Posted Mar 9th, 2015 (12:51 am) by James Hughes
An Interview With ODESZA
Image by James Hughes

Before a double header at the South Burlington, VT venue, Higher Ground, I got the chance to sit down with ODESZA's Harrison Mills and Clayton Knight to talk remixes, their dislike of the drop, and their growth as musicians.

Welcome back to Higher Ground! How were your previous shows here in Burlington? How were you received?
C: The first time we opened for Michael Menert, we opened for him in the little room. Then we opened for Emancipator in this (the larger) room and it was one of the better shows that run.
H: Yeah some kid was in a full tuxedo!
C: Yeah so we love coming here. It is an awesome venue, a sweet spot and everyone here loves music. It is a great town to come to.
H: People are ready to have fun. It is great finding a crowd that are ready to come and have a good time, instead of having to win them over before they will enjoy it. Not to say that (winning them over) is always a negative thing, but it makes it more fun for us.

How do you guys keep a double header fresh? Is there anything that you bring to the table to make the shows different?
C: Unfortunately it cannot be too different because the light show and the programming is all lined up but we try to change things as much as possible. But, the later show we save more for the end as opposed to the earlier show because the energy is higher on the back end.

With a lot of electronic music that is out there now-a-days it seems harder and harder for artists to fight off “the drop.” How do you stay away from the seizure inducing drops?
H: Well, we like the energy but we prefer more tasteful versions of that. So we try to make sure that it is based more around melody than based around loud noises.

You are a duo, so producing is a collaborative process. DO you ever just sit back and let the other take the lead?
H: We don’t want to stand in each other’s way. The while point is us just bouncing ideas off each other and definitely every song someone takes the lead. But if Clay is feeling a sound, and in the zone, I am not going to walk over and say “let me put some drums on there!”
C: If someone has a vision you don’t want to step in their way. You want to let them run with it. It is all about bouncing ideas back and forth. It helps a lot when you get stuck in those (creative) ruts. Electronic music, at the heart of it, is basically tension and release. So you do builds to drops that is how it works. But with drops, there are a wide range of things. You can definitely go the more crazy dissonance route where you have loud noises, heavy drums, and people seem to go ape-shit over that. But we try to mimic that formula, and try to get that build and drop formula, but we look to do it in a more harmonic way. So you keep more of the music intact when you are doing the loud stuff, as opposed to destroying it and just going with alarms. Electronic music is so engrained in the need for this big epic build to a crazy drop, and people are so used to it now. I think you have to retain some of that but you can put spins on how you do it.

Do you think stepping back from that traditional formula has helped make you successful?
H: I think people are ready. I feel that kids were conditioned to think that if there is no drop than it is not a good song. But, a lot of people have grown out of it, and have heard enough of the same stuff, to where when they hear something that is different they are surprised that they like it. And, then they delve into different styles of music ad start listing to new stuff. We come from a background of so many influences, and loving traditional music. That we don’t want to jump onto a trend or a fad. We just appreciate good music for what it is.

You worked with, and toured with, Emancipator as well as Pretty Lights. How did they help shape the growth of your live show?
C: It is always a work in progress. We just keep adding pieces and try to make the sound quality better as much as possible. When we first came it was just the APCs, then we added the ESPDs, and then the Toms we just added this tour. We are trying to always add new things to do. It is a continuing process.
Do you guys play any live instruments or are you strictly electronic musicians?
H: I played trumpet in middle school, but I don’t remember it. I have always had a percussion mindset, and always wanted to play, but there were too many people drumming. I have always had that mindset, but I never trained or sat down with a drum and learned. It was always me just chopping up samples of drum breaks and playing them with my hands.

So almost like a bucket drummer?
H: Yea I feel like I am a street drummer.

What are your influences, and who are you listening to right now?
C: Panda Bear, Animal Collective, M83, Flying Lotus, there is a lot of Australian music out right now that I am listening to.

Remixing is huge in today’s modern music world, and you guys get remixed A LOT! Of course it is a complement that someone is working with your music, but do you ever think “man, that isn’t the direction I wanted it taken?”
H: WE always appreciate someone trying something else. I am more offended when someone makes a new song, but they just put new drums in it. I just think “you didn’t do anything!” And, I think that there are people that think that is a remix. But, I think that a remix is taking a song and doing something completely different direction. That is what we try to do when we do a remix, and that is make the song a new song.
C: At a point it should be unrecognizable. Just make it weird, unique, and your own. I get Mak8ng stuff club oriented, turning stuff up, and remixing in a way that it hit harder. But if you are going to just do a remix take it and make it weird.
H: In general, we prefer someone just trying to be unique. Even if it is bad I still respect that.

Speaking of remixes you guys had a remix competition for “Say My Name.” How many entries did you guys get?
H: We got about almost 300. I remember it was a late night in Europe, and we were on tour, and we were just sitting in our hotel room playing each song. It took a long time; like five hours.

What led you guys to pick the winner?
C: They (The Geek x VRV) just went a different route. They manipulated it enough and made it their own. There were so many that just did the same thing.

How do you guys beat the leak?
H: You can’t beat the leak If people care they will get it. I think if you focus too much on the business side that will stick in your head and you won’t make the product you want to make. Just focus on the product and everything comes later.
C: Yeah if they want to support you they will go out and buy your music. The best thing you can do is just make the best must you can make. That is how you have to compete.

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