Harrison Mills and Clayton Knight are ODESZA. Seattle raised, university friends, electronic super duo and absolutely lovely dudes. Since the release of their debut album Summer’s Gone in 2012, ODESZA have quickly become one of the biggest electronic acts on the planet, selling out shows all over the world, playing the biggest festivals it has to offer and this year releasing the deluxe version of their latest record In Return. They’re back in Australia for Listen Out festival, and they’ve been here so often that they consider themselves locals. This was Howl’s third interview with them – we just can’t get enough – and I had the pleasure of meeting up with the boys by the pool at the Four Seasons – very lush – where we talked schedules, success, and Sydney. Here’s what they had to say.
So, you guys have been here a lot in the past year and a bit.
Harrison: I think this is our third time?
Clay: Yeah that’s about right.
What keeps you coming back so often?
H: I love the community here. I feel like this is the closest to the States for us. It seems like there’s such a positive vibe with the music that’s coming out of here, and I think we’re obviously very influenced by a lot of Australian acts. From Tame Impala, all the way to people like Hayden James who we’re working with. But yeah, I think there’s definitely something in the water going on in Australia especially in the electronic realm, but it’s the people on top of the music really.
What do you think is the main difference between Australian and American crowds?
C: You guys are definitely more open-minded. You know, you try to play some of the stuff we play in a lot of the areas and they don’t know your music, it can not go over too well. It can be kind of Top 40-centric and you know, heavy EDM-centric in a lot of those places, but you come over here and a lot of people seem to be used to more unique sound for sure. So I think you guys have a mindset where you’re kind of used to weirder music for some reason? It’s become something normal – which is pretty cool, that’s not everywhere for sure.
You mentioned EDM there – what do you guys think of that whole classification of EDM v. IDM?
H: I think the problem with EDM is that people don’t know what EDM means.
H: It’s just become something easy to throw out when you don’t want to say exactly what genre it is. Even being specific about a genre can be detrimental to that person, so I think the best thing is to just be like, “it’s music”. You know, obviously you need to give people reference points to understand like what kind of music it is, but I think that what’s so cool about electronic music in general is that it usually is a melting pot of genres. So I think just throwing EDM just feels too lazy and a lot of people I think think they can define it, and because of that they clump you in with that as well. So, if they think “Oh EDM is only heavy techno”, then when something says “This is an EDM artist”, they’re going to “Oh! Heavy techno, that’s what they are.” I don’t think that helps anyone really.
Yeah good call, I completely agree. Getting back to you guys being here, what’s your favourite thing to do while you’re here touring?
C: Ah, that’s a good question. We don’t actually get a lot of time to do too much when we’re here, but last time we were here we got to hang out a couple days at Hayden’s parents’ house. They’ve got a nice place on the beach, so we got to hang out on the beach quite a bit and just kind of soak it all in. Usually it’s just been pretty relaxing, you know the pace here is a little slower than in The States. Usually like when we’re over in Europe or back home the pace is a little more intense, but we seem to come over here and things are a little more laid back which is very nice.
Do you see many of the sights in the cities you’re in if you’re so busy?
H: We almost never have days off, it really sucks because I remember the first time – me and Clay had not really gone outside of The States until we started touring and then we were going to all these beautiful places and people were like “Ah how was it?” and we’d be like “The green room was awesome!”. It’s like, you can’t really see all the things you want to see, but I think when we do get the days off we really try to take advantage of it. It’s either making music or travelling.
You’ve been busy with the shows here for about a week or so now, what’ve been your highlights of the Listen Out tour so far?
C: Perth was really good. That was one of the better ones we’ve done. Coming over here, it’s just good energy you know, like we got to see a lot of cool acts also with the Listen Out festival. We get to see Rae Sremmurd, who opens up for us basically every night and that’s always a pretty fun set to watch yeah..
