Buku Music & Art Project just concluded this past weekend, and, though the fest boasted a magnificent line-up full of huge names, the set that wowed me the most was owned by the Seattle based up-and-comer Odesza. Their music and live performance, like a strong pain medication, was palliative and euphoric.
I had the opportunity to sit down with Harrison Mill and Clayton Knight, the guys who comprise this dynamic duo, and chat with them about their music, inspirations, and what lies ahead. These two seemed so in sync that they were not only in agreement for every question’s response, they were even finishing each other’s sentences.
Where Y’at: To start off, what is your best description of the genre of music that you make?
Harrison: Ha! That’s a good question. I tend to think it’s more like a genre blender ,so it’s hard to say what we do. But I could definitely say that the major influences are ambient, pop, with a hip-hop backbone kind of thing.
WYAT: You remixed "Lost and Found" by Pretty Lights for the Divergent soundtrack. Can you tell us how all of that came to be, and did you work with Derek to make that happen?
Clayton: No, it wasn’t for the soundtrack. We did one form earlier, I forget the name of the track.
Harrison: “One Day They’ll Know”.
Clayton: Yeah, he enjoyed that one, and was like, “Hey, you want to do another one?” We’re like, “It’s an honor to be working with your stuff.”
WYAT: Buku used your song, "Memories that you Call," for their line-up reveal video. What did y’all think about the video set to your music?
Harrison: It’s an honor to have a festival, a really incredible festival, [do that].
Clayton: There’s so much talent here. We were very humbled.
WYAT: “Memories That You Call” is my personal favorite. What is each of y'all's favorite track you've created?
Clayton: Off the new album, I’d probably have to say “It’s Only.” Zyra just did a great job, and we came together real nicely.
WYAT: Is that also your favorite song to play live then?
Clayton: No, we don’t play it live. It’s definitely a more intimate song.
Harrison: It’s like a cinematic slow ballad. It’s one of those that’s meant for headphones.
WYAT: Can you explain how you build a new song together and the different roles you each take on?
Clayton: Well, every track’s a little different. But it usually starts with something simple like a piano loop or some chord progression that someone’s really into. So we’ll lay that down. Then we’ll usually just sit in the same room and just start adding layers back and forth, just adding pieces over and over until it’s a mess. Then we start laying out the structure of the track. Then once we kind of have an idea of where we want to go with it, we start taking away pieces and elements that clash with other pieces. We want stuff to pop out. You usually don’t want it to be super money. That’s probably the hardest part. You kind of get attached to those certain pieces, but yeah, that’s kind of the process.
WYAT: Is it pretty much a 50/50 split on the amount that each of you influences a track?
Harrison: Yeah, but it depends on each track.
Clayton: Someone will take the lead on one. Then the other person will take the lead on another.
WYAT: Can you tell us what goes into engineering all of the distorted sounds or voices we hear throughout the album, especially in the "Memories That You Call" featuring Monsoonsiren? Is that a voice we hear?
Harrison: Yeah. I’m not going to tell you the sample because we’ll get sued. We take a lot of weird found sounds around the internet and stuff like that. We try to make songs that feel organic but then turn electronic and blend together. There’s definitely a lot of like weird little detailed sounds that I think really shape our overall sound a lot.
WYAT: Do you get inspired by a certain place or environment when creating a new song, or do you just start throwing some beats and melodies down and let it take you somewhere?
Harrison: I think we definitely think cinematically because we like movie scores so much, so we really can go for emotion, and tone, and setting an atmosphere when we make our music.
WYAT: Songs like "Sundara" and "Kusanagi" are pretty mesmerizing and meditative. From where do you draw your inspiration for songs like those.
Clayton: We’ve been fans of ambient music and film scores for along time, and it’s something I listen to in my free time. But yeah, that’s kind of what we go for. We love that. We’re not big meditation people. We just love that sound.
Harrison: Any song that moves you. You know, it sounds corny, (we try) to make the song as emotional as possible. Evoke something.
WYAT: "In Return" features a handful of vocalists. How did those collaborations happen? Did you just contact people you discovered and wanted to work with?
Clayton: Each process was a little different. Jenny Potts is a local artist that we knew through another artist and just met with her. But Zyra we found on the Internet. She was singing and writing hooks over one of our tracks just filming herself for YouTube, and as soon as we saw that, we reached out. Everything was really different.
Harrison: It was a long process. It was 2 years of us finding vocalists. We really took our time and found people who, we thought, were really fitting to our sound.
WYAT: What would be your dream collaboration?
Harrison: I’d love to work with Motorrad or Flying Lotus. Any of those kind of influential producers. I’d love to work with Panda Bear, or Toro y Moi, or Jai Paul. All those guys are really cool.
Clayton: Leon Bridges. He’s a soul singer.
WYAT: I don’t know if y’all know this, but Buku did a poll on Facebook asking all the festival-goers who they were most excited to see at Buku this year, and y'all were in second place. You were only behind headliner Bassnectar.
Harrison: Wow. I did not know that. That’s amazing!
WYAT: Y’all have exploded the past couple years, just topping the charts everywhere. Do you think you need to try and keep at this pace, or are y’all just doing what you do with your kind of work ethic?
Clayton: It’s on! Yeah, we just try to stay focused and keep riding the wave as much as we can.
Harrison: I think what’s scary with this right here, now that we’ve garnered some attention and we’re on a bit of a rise, it kind of invites a lot of critics and a lot of hatred. I’m so used to being that guy just working on a song not thinking about it, and I’m going to start getting tweets: “F*ck you guys!” I don’t know if I’m ready for that, but you got to ignore those little noisy trolls.
Clayton: If you’re not getting hate, you’re probably not doing something right.
WYAT: What can we expect for the rest of this year?
Clayton: We’re working on some new material right now. It’s the very early stages. Mainly just working on the live set and getting the show to where we would really want it. And then hopefully do a couple releases in the near future if we can get something together. Put it out for free or something.
WYAT: And you’re booked for a bunch of festivals, I’m sure.
Harrison: Yes! Never ending. This year is the long haul.
Long haul, indeed. These gents have been constantly on the road around the U.S. since the beginning of February, and came off a tour in Australia before then. Besides the surplus of music festivals on their calendar, Odesza also has a couple performances at SXSW, more gigs around the country, and even a short tour around Europe coming up. As if their fully booked schedule wasn’t enough, the duo also just started their own label: Foreign Family Collective. With the finest work ethic a person could ask for, these artists are pushing ahead at full speed, even if their newly found fame seems daunting.