto their bodies.
The history of music is replete with lessons on how breaking up is hard to do, but Trindl's lawsuit is a unique one that befits an age where electronic music has exploded in appeal. The plaintiff says he went through pains to deal with alcoholism and after he got sober, the Yousaf sisters didn't like the fact that he wouldn't party anymore, mistook his condition for depression and began scheming to deny him membership in the group.
The three met as students at Glenbrook North High School.
Kris and Jahan were dating, according to the lawsuit, and Kris' career was beginning to take off in the Chicago music scene. "One of Kris' clients for whom he wrote and produced music gave him the stage name 'Rain Man', because he predicted his music would bring much success, and so it did," says the complaint filed in California state court on Monday.
On June 8, 2010, the three are said to have marked "a vow to put aside any other career plans outside of music and commit to Krewella" with tattoos of the date.
The three then moved into a loft together in Chicago and came up with an idea to mix heavy-metal inspired performances with EDM. The sisters would sing on stage while Trindl would stay behind the sound deck as the DJ.
But the huge success would only come after they hooked up with another Glenbrook North High School graduate named Jake Udell, who had gone into marketing and became adept at using social media. Krewella's success leveraging Twitter and Facebook has been well documented -- even the subject of a Billboard profile that told how the group was making ripples in the industry.
Not long after the group self-released its first record and video entitled "Killin' It," Krewella signed a recording agreement with Columbia Records.
"From March of 2012 until March of 2013, it was non-stop music, good times and partying for the members of Krewella, and the money started rolling in," says the lawsuit. "Kris and the Yousaf sisters were public about their drinking and partying, posting on the Internet video dispatches from the road that only served to stoke their popularity with an ever-growing worldwide fan base."
They moved to Los Angeles, but were hardly there, playing 140 dates last year all over the world. Even though the group was living a "frugal lifestyle" as opposed to Udell, Trindl says the excessive pace began to take a toll on Krewella.
"Kris used alcohol to try to cope with the pressure," his lawsuit states. "By late summer of 2013, he knew he had a drinking problem and checked himself into a detox program and then a 30-day rehab program."
While in rehab, he says he produced at Udell's request a remix of a song called "Alone Together" by the band Fall Out Boy, and after some more time, says he got sober and went back on the road. He reports attending Alcoholic Anonymous meetings and besides two relapses, stayed on the wagon.
"But the Yousaf sisters didn't like the new, sober Kris, who took care of business but did not party or drink anymore," continues the lawsuit. "They thought he was depressed, although he explained it was just part of the recovery process."
In January, Trindl says he moved into a bedroom at Udell's residence, which from the sounds of the lawsuit, might not have been the best place for a recovering alcoholic. And so begins the foundations of the legal claims.
"At this time, Udell, the Yousaf sisters and others conspired to remove Kris from the group altogether," says the lawsuit. "Now that the band was successful, they figured they could always hire outside people to write and produce music for far less money than it would cost to continue splitting their income equally with Kris, as they have done (one-third to each member)."
The complaint poses the band's contractual situation as "even more disorganized and mismanaged than their touring schedule," with talk of attorneys who worked despite conflicts, a drafted-but-never-signed limited liability company agreement for the band, and registrations of LLCs without a signed operating agreement.
Trindl says he missed a flight to Mexico City this past March to perform at the Electric Daisy Carnival. Thereafter, Trindl says he was ushered into a living room at Udell's home for a meeting led by an "interventionist," where others told him to go into rehab.
"But it was not rehab for drinking, because Kris was staying sober," says the lawsuit. "They demanded he go into rehab for 'depression.'"
Trindl didn't think that was necessary, but a day later, he says Yasmine and Udell told him it was time to take a break from the group and get healthy. The DJ/producer says he acquiesced, through still created new music for the group. It didn't matter, he adds. According to the complaint, "It was not Kris' health or sobriety the others were thinking about, it was all about keeping him off the road so Jahan and Yasmine could establish themselves to live audiences as a duo without Kris, so they could eventually erase him completely from Krewella and reap greater financial rewards."
At that point, attorneys began getting involved. Trindl's presence began being diminished, and after he saw a billboard of the group without his presence, he retained Dina LaPolt and litigator William Hochberg. The other side retained attorney Richard Busch. The two sides went back and forth about whether Trindl's share of live performance income should be reduced (LaPolt's suggestion) or whether Trindl should resign from the band, check himself into rehab for 60 days, and then possibly, rejoin the band if the Yousaf sisters allowed (Busch's alleged insistence).
"Busch's outrageous September 25th letter, which purported to be an ultimatum, precipitated the filing of this lawsuit," says the complaint that demands declaratory and injunctive relief plus damages for breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty and violations of the Lanham Act.
We've reached out to Busch for comment.