H: It’s a party! Golden Features had a really cool set, and we’re really good friends with him. I think the biggest thing for us is that Australia really does feel like a second home because we’ve made so many friends out here that’re all generally like artists. I don’t think we have in The States, for us at least, where we’ll go and we’ll hang out with like four different bands at once, people are usually more scattered all over the place, whereas Sydney seems to really be a hub, it’s like LA for us really.
Have you guys been hanging out with any artists who aren’t on the tour while you’ve been here?
H: Yeah, RÜFÜS.
C: Yeah we saw RÜFÜS last night actually.
H: Yeah they were the first guys who brought us out here. RÜFÜS and Hayden James was our first show.
Excellent, good to know. Alright, let’s get real for a second, can we talk about Marg Boys?
Harri and Clay burst into laughter, the other people around the pool shoot us some dirties but we ignore it. For those who may be unaware, Marg Boys is a blog that Harri and Clay started late last year where they review Margaritas on tour – margboys.tumblr.com
H: Marg Boys is retired but yeah we can talk about it. It’s been retired for a while.
Ah no! What happened?
C: It still exists..
H: Uh, I think we were drinking so many Margaritas it was detrimental to our health. It kind of just fell off because how it started was, we were on tour in The States with Hayden James and a few other people – it was just kind of a joke thing we did, and it turned into other artists, who were on and off the tour starting doing it with us. Friends across the world would review Margaritas as a kind of joke, but yeah it just kind of fell off cause everyone after the tour ended went their own separate ways. We got a few pretty funny people to do reviews but not all of them posted them! They like sent them personally to us, it’s like “No that’s not how that works!”
What was the moment where it started? Was there a conversation or something?
C: There were a couple conversations..
H: As a joke we just all thought it would be funny to go to this bar where it was kind of like a dingier bar where obviously like you gotta roll up and order a very ‘man’ drink – and we were just like “Let’s get a round of twelve Margaritas!” We started making this joke how we’d start a blog and review it and go way over the top with it, where salts were how good the atmosphere was and like limes were how many friends you were with. Stuff like that, so it was just trying to be really goofy with it and have like a fun little tour thing to try and get other people involved in. I remember they were trying to get Bonobo involved and all these other people that probably shouldn’t be involved – it was really funny.
Have you guys had any good Margaritas while you’ve been here or are you abstaining now?
H: Oh no, we had one at lunch!
Oh sick! How many salts would you give the environment?
H: Real good, our entire team was there.
Excellent that sounds great. Clay, on another note, I remember reading a while ago that you said you were a bit ripped when you came up with the name for your first solo project BeachesBeaches, and it reminded me of a time where I took some acid at a farmhouse with my friends. Don’t worry this is going somewhere. It got dark so we decided to watch Spirited Away, and to make sure that we kept the conversation up instead of getting lost in the TV, we turned off the sound and chucked some tunes on. We chucked on In Return, and it was just the perfect soundtrack to the film and to the experience. What I’m asking is, what’re some of the strangest stories you’ve ever heard people tell about your music?
H: I think it’s always really incredible to hear that someone played your music to a place you’ve never been, like, the jungle in like Singapore you know? Like some crazy thing. I think that’s always cool that your music can reach places on the earth that you’ve never even been to, and can be enjoyed. I hear that a lot, like that kind of stuff, but I don’t know if I can think of like a particular, crazy moment that someone’s told us. Can you think of something?
C: Definitely a lot of tweets about drugs and listening to our music, so it seems to be the common practice.
H: Music and drugs have always had a community.
C: Oh yeah we got an email from a dude who apparently did shrooms for the first time not too long ago at one of our concerts, well not one of our concerts but listened to our album and apparently had the time of his life. Our agent had to forward that to us, which was pretty entertaining.
H: It’s funny that people are going out of their way to email your agent to tell you that they listened to your music on their trip.
Speaking of crazy stories, one of the first shows you guys played you looked over and someone was having sex on top of one of the speakers?
C: Haha yeah that’s happened twice.
