“Veni, vidi, vici” might as well have been trademarked by Harrison Mills and Clayton Knight (the duo behind the electronic sensation that is ODESZA) these past few years. It is extremely rare for artists to witness the type of instant success the two did, which is not to say any less of the hard work that was put in, but I think that it rather serves as a testament to their exceptional talent. Their music is a refreshing take on electronic sounds, boasts an enchanting vitality, and when it comes down to it, simply uplifts people and makes them feel happy. Enter the magical, blissed-out world of ODESZA, where only good vibes are allowed.
Since they teamed up in 2012 with their debut album, Summer’s Gone, they have garnered 10 'HypeMachine #1' charts and made abundant appearances at major festivals. It’s needless to say, but they’ve got the electronic music community buzzing. A few days ago, ODESZA shared the first single, “Say My Name (feat. Zyra),” off their forthcoming album, In Return, to much applause and acclaim. I was given the opportunity to talk with them about the process, as well as throw in some offbeat questions.
EARMILK: Hey guys, thanks for taking the time to chat with me today. First, can you introduce yourselves?
Harrison Mills: Hi, I'm Harrison, 1/2 of ODESZA.
Clayton Knight: And I am Clayton Knight, the other 1/2.
EM: Can you tell me a little bit about how you guys met and teamed up? How was ODESZA born?
HM: We had a mutual friend named Shawn in college, and Shawn went to high school with Clay, and was living with Clay. When I went over to show Shawn some music I was working on, he mentioned that Clay was making music too, and we ended up jamming one day, in kind of like a studio-basement they had at their house. It just worked out really well, our styles worked and complemented each other, and we started working on a project. We had just graduated and we spent that summer making Summer’s Gone, which is our first little LP.
EM: How would you describe your guys’ dynamic? Is one more laid-back and the other more tense? Who’s the wild one?
HM: [Laughs] I think we're both pretty laid-back dudes.
CK: Yeah, we’re on the same ground I would definitely say – as far as music taste goes. I kind of like a little more, ah I guess not anymore, you used to like a little more 'downtempo' music, but now we basically listen to the same stuff. I think that’s why we work together so well, we’re kind of on the same wavelength with a lot of stuff.
EM: What has been the most influential piece of music to you? Was there a record that changed your life?
CK: Oh wow, that’s a big one…there’s a few actually: the first Gorillaz album, Pink Floyd – The Wall, Radiohead – Kid A, Animal Collective – Feels.
EM: That's a pretty nice range of music you got there.
CK: Yeah, Aphex Twin as well…I forgot what it's called…
HM: I think the only thing I have to add is M83 – Saturdays = Youth is one of my favorite records, and Flying Lotus – Los Angeles.
EM: This is a question I always like to ask artists now: How would you describe your music in terms of emojis?
CK: In emoji terms?
HM: I'll let you handle this one.
CK: Two girls holding hands with cat ears, praying sign, smirking moon, and uh party…explosion.
HM: Killed it.
C: I just thought of the 4 things that I could think of. Haha.
EM: Do you guys have any rituals when you’re making music? Or getting down to business in the studio?
HM: Not really.We definitely like to sit and listen to a lot of music. That’s kind of the first thing we do before we really get too into our own headspace. We just listen to whatever comes, whatever’s new, and then also kind of go back with old soul music, from dance music to South African tribal beats – it’s just kind of all around. We just refresh the palette and then go about making it.
EM: You guys have achieved tremendous, deserved success. The past year or so must have been quite a whirlwind. Do you think you guys have changed or evolved since Summer’s Gone, your first release in 2012, to the My Friends Never Die EP in 2013, and now with In Return just around the corner?
HM: Hmm, I definitely think we’ve matured a lot as musicians, and just learned. We’ve just been like sponges soaking up lots of knowledge from other musicians we’ve toured with. [We're] just kind of learning the road, which is such a different beast than being a producer and live music has been a big change. And kind of seeing how this whole business works, but also trying new things, experimenting, testing boundaries, and I feel like we just keep trying to re-learn how to make music, which is really cool. Changing the process of how you make music I think changes the end result quite a bit.
EM: You guys have performed at tons of festivals now, from Coachella to Lightening in a Bottle to Hudson Project. What is it like up on stage in fronts of crowds that huge? Do you undergo some type of Pokémon transformation when you’re about to perform?
CK: Not really no, we just kind of you know, get ready, get a little loose. The butterflies always come for me when we’re doing anything that big, but I just try and relax as much as possible, and have fun up there.
HM: Maybe do some pushups, get the blood flowing, that’s about it. Haha.
EM: Do you have a favorite festival so far?
