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Al Capone, Knives, Writing In Basements: Just Your Average Conversation With Odesza

Seattle duo Odesza are in town. It’s their second time to Australia and their first headline tour. Relatively unknown the last time they visited, that all changed when their gorgeous album In Return dropped last September (Read my review here.) Laughing in the face of big beats and the popularity of EDM, they’ve been hailed as pioneers, bringing ethereal, ambient music back to the forefront.

It was a sweaty summer day in the city, pushing a stuffy 30 degrees. Harrison and Clayton had just returned from a spot of cricket with my buddies over at Stoney Roads, and we sat down in a blissfully air-conditioned room for a bit of chit chat.

We started the interview on a kind of weird note – I’ve had two recent dreams involving Odesza and decided to tell them about it. The first dream didn’t exactly involve them, but they were the soundtrack to the dream. I immediately regretted telling them however. “You know there’s a royalty for that,” says Harrison. “You have now subscribed to Spotify Premium!”

The second dream was about the interview itself, but I can safely say that the real thing was a lot better. Phew!

Odesza last visited for Perth’s Circo festival, and they played in Sydney alongside Kele and Hayden James. Playing a full run of sell-out shows this time around was pretty different though. “People know who we are this time!” says Clayton.

The pair have started incorporating more live elements into their show, including drums and big visuals, but this doesn’t limit how much their show can change each night – a standout comment considering the amount of debate surrounding live production, DJing etc. Harrison explains, “We have a visual guy and he’s live churning it, so that can change pretty drastically. There’s definitely a couple mistakes in there…!”

A few people jumped up on stage during their Sydney show too, which I mention next.

Clayton: Yeah, I think that happened three or four times
Harrison: I only saw one time, the guy in between us, he came up early.
C: It’s always a good sign when people jump up, it means something’s going right
H: Yeah or they’re trying to get you off stage, just booing you.

That’s not all though. There’s a notorious story about a couple having sex on stage at one of their shows a couple years back.

C:It’s happened twice now! It happened again in Prague.
H: We didn’t actually see it happening.
C: It was right by the speaker system. Someone took a video and showed us.
H: It was still going on when we were done playing. No one stopped them! There was also a dog running around and we were playing in a giant skate park, so….
Howl & Echoes: That could be the next thing, an Odesza gig at the zoo
H: We’re actually going to the zoo tomorrow. Gonna see what’s goin’ on, feed some kangaroos
H&E: I didn’t know you could feed them at the zoo
C: Wherever a koala can hug you, that’s where we’re going.

At this point I told the duo – as every Aussie should tell an American who thinks koalas are cute and cuddly – about how they’re fairly mean, and that they have STDs. I said they have syphilis, but this is WRONG, sorry for the misinformation guys. They have CHLAMYDIA. But then it was Harrison’s turn to share some interesting news. “Another fun fact,” he says. “Al Capone had syphilis. And he just never brought it up to a doctor, he never got it checked out, he just had it his whole life. I think it might have been part of the cause of death.”

Other than hugging koalas, the guys are planning to spend some of their time here writing music on a beach with Hayden James – turns out that Hayden’s parents own a gorgeous house overlooking the Harbour. “We’re just gonna see what happens,” says Clayton. “Yeah, we might not make any music and just end up drinking pina coladas,” adds Harrison.

One thing I love about Odesza is how much they support Australian music. Handpicking Hayden James and Charles Murdoch to open for them here, they’ve also been meeting a whole bunch of stellar local artists including Golden Features, Kilter and Crooked Colours.

At that point I realised we hadn’t actually spoken about the album at all, so mentioned how much I genuinely loved it (it’s on our “best of 2014″ lists here)

H&E: As you said, this time when you came out, more people knew who you were. Have you noticed a big change? I read about how you say you’ve seen all the stats, millions of plays and all that, but does it affect you personally?