Oh shit, well has anything like that happened since you’ve been playing bigger shows and festivals?
H: Security is so much higher now, so it’s really different.
C: Definitely the bigger ones you can’t tell most of the time. The smaller ones you can see it, it’s like right in your face. But like we were just doing Perth and Rae was playing, and this dude tries to run onstage, and they have this pretty big security guard named Zeke, who’s like, you do not want to fuck with this dude basically. So this guy tries to run onstage, like trying to party basically with these dudes, and he has his back turned to the security guard – security guard literally just knocks him out. Cold stone. I didn’t see it but our visual guy saw it and he said it was like one of the most intense things he’s seen – and this guy just hits the ground hard. And then the bodyguard just picks him up with one hand, and just chucks him off the stage basically. But yeah, no sexual endeavors that we’ve seen.
Are you guys doing much other work while you’re here on tour?
H: We’re really focused right now on really just beefing up our live show. So we’re going back and making a lot of VIP edits of older songs, and beefing them up for having bigger moments during the set. That’s a big project that we’re trying to take on, especially because we’re going to have the horns section with us and guitars and all those sort of people.
Some of those edits got released on your deluxe version of In Return which came out two weeks ago hey. Is bringing your old work up to the new standard something which is important to you guys at the moment?
C: Yeah, definitely.
H: Yeah there should be something special about your show you know. I mean that’s a big part of it, and also a lot of it is just headphone music, and when you play it live it doesn’t have the same effect as that intimate moment that you would have with headphones on or something.
C: Yeah and just re-writing stuff for us live. Like once you start adding more pieces of instrumentation, it takes a lot of time to re-write stuff and make sure it all fits together. It’s fun going back and kind of reworking stuff, being able to change shit that you didn’t get to do the first round and after you’ve heard it enough and like it’s been out there – you’re like, oh you really wish you could’ve added some piece there and manipulated something else, and now you can kind of go back and do that and share it with a live audience, and then see how it does.
H: We go straight to Europe after this, and then do a couple shows in Europe and then we go home for rehearsals very briefly and then we start our big Fall tour all over The States.
Have you guys got any free time?
C: Not really.
H: We never do really.
When’s the next moment that you guys aren’t on tour?
H: January 8th.
C: Hopefully we’ll get a Monday off! When we go home, we go straight into rehearsals basically, and that’s a week long. Then we fly to Tennessee to do full rehearsals with the whole production, then the tour starts, and that tour is booked solid. We have very few days off – that’s six weeks basically straight work, travel, work, travel, work, travel. And after that there’s more shows, and Holy Ship.
Harri: I mean, we definitely don’t have to do it you know? It’s just really important for us to dial in what we want to do for the Fall tour. I think, I mean we could just go party all the time, and have fun but I mean I think our music would suffer.
You’ve both been doing this pretty nonstop for the past year and a half – has there ever been a point where you’ve thought you needed or wanted to stop?
C: Before we see the end of the road, a little bit. So we have this break coming up. But before that there were definitely moments where we said “when is this ever going to slow down?” Yeah like when do we get a second to breathe? When you try to see the whole thing at once it’s very intimidating, so you just got to take it one day at a time – try to work as hard as you can. A lot of our success is due to that, we don’t stop. We don’t stop working. We could be lazy like Harris was saying but that’s not what pays off.
H: We’ve seen a lot of people go that route, and then you can tell that this isn’t as important to them – you know what I mean? Like you could see someone and they’ll be like “Ah I’m just gonna go party and drink,” and you’re just like – “You’re here, you’re so lucky to be here, you should really make sure that you use this opportunity and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
C: Yeah, especially these next shows, this next U.S tour is like the culmination of two years of extremely hard work, and like, to fuck off now would be such a waste. People pay money to come see you and you want to put on a good show you know. You don’t want to let anyone down.
The Deluxe edition of Odesza’s In Return is out now on Pod via Inertia – purchase it here.