When all seems hopeless, ODESZA give us that beacon of hope
2017 is a pretty bleak time to be alive, to be honest. With the cultural and political changes we’ve endured, it’s getting hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. But, as darkness begins to surround us, ODESZA offer out a hand to pull us into a bright escapism that we’ve been yearning for. In their latest record, A Moment Apart (out September 8 on POD via INERTIA MUSIC), ODESZA prove that, even if for a moment, not everything has to be hopeless.
We caught up with Clayton Mills of the duo to talk about A Moment Apart, the death of Soundcloud and the time Regina Spektor sang for the boys in her hotel room.
A Moment Apart is almost upon us. How exciting is it that your next album is just around the corner?
It’s a whole bunch of feelings. It’s a little nerve-racking, but also it feels like that we can breathe now because we’ve been working for so long. It’s nice to see the end of the process come together. It’s been a long haul, but we’re excited for people to hear it and for people to respond to it. We love it, so hopefully people will too.
I’m sure they will. Now, when you say it’s been a long haul, what exactly do you mean by that?
We’ve been working on this album since almost before In Return, so technically this album has been in the works for three years. Once you get near the end, in the months of our last winter, we were just fine tuning it and realising that this point had the most potential. We were sitting on it for so long that we kind of lost track of what we did. It was a slog at the end – with the mixing process and what not – and honestly the last 10 – 15% of each track can really take it out of you a little bit. Now, I’ve had a chance to step away and listen to it with fresh ears.
For sure, that makes total sense. So, A Moment Apart is being released almost to the day of In Return and so much culturally and politically has happened in those three years. The world is a completely different place than it was in 2014. Did that shift affect the themes of the album?
I think not consciously, because when we write we immerse ourselves in our own space. When we finished the last album, we took a road trip to this place called Lake Chelan and we rented out a house and made a little home studio. Turned off the phones, completely escaped what was going on. As we came back, there was so much going on with Trump and stuff; everything’s changing quite a bit. It wasn’t a conscious effect that those elements had, but a subconscious one. I can’t pinpoint one particular example, but overall it sort of feeds into whatever process you’re doing.
In that case, do you think that creating music in a bit of a vacuum really helps you actually create?
Definitely. It’s been an important part of our process. Every time we go back and write, we try to cleanse the palette in a sense and revert back to why we got into writing music and what music we fell in love with in the first place. Rediscovering our love for music is a big part of our writing process.
That’s actually a really beautiful way to put it.
Thank you, thank you.
Would you say that A Moment Apart in that way is nostalgic in a sense?
That’s a really good word to use. You’ve hit the nail on the head. For me, it really does take you back to moments caused by that chill you get from a song. Really capturing that and trying to bring that into the album was an essential part of it. We want music that connects with you on that foundational level and draws you in on that kind of playing field.
Of course! Having listened to the album, and it’s some of the most stunning electronic music I’ve heard in the past five years-
Thank you so much, it means so much to hear you say that. A lot of people haven’t heard it, so it’s so relieving and humbling to hear you say those words. Thank you!
No worries at all! ODESZA has such a knack for making music and immersive experience and makes the listener, in my experience, use all my senses. I can see this atmosphere form around me – I smell the smells, I hear the sounds etc. Is that something you guys think about?
Very much so. The music we love, and what inspires us, really do a good job of capturing that environment and overall vibe and tone. When we were first starting out, we didn’t know what that environment was but you can see it – it’s hard to describe. We began to have an idea of where we wanted to take it and where we were whisked because of the music. I’m glad it affected you that way, and I just hope that everyone that hears it is affected similarly
Well when I listened to it, I was transported to somewhere personal to my life, so I imagine anyone that hears it undergoes a unique transportation experience.
Another reason why I sort of alluded to cultural changes is because we can all sort of agree the world’s in a grim place right now, to put it lightly.
Yet this album feels really hopeful and optimistic. There’s a sense of euphoria and that everything’s gonna be okay. Was that a feel you were going for?
I think you’re exactly right. With stuff happening around us, what came out of A Moment Apart – this hopefulness – was a response to what’s going on in our world today. We didn’t do it intentionally, but I think we were yearning for it underneath all of that. I’m glad you caught on to that because it’s a really important part of the album.
