What do unicorns, Srirachi sauce, Michael Jackson and Pretty Lights have in common? Our interview with Washington-based duo, Odesza, duh. In just two short summers, friends Harrison Millson and Clayton Knight's project to make music has escalated to a little more than they could have imagined. Now, this smooth-funky-electro-hip-hop-soulful duo is touring with some of their idols. I sat down with them over the phone with the two last week, and this is what they had to say.
Daily Beat: So what’s up guys, my name’s Brett Blackman from Daily-Beat.com, but this is really all about you guys. I’ll start off with this: what is Odesza? I know it’s a city in Texas and Ukraine but what’s the deal?
Odesza: It’s a pretty anticlimactic story on how we got the name. We pretty much like the name “Odessa” a lot. When we looked up bands that had taken the name, we found UK hardcore band and they were wildly different then us. We thought we would have to separate ourselves from them if we were going to choose the same name so we put our own little twist on it with a ‘z’ on there. And that’s about it.
DB: What was your musical inspiration growing up?
Odesza: [Harrison]: Growing up, I didn’t listen to music too much. I was probably fifteen or seventeen when my brother started showing me a lot of music and through that I started getting into indie music and hip-hop stuff. I then went to this hip-hop show for some weird trip-hop of a group from a label in Oakland, and I saw them live and they were using MPC's live to play a bunch of sampled music. I was really into that sound and decided to pick up one in college, and decided to tinker around with that stuff. No real classical training. [Clayton]: I played classical piano for a while. My parents made me do it for quite a long time. I think it was about 8 years all together. I then picked up a guitar in high school. I did listen to a lot of classical music, but it wasn't until college that I got into electronic music. Then I was introduced to Animal Collective, where I fell in love with their music. I then started to write music more, and got into the whole production aspect. I then got into dance music, and house. Anything with a heavy beat, really. I just started messing around on logic and producing my own stuff. Yeah, here we are.
DB: I just listened to your album “Summer’s Gone” again. What was your inspiration come from for the album? It seems like you were inspired by Purity Ring.
Odesza: [Harrison]: It’s funny that we got a lot of comparisons with Purity Ring, we didn’t really listen to them, but I’m actually a fan now. Neither of us had really listened to them before and after we got compared so much, we were like “ we should really check these guys out.” They are awesome. With “Summer’s Gone,” we had just met that summer, I had just graduated and Clay was just taking a few classes and was about to graduate. We were hanging out with friends and just decided to spend that summer working on an album together. We were mixing and finishing everything up at the end of the summer, so it just seemed fitting that with all the nostalgia feelings of making the tracks that we called it “Summer’s Gone.” [Clayton]: For the influences, we come from pretty different styles but the mixing of them kind of worked out well. Like I was always into dance-y, upbeat stuff, four-on-the-floor base music.
DB: How did you come up with the name for your EP “My Friends Never Die”?
Odesza: It’s kind of a mix between two different things. It’s somewhat what the sample is saying, it’s sounds like she’s saying “My friends never die.” But also we had spent a lot of time touring after Summer’s Gone was ending basically, relying on a lot of friends, staying on people’s couches and seeing old friends that we went to college with that had moved to different parts of the US. We got a lot of support from friends and family. So it was kind of an ode to them.
DB: When was the moment after that album that you just knew you were going to make music?
Odesza: We figured we were young enough and we could have moved into careers like a lot of our friends did but if we were going to do it anytime, we should do it when we have the least amount of responsibility. I would have to say the moment we got Adam, our manager, who had an idea that we had something right cause he’s kind of a big dog. So when he finally took us on, it was like “ok, maybe we got something here.”
DB: What’s the story behind your manager?
Odesza: In college I was doing piano songs and just kind of toying around with programs and eventually they got into the hands of this media firm that was doing commercials for the Northface. As they started getting bigger, they needed a music supervisor, so they hired on Adam Foley from Red Light Management. He manages Pretty Lights and a bunch of other big names. I had known him for a couple years doing music for commercials in college and then when we started doing Odesza together I pitched it to him and eventually he decided to hop on board.
DB: Curious about your touring, can you explain a little about your Michal Menhert Space Jazz Tour.
Odesza: We just got off of it; it was about a three-week tour. We traveled all around the east coast and some mid-west shows. We all piled into a bus and go around. There are some wild dudes but it was definitely a good party the whole time. It was our first time on the east coast so it was definitely an experience. I had never been to Boston or anything like that.
DB: It’s pretty sick that you’re doing a mini tour with Pretty Lights for the Color Map of the Sun Tour, can you explain a little about that as well.
Odesza: I was surprised. Our management, I think, pulled some strings for that one. I don’t know how we got the spot we got, but it worked out well. We did some work for him and I think he liked that and so I think that helped. But I think it was kind of a big shock overall.
DB: You guys have another tour coming up with Emancipator , which you guys toured with last year too.
Odesza: Yeah those guys are awesome. We basically became family on that tour. It was like our first tour for us. We would love to recreate that tour because it was such a fun time, it was one of the best times I’ve ever had; going out on the west coast on a bus with a bunch of really talented musicians. It was awesome.
DB: How excited are you for Decadence (tickets) on New Years?
Odesza: We’re so pumped on that one. We had no idea it was coming we got hit up by Adam, our manager, about it. It’s a great opportunity. We’re just really excited by it and that they’re willing to let us play. We would have never expected it, it’s one of the biggest New Years Eve festivals.
Daily Beat: Now it’s time for some ridiculous, random questions. If you could have a unicorn spit out any musical instrument what one instrument would that be?
Odesza: I love how the unicorn has nothing to do with the question. But I’d probably want a really nice synth. Those are really expensive and would really love to toy around with one.
DB: If you could be stuck in one Michael Jackson song your entire life, what song would it be?
Odesza: What’s that song that goes “Don’t stop til you get enough”? That one.
DB: Is there any upcoming tracks or collaborations we should know about?
Odesza: We working on some new stuff, not really ones we can talk about, some unreleased stuff. Honestly, we work everyday on music. We meet up almost every day, working on as many tracks as possible. We’re working on some remixes that should be coming out on the next couple of months.
DB: Thanks for the interview you guys.
Odesza: Thanks, appreciate it.