INTERVIEW: Odesza + Stream Their New ZHU Remix
With the origin of their act name varying between a tale of one’s uncle surviving an accident aboard a boat donning the same title, and the other simply Mills and Knight liking the name (changing one ‘S’ to a ‘Z’ to save people from confusion between them and a pre-existing screamo/rock band), it’s a clearer and assured fact that ODESZA are going from strength to strength with their craft.
With their plethora of sonic influences as showcased in their originals and remixes, the pair will soon be making their Australian debut for Circo Festival and a handful of sideshows with KELE, HAYDEN JAMES and RUFUS.
Sharing with Purple Sneakers that a remix for current chart-topper ZHU is days away from release, Harrison Mills also spoke to us about ODESZA’s musical process, their upcoming album and a seriously bizarre experience during one of their live shows.
Harrison Mills and Clayton Knight are a Seattle-based and worldwide-bound duo.
Are you excited for your first trip to Australia?
I’m so excited, it’s like one of my dream places to visit. My dad almost went to school there actually, but he’s always regretted that he never went, he was going to become a marine biologist. So I’ve always kind of wondered about it and wanted to see it.
That’s cool! What’re you looking forward to the most?
I’ve never really been outside the US other than to one place in Canada, so for me it’s like kind of my big first culture shock. I’m just excited to experience something different.
How would you describe Odesza’s live set?
It used to be just us using Ableton, but nowadays what were doing is both our computers are synced up to Ableton as kind of the brain of everything, but we also have machines so we’re doing live samples that we’re triggering stuff in Ableton. We have everything spread out between us and we’re triggering different stems and pieces of songs and we’re both doing live drums on the big drum pads.
So you’ve mentioned in previous interviews that you’re both influenced by a range of musical genres. What made you guys decide to channel it all into electronic music?
I think it was a kind of slow organic thing for both of us to get into electronic music, because we’d both come from different backgrounds of what started getting us into music. But for me something that I really got into was sampling, which is like taking other pieces of music and reworking them and I think anyone who’s really into sampling kind of gets a diverse palette, because they’re trying to take from different things to create something new. So that was a big thing for me, just digging through kind of my past and my parents’ past, like their old vinyls and stuff and finding sounds and trying to find a new way to make them kind of more current, but also an ode to where they come from.
You mentioned that you love sampling old music and things like that, but what attracts you to sampling a certain piece of work? Is it the beat or melody?
I really have no idea, it’s like I’ve heard sounds that I’ve really loved and you feel like ‘oh I wish I could have that sound and manipulate it in music in a different way’. I think a lot of sampling is finding one thing you really love about something and making a full-exaggerated track from that sound, that kind of becomes its own driving force.
So you feel like you’d like to create a certain atmosphere in a way?
It’s more like the feeling you get from whatever you heard, because sometimes you’ll hear, maybe just one note from a piano in a song and that note it just hits me a certain way and I just really want to build something out of that. I don’t know, maybe that sounds weird.
No, it totally makes sense. I think you’re bringing your classical background into that digital production.
Clay has definitely more of a classical background than me – his father played piano, so he [clay] took lessons for a couple of years. But I did play trumpet in school for a couple of years, but I really feel like I lost any training. I used to be able to read music, which I really regret not being able to anymore.
Moving back to your now current music styles, what’s the story behind your ‘No Sleep’ mixtapes?
Well when we were first asked to have a mixtape done, some people said ‘you should try to make it a series, so you have to come up with a name for it’ and at the time we were doing 20 different things at once. We were doing remixes and working on other songs and working with other vocalists and stuff, so we really felt like we had no time and hadn’t slept, so it was kind of a joke on that; that we hadn’t slept in a long time and to finish it we weren’t going to get any sleep! It’s kind of become a really fun thing for us to show people what we’re listening to and early inspirations for us and try to blend them all into the one cohesive thing.
Are there any artists or producers that you absolutely adore at the moment?
There’s definitely tons of artists that I really like, I feel like I randomly find people that aren’t known on SoundCloud that are better than us at music, that are fantastic and they just don’t have exposure. But artists that I’m really digging…I really like this band JUNGLE out of the UK. I would love to do something with them. They have this really interesting, fun and funky, soulful but like fresh sound. It’s really cool.
Are you currently collaborating with any artists, to actually release a song?
Yes our new album is coming up this year. Basically the first time we’ve ever collaborated with a bunch of vocalists, we haven’t collaborated with any producers yet, but as far as vocalists go that was a new process for us. We always just start music with me and Clay talking and then showing each other basically a thing that we’ve started making, or just jamming in a room together. So it was really different to have someone else be a part of that whole experience with us and to go back and forth with someone who has a totally different background and done different things. It’s actually really fun, I feel like you learn the most – as a musician through collaboration.
It wasn’t daunting in any way, this new change?
I think it was more interesting than daunting, we just wanted to try it. I think if we felt like it was starting to go sour or we weren’t dealing with it, then it’d probably become a problem. But yeah we just ended up really enjoying the process and learning how to make different kinds of songs. Because when you’re working with vocalists you can choose ‘am I just going to take their vocals and completely manipulate them a whole bunch of different ways to make a new song?’ or ‘do I want to take the things they’ve done and create an entire new song around what they’ve done’, or doing both – so it was just interesting sort of challenge ourselves in a new way.
Now you guys have been touring for the past few months now, I believe?
So has there been any interesting stories or weird encounters yet?
I can tell you a really gross but funny story…
I got you already! That’s the headline, right here! I was in Montana and we were playing a show and over the monitor, I couldn’t hear anything because this girl was lying over the monitor, directly at my eyesight when I looked up from my laptop that I was working off when I was playing stuff. So when I looked out at her, I realised that someone’s having sex with her over the monitor for about 20 minutes during our set and I was blown away that no one stopped it and that it wasn’t super obvious to everyone around them. But yeah it just happened for a really long time and it was really uncomfortable!
I think it’s one of those things that no one actually believes it’s happening, so they don’t try to stop it.
Well what was so creepy was that she is staring directly at me while this was all happening. So every time I have to look up from my laptop I have to lock eyes with her, it was terrible.
Is there any live videos that have surfaced from that gig?
I hope not! I would never want to relive that experience!
Well hopefully you won’t have to! But what’s next for Odesza, what’s on the cards?
We’ve been doing lots of remixes and there’s some big names, people we’ve really wanted to work with that we might be able to in the future, which we’re really excited about. The new album obviously, we’ve been working on it for basically, almost a year and a half now so we’re really excited to get some new songs out. It has a wide range of styles and stuff we’ve done, things we like; just kind of growing and maturing as artists.
Sorry, what was the name of the new album again?
I’m not allowed to say, unfortunately.
Is there a release date yet?
I can’t say anything apparently, sorry!
Well, damn! Not even the artist you’ve remixed for?
Uh, I think that they’re going to release pretty soon here. Have you heard of this guy, his name is Z-H-U, ZHU?
Yeah we did a remix for him, that’s coming out in the next couple of days.
Excellent! Looking forward to that.
Thank you! I’m excited, I hope people dig it.
Words by Alean Penaflor