Well, I also think it comes through in the collaborations on the album. On first glance, the collabs come from completely different worlds. Never in my life did I think I would see Mansionair, Leon Bridges and then Regina Spektor on the same album.
*laughs* I would agree with you there!
But that being said, none of the songs that these collabs feature on feel removed from what they’re about but still sounds like ODESZA. Is that a hard thing to achieve when you’re thinking of artists to collaborate with?
Definitely. We’ve worked with a lot of different artists and a lot of different vocalists throughout the writing process. Not all of them made the cut. We listen to wide pool of music but when we first started writing we focused on working with artists who were within the electronic world. After a while, we realised that the best collaborations we had were with artists that are outside of that genre – particularly with artists who were very unique within their own world. It pushes all of our comfort zones, which means it’s naturally a very collaborative process and gives us a truly unique sound.
The collaboration that really stood out to me was the Regina Spektor collab, ‘Just A Memory.’ Her voice has a really emotional effect on me. So that combined with your music, I was completely beside myself.
*laughs* I’m glad you liked it!
She’s certainly a respected figure and she’s been around for a hot minute. How did that collaboration come about? Because, again, at first glance you two are from completely different worlds. How was that connection made?
It’s actually kind of a funny story. Harrison and I have been huge fans of her’s since high school so this fangirl in us has been in motion for a long time now. We were in the writing process and our management knew some people on her team. So, we took one shot and sent her some real basic demos. She hit back pretty fast and said, “I love this! I’d love to put a topline on it.” She ended up writing a whole track but she didn’t want to send it to us. She was playing in Seattle one day and she invited us to her hotel room and said that she’ll sing it for us. That was an odd thing to be asked, but we ended up going to her hotel room. With her kid and her husband there as well, she opened up her laptop, played the beat and sang it for us live. It blew us away so much we made her sing it twice. She was such a sweetheart and we’d love to work with her more.
Yeah, for sure! For me, that song is the standout. I’m sure future collaborations are locked in!
Let’s hope so!
Now, I did want to talk to you about something kind of odd. When the promotion process was starting for this album, you guys did something that was kinda weird. You were releasing details on Spotify in Morse Code, right?
First of all…why?
*laughs* Fair question! We’ve always been fans of cryptic reveals. I personally love discovering stuff and that was kind of the feeling we wanted to give the fans, for them to be able to make those connections. It’s on a more personal level than just reading some post on the Internet.
In today’s landscape when we have people like Beyoncé just dropping albums out of nowhere and in 2017 artists are trying to release music in all these imaginative and out there ways. For example, just today I saw that Cut Copy were dropping vinyl pressings of their forthcoming album in different parks across America.
Is it that something you consider? Or does that just not pass your mind?
In today’s landscape with Spotify and streaming services doing what they’re doing, there’s just so much music out there. The beginning days of Soundcloud, you had this small community and it was a little easier to pop out in that. But today getting your stuff heard can be pretty daunting. Artists, and especially artists that have been gone for a little bit, are trying to find new ways to draw some attention. It’s just a changing landscape and everyone’s trying to figure out what the next step is, what works and what doesn’t.
I love it, I think it’s really cool.
I love it too; I’m a big fan of that stuff.
Finally, Australia in September. How pumped are you to not only come back to Australia, but tour this record in general?
We are extremely excited to come back. Australia is one of our favourite places to play. You guys have a whole different energy level that no one else in the world has. It’s always a good time. We have a bunch of friends out there too – Hayden James and Golden Features – so we kind of have a little family out there. We toured with RÜFÜS and played with those boys quite a bit. We’re excited to come back and hang out again!
A Moment Apart is out September 8 on Pod via Inertia Music.
World Tour Australia and New Zealand Dates
Presented by Niche Productions
Thursday September 14 | Great Hall, Auckland NZ *selling fast*
Friday September 15 | Forum Theatre, Melbourne VIC *SOLD OUT*
Saturday September 16 | Enmore Theatre, Sydney NSW *SOLD OUT*
Saturday September 16 | Enmore Theatre, Sydney NSW *selling fast*
Image: Avi Loud
Words by JACKSON LANGFORD