HM: Mmm, we still to this day like the big moment, where we were like "Man, we got to do something so amazing" in the beginning was definitely Sasquatch, which is a local festival here, and we’d love to play there again 'cause it was just so fun, just different. [It was a] big moment for us because we opened for Toro Y Moi and Disclosure. It was right when we first started making music together, and it’s just a pretty crazy moment for us.
EM: Can you explain a bit behind this In Return album? You guys have collaborated with some great vocalists like Shy Girls, Zyra, and Madelyn Grant. Is there a track that is especially personal to you? Or which track took the longest?
HM: I think we both mutually really like the song “It’s Only” just cause it represents a lot of different pieces of music that we like. It’s cinematic, it’s dark, it’s also kind of hopeful. It’s got all the pretty melodies we like, but also has some tribal-jungley feel. I think it just encapsulates a lot of things, and it’s definitely like a full song, which is something we tried to do a lot on this album. You know, try to make a full song with lyrics, bridges, verses, and choruses. It’s definitely something new for us and I think that’s one we’re both proud of.
EM: Can you share a funny story from tour or an unbelievable moment?
HM: We've been asked this a few times today and it's just one story;it's infamous. Do you wanna do it, Clay?
CK: How about you give them the heads up?
HM: Basically, I was playing in Missoula, Montana and me & Clay were playing and my monitor – which was playing back all the music we were playing – I couldn’t hear out of it, and so I looked over to my left to see what’s going on, and there’s this girl lying over the monitor. I was like, "what the hell’s going on?" and I just tried to keep playing. I thought that maybe she’d move off the monitor and I look back at the monitor, and I realize that someone is having sex with her over the monitor. This goes on for about 25 minutes while we’re playing and they’re just making direct eye contact with me throughout the entire set and there’s like whooping and hollering. I was like, "this is the most insane thing". It was actually hilarious and horrific, all in one.
EM: Hahaha. Yeah, that will be hard to top for a while…
HM: Yeah, I don't know when that will happen again.
EM: Okay, so what's on your bucket list for this upcoming year?
HM: Ooh…I would say go to Europe, that’s definitely on the bucket list. I think we may accomplish it.
EM: Is there a particular place in Europe you’re especially looking forward to?
HM: I don’t know if we’re playing there, but I would love to go to Berlin. That would be amazing.
EM: Disregarding time, resources, and the laws of physics, if you could invent anything, what would it be? What do you wish existed?
HM: Hmm, is it corny to say a cure for all diseases? I’m saving everyone. (Aww)
CK: I would just invent teleportation. Touring would be so much easier.
HM: Hahaha, purely for touring purposes.
CK: Yeah, not humanity. Just touring.
EM: Then, maybe there should just be, like, some tour capsule that is solely used for touring.
CK: Yeah, I would be into that. That’s a good idea.
EM: What’s on your recently watched on Netflix?
HM: Mmm, what did I recently watch? I never watch anything good on Netflix haha. Ah, what did I watch? I have no idea.
CK: I don’t know if it’s on Netflix or not, but I started watching 'Heroes'. I’m getting into that. It’s pretty old.
HM: Oh yeah, I watched Bob’s Burgers!
EM: What would be your Popeye’s spinach? And what would be your kryptonite?
CK: Does Jameson count?
HM: I think that is your Popeye’s spinach.
CK: Yeah, it definitely helps…helps me perform a little bit.
HM: And the kryptonite would be, bad techno music? A raver in JNCO jeans…or just anyone with a chain wallet.
EM: What rap line is your motto or mantra?
CK: [Jokingly] "It was all a dreammm!"
CK: "Damn, it feels good to be a gangsta."
HM: Hahaha…"My cerebral is deeper than a Jeep full of people"…how about that one?
CK: That’s a keeper.
HM: Eminem’s first album, Infinite.
EM: Okay, so for the last question: Would you rather get a tattoo that says “Bieber Fever” on your face or listen to a Nickelback album every morning for the rest of your life?
CK: Oh..my…god…I’d go with the Nickelback album
HM: Oh, I never thought that it would be a tough decision between a tattoo on my face.
CK: Yeah, that’s for life man. you can kind of hide the damage with other stuff.
HM: Oh, man. uf it was a face tattoo of "Bieber Fever" or "Nickelback" I’d go with "Bieber Fever."
In Return will be out September 9th via Counter Records, and is currently available on vinyl and CD for pre-order here. ODESZA will be embarking on their IN RETURN North American Tour soon, and shows have already begun selling out—grab your tickets asap! You can check out the tour trailer below.
- Counter Records
- September 9th