H: I think the main thing I’ve seen different – and I hate this – is when you meet people and they act too cool for you, and then they find out you’re in the band, and then they try to be your friend. I’m not gonna say any names but I definitely saw that happen quite a bit on Holy Ship. I just immediately push those people out of my circle. That’s the main thing I’ve seen.
We’re kinda on the grindstone, we don’t really go out when we’re home that much. After shows we’ll hang out with friends, but it’s usually just our core group, we aren’t like meeting a lot of strangers.
C: Yeah it’s still pretty surreal, I don’t know if we’ll ever really process it. The rooms get bigger and there’s more people in them, but it’s weird, it’s very weird.
H: I don’t feel that it’s ever ‘us.’ We get off stage and people say, ‘good show!’ but I just had a beer with that guy two hours ago, he’s just my friend at that point. I don’t really think of it like that.

While they don’t get approached on the street that often, Harrison recalled one pretty hilarious encounter from a few days earlier: “We were at Virgin [Airlines] in Australia just checking in, and this guy was standing there with a pen, this 60-year-old guy with a pen and paper. I thought he was gonna get me to sign up for a newsletter or something, haha, and after my third time looking back at him he was just like, ‘Autograph?’ It was super crazy!”

H&E: Have people ever sent you gifts?
H: No, but I would like that!
H&E: I’ll put it in the article: Odesza want gifts
H: We should start an Amazon Wish List
C: Yeah I nee a new spatula for my kitchen!
H&E: Hmmm, if you were gonna have an Amazon Wish List what would be the top things on there?
H: Extremely expensive music equipment
C: That, and I need a new set of knives for my kitchen.
H&E: I actually spent two years working in a knife shop so I can help you out there.
C: Really? I want some ceramic ones. We had some but they broke because they were so brittle, so I’d like some more.
H&E: You can get some that are pretty strong. They’re so sharp, they’d be more likely to cut half your foot off than smash (for reference, this is completely true and yes I worked in a knife shop. Clayton if you’re reading this, I recommend buying a Kyocera, but for chopping you should still have steel knives. Ceramics are awesome for slicing but not dicing. Victorinox also make good ones.)
C: No way! How does that work?
H&E: They’re fired and heated for a really really long time and they’re just super sharp.
C: And they just never get dull, right?
H&E It’ll take a couple years, yeah. Steel ones dull in far less time.

We then started talking about weird things you can buy on Amazon. I brought up my recent favourite discovery, a real cookbook titled “Cookin’ With Coolio.”

H: He had a cooking show for a little bit, I think it lasted one episode.. “Gangsta’s Paradise, in my kitchen!”
H&E: The recipes all had really great names, my favourite one was “It’s hard out here for a shrimp”
C: Hahaha, no way, that’s real?
H: What? Genius, that is genius. How have I not heard about it?
C: So has Three6Mafia’s DJPaul, he has a cook book
H&E: Yeah and Action Bronson has a cooking show too.
C: Yeah that makes sense, in every interview he does he just talks about gourmet food all the time.
H: He’s got a passion.
C: A passion about food.

Odesza return home next week – for a week – before heading out on another US tour, leading into US festival season. It’s hard to adjust to being back home, though, after so much time on the road. “I love it,” says Harrison, “but it’s super weird to be home.” “We get back and it takes a week to adjust, and usually by the time we adjust to being home, we go again,” says Clayton.

H&E What do you do when you get home and have spare time? TV?
H: Yeah, lots of Netflix haha.
C: We just sleep a lot.
H: Music and sleeping.
C: I try to write but it takes a while to kind of get into that head space for writing. It always takes a couple days to unwind and listen to a bunch of new stuff before I start working on more stuff again, and usually once I start doing that we’re off again, so it’s really hard.
H: It’s not fun making music on a plane when there’s no room to move.
C: Yeah it’s not the most creative work space
H: Not to say we haven’t made stuff that I’m proud of in hotels, but it’s definitely not comfortable. You’ve gotta find a way to make it work.
H&E: So you mostly try to write at home?
C: Yeah we’re usually stuck in a basement or in our apartments at 2 in the morning
H&E: Is that when the best ideas come?
H: Yeah, usually late, very late.
C: Usually one of us will get an idea and we’ll work on it together, but that initial spark definitely comes from sitting alone, late at night, just experimenting.