ISSUE 18 – Interview: ODESZA @ CMW

By Tiffany Lam

ODESZA: Part Clayton Knight, part Harrison Mills. This electronic Washington-based duo put out a number of unique releases in the past few years, all free and downloadable via their website, with tracks constantly topping the Hype Machine charts. The collection of releases include NO SLEEP mixes, a remix of Pretty Lights’ “Lost and Found”, album Summer’s Gone, My Friends Never Die EP and recently, a quickly successful single called “Sun Models”.

Amidst their continuous March through July touring, the electronic duo dropped by Toronto’s Tattoo in May for a wildy vibey & visual Canadian Music Week set. Leading up to the show, Tiffany spoke with Harrison about ODESZA, along with some not-so-typical topics. Read onwards!

So I know this probably gets mentioned a lot, but I hear you and Clay met in college back at Western Washington University. What exactly did you guys study, and how do you, if you do, use that knowledge today for ODESZA?

HM: Clay studied Physics, and I studied Graphic Design. I get to do a lot of the artwork for us, whether for t-shirts or flyers or something we post online. Clay did physics and math, he definitely still finds ways to use his talents when we’re using gear and stuff; everything is mathematical, so still he still uses those skills for sure.

You both previously had separate music projects before ODESZA came together, which were Catacombkid (Harrison) and BeachesBeaches (Clayton). Are those still active or is it mostly just ODESZA stuff now?

HM: Nowadays, we kind of just focus on ODESZA right now cause we don’t want to spread ourselves too thin, we want to make sure we put everything into what we’re doing.

So ODESZA was just on tour with electronic producer, Emancipator, for the second time around. I’m a huge fan of him. His music is a bit softer and mellow with the beats, though. Do you find people that come to shows for him, and who maybe haven’t heard of ODESZA before, do they still manage to get into your music before he comes on? 

HM: I’d like to think that we bridge the gap between those worlds, from more down tempo to a lot of energy. We’re fans of both worlds. We try to incorporate a lot of those things when we play live.

I really like how your music is not really EDM either, you know, it’s nice and fun but not too crazy so you can listen to it whenever. 

HM: Thank you for saying that! Haha.

So after Friday’s show in Toronto, the next time you guys will be back in east coast Canada is for Montreal’s Osheaga in August. That’s a pretty big festival here. Do you guys ever get to stick around for the weekend at festivals and catch some shows, or do you have to take off right after?

HM: I wish we could. I think we’re playing another show or festival the next day [after Osheaga], so we’ll have to leave unfortunately. I’ve heard so many amazing things about Montreal in general and that festival separately. I think that’s going to end up being one of our top favourite shows.

Favourite aspect of being on the road? 

HM: Being able to continuously make personal connections with fans at shows and and play music that we haven’t put out yet and seeing their initial reactions, immediate things like that. A lot of times we put up something online and we don’t really know how to gauge the reaction. It’s nice to see it first hand.

Do you guys have a current favourite song to play at shows? 

HM: It’s weird. Every crowd is different. I would say that Sun Models, our newest track, has a really big crowd reaction when we play it live, which is always really fun.

Biggest music guilty pleasure? Maybe an artist you’ve been listening to or a really good song that might be a bit embarrassing or surprising. 

HM: Haha, I have to say I’ve always been a huge fan of Coldplay.

A lot of people seem to mention Coldplay as their music guilty pleasure! I guess because they’re huge and mainstream, I don’t know. 

HM: What! They have awesome producers. They have people like Brian Eno and John Hopkins.

Proudest or most memorable moment so far?
HM: I always go back to this as one of our favourite moments… We played Sasquatch, just before Toro Y Moi and Disclosure. That was a huge moment for us. When we went on stage, it started raining so everyone came to the dance tent where we were playing. It was a massive party. I think half the people had no idea who we were. Some people come up to us saying they remember that set cause had a lot of fun and that that was how they found out about us. Sasquatch was a huge moment for us.

Most common misconception about ODESZA? 
HM: People think there’s only one person in ODESZA, haha. We’ve had several interviewers will come and meet us in person, and think one of us is the tour manager or something and only talk to one of us. Then halfway through we have to be like, ‘We’re… we’re both in the band’, which is really uncomfortable. I’m kind of confused why people do. I guess there’s not a lot of pictures of us online.

Favourite artist/producer right now, or underrated artist we should know about?
HM: I really like Sylvan Esso. It’s a guy and a girl. She’s a folk singer and he’s a producer. He remixed one of her songs and made it a pop-electronic, darker weird song. She liked it so much they made a whole album together and it’s really good.

Biggest pet peeve?
HM: I don’t like when someone meets you and they obviously aren’t listening to anything you’re saying, haha. I’ve definitely met people where, as we’re talking, they’re looking around the room [replying] ‘Yeah. Yeah’. Ah, that drives me crazy.

Last book you read?
HM: I read The Wolf of Wall Street recently.

Best meal on tour this year?
HM: We played The Georgia Amphitheatre and they brought us homestyle cooked barbacue and it was absolutely insane.

If you could pick 3 artists to create your dream concert lineup, who would they be?
HM: Ooh, that’s so hard. Electronic? I think a cool lineup would be Slow Magic, Sylan Esso and Flume.

Now I would normally ask both of you this separately and compare each other’s answers, but since Clay isn’t here, I guess I can only ask you… So, what would your mother describe you as?
HM: Hahaha, that’s a great question. I love this interview already. My mom is such a sweetheart, she probably has the best opinion of me. I don’t know if I agree with all of it, but she definitely sees me as a polite nice young man… something along those lines, haha.

That’s nice. Now what would your friends describe you?

HM: I think they’d say I’m a nice funny guy, probably.

So basically, you’re a nice guy. 

HM: Yeah, haha.

What’s a surprising fact or hidden talent about yourself that people would be surprised to know? 

HM: I wanted to be a cartoonist up until I was about 20. I was going to school and doing illustration and stuff, and then I switched to the design world. But I don’t really use those chops anymore.

You could totally do some cartooning for the next EP. 

HM: Throw in a little comic in the there, maybe, haha.

If you ever found yourself running from the cops, it would most likely be for… 

HM: Well, I’ve definitely run from the cops before… It would probably be something dumb like smoking weed, BUT it’s legal in Washington where I’m from.

And last question, any interesting plans for the rest of summer, besides the festivals? 

HM: I think we don’t have time to do anything else, haha. I really want to go to Hawaii. I’ve never been and everyone I know has been to Hawaii. I grew up with every kid going on vacation to Mexico or Hawaii or something, and I was always like, ‘I’ll be here’. I’ve always dreamed of going there so I’ll probably find a way to get down there for a couple days.

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