Wednesday, October 18, 2017
On Tuesday, October 24, the S.B. Bowl will close out its season with a bang when electronic/dance music masters Odesza and Sofi Tukker conduct one last dance for the venue. Famed for combining indie-rock sensibilities with stadium-sized EDM energy, both acts put on some of the most exciting live electronic music in the world today. I spoke with Odesza’s Clayton Knight and Sofi Tukker’s Sophie Hawley-Weld and Tucker Halpern about music, cinema, and pets.
How is the new material shaping up for the live shows? We try to do a bunch of interesting medleys, so we’ll combine sections of songs and mix and match different elements from the album. We remixed a lot of older material from In Return, so we’re excited to see how those go over. … There’s a lot of happy accidents. We’ll play one vocal piece over another, one guitar line over another, and there’s some really nice textures and layers that come together.
You have said elsewhere that some of the bigger artists you collaborated with were less likely to take creative risks than the more up-and-coming ones … Do you prefer that, or are there ways where you prefer to stay traditional? So A Moment Apart was us really trying to push ourselves with new creative elements, more so in the songwriting world; this was the first time we worked with a number of different artists in a studio. In Return was done online, passing tracks back and forth. Doing the full songwriting process start to finish, that was new territory to us, and we made a point to see how far we could get in that world. We’re always trying to really push ourselves in a creative sense, and we never want to be too stagnant. If you’re not learning something new every time, you can get left behind; if you get too comfortable you get uncomfortable, so to speak.
You have so many rainy days up in Seattle; how do you find comfort even if you seek discomfort creatively? We do get a number of rainy days. I grew up in Seattle, so there’s something very warming about a rainy day. It’s like internal energy, especially when we’re in writing mode, eight hours a day in the studio. This winter, it rained for almost two months straight, so it does get pretty dark up here, but this internal retrospective kind of energy allows you to sit with creative ideas and read as much as you can, and it’s more just a different use of time and energy when you’re trapped inside. We live right in an international district with amazing Vietnamese food, and that really warms you right up.
Are there any instruments you’re nostalgic for or that you still use in your creative process? My parents have this beautiful Steinway grand [piano] at their house. I grew up playing that in middle school and high school, this big, beautiful grand; it’s a super-inspirational piece of equipment. You just kind of sit there and things start flowing. And it restricts you; in production, you have so many tools and synths and get kind of lost where to even begin. You can do all the production in the world, but if it’s not broken down to its simplest form and it doesn’t sound good, you’ve got a problem.
If this album ended up being a soundtrack about you two, what would the movie be called and who would play you? I would like to be played by Ryan Gosling. I don’t know what I’d call it … Rainy Days in Seattle. There’s some Sleepless in Seattle wordplay you could do there.
Any words about the S.B. show? Our last show there was in April 2015 at The Arlington Theatre. It’s been a minute. This will be a whole new show, and we’ve got some surprises lined up. We’re bringing out all the stops for this one.
You’ve released a lot of great singles and videos this year. Are there any you’re most proud of?
Tucker Halpern: We’re definitely proud of everything … but the “Fuck They” video kind of stands out. That’s one of the first times we’re saying something definitive. … It’s kind of personal in a way. I literally slap my basketball coach in the video, which is a direct swing at my basketball coach from college. It’s nice to say, look, I did save myself and became even more ridiculous, and everything you hated about me is actually why I’m doing well now, so fuck off.
One reason you guys are great is that you’re not afraid to let your freak flag fly. What would you say to people for whom that confidence doesn’t come as easily?
TH: I would say just follow your gut. I think when you’re really comfortable and feel good about yourself and feel good about who you are, you’re naturally less concerned about being judged, because it really is you being authentic. … When I really feel good about something, I don’t care if others don’t like it, because I actually like it.
Sophie Hawley-Weld: The times I haven’t been able to let my freak flag fly, I feel like I just get out of those situations as soon as possible now, because … there are definitely environments that don’t lend themselves to me feeling like myself, and I think the more I get to be myself and the older I get, the quicker I am to just leave the situations really quickly that don’t make me feel [it’s] safe for me to be myself.
What is the new material sounding like?
SHW: We’re really excited about going even crazier, and the more we play live, the more we make songs for the live show specifically. A large part of our writing now is, can we imagine the choreography to this, and how we’re going to interact with the crowd at this moment. We’re really aware of that dynamic when we’re making recordings now.
If you could pick a famous movie director for your next music video, who would you choose?
TH: Whoever directed Suicide Squad. I don’t think anyone liked the movie that much, but it would be the sickest music video. It didn’t get well reviewed, but the point is, the cinematography, the colors; it’s cool. … Or, Avatar. I just want to live in Avatar world.
SHW: Oh, that’s the one! Let’s say that. Why didn’t we think of that?
TH: I did think of that.
Your new big song is “Best Friend.” What makes a good friendship, or what makes yours such a good one?
TH: I think a real interesting key to friendship is respect. Just respecting and sort of being, like, a fan of the other person’s abilities and skills, respecting their strengths. That’s a really nice thing about friendship, that there’s a mutual excitement about people.
SHW: When you admire your friend, it’s exponential. You can always grow it and grow in it.
TH: Yeah, when you can just be inspired by your friends … if they’re driven and passionate, if I’m able to be close to someone like that, it excites me and inspires me more when they’re really working toward something and driven as fuck.
SHW: I feel like it doesn’t really matter what people are driven about. It could be anything. An aliveness we can share and lift each other up with.
TH: They could be driven about making ant farms, or basket weaving. I don’t give a fuck.
SHW: I had an ant farm growing up. And a pet ant. One single ant. What was his name … I don’t remember his name.
TH: How long did he live?
SHW: Not long enough.
TH: You should have had a red ant, Sophie.
SHW: Runner! Runner! Oh my god, I remembered the name!
TH: Runner? Like … He runs?
SHW: My pet ant, Runner.
TH: I had a turtle named Jet.
TH: No, Jet. Like jets are fast; turtles are slow; so it was ironic.
SHW: That’s pretty good. Almost as good as Runner.
TH: I should name a child Runner someday. Like, “Yo, Run!” Run is a sick name.
Well, we’ve unearthed both Sophie’s pet ant’s name and Tucker’s future child’s name. I think it was a successful interview.
TH: Now I just have to find someone to make the child with.
SHW: Put that in the interview. It’s an ad.
Anything else you’d like to say?
TH: No, we’re excited to come there for sure. Excited about this whole Odesza tour. We just can’t wait for the next couple weeks.
Odesza and Sofi Tukker play Tuesday, October 24, 6 p.m., at the S.B. Bowl (1122 N. Milpas St.). Call (805) 962-7411 or visit sbbowl.com.