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ODESZA Returns To US For Fall Tour [Interview]

The two began to collaborate in 2012. Before forming ODESZA, Mills experimented with sample-based hip-hop beats and Knight studied jazz and classical music. With a whirlwind of different styles and backgrounds to their music, the two have achieved a unity that is not often found in today’s EDM scene. With inspirations from Animal Collective to Bonobo, ODESZA’s productions mesh a variety of indie-inspired sounds into one cohesive whole.

“I’d definitely say we are apart of the indie-electronica genre,” said Knight. The indie scene of Seattle helped develop their appreciation of lesser-represented genres of electronic music. It wasn’t until recently that the sample-based EDM resonated with the young duo.

“It takes a while for a genre like ours to develop. Sometimes it just needs to be heard; Lorde helped bring some of the exposure, and then Flume’s remix of Lorde got a lot of people into this futuristic sound,” said Mills. “I heard Flying Lotus say, 'A beat is now a song.' Before I’d play songs for my friends and there’d be certain people who’d ask, 'Where are the lyrics?' and I’d tell them 'It’s supposed to be [without lyrics].' It took the U.S. some time but we’re finally coming along."

Their live show reflects a growing trend of “live instrument-based" performances, as seen in many electronic music concerts today. They run two instances of Ableton Live, and used each to queue up the vital stems to their tracks (the skeletons, if you will). The duo then use controllers for live drumming and live bass manipulation, allowing them to provide a unique performance as each track flows cohesively into the next.

“This live setup gives us a little more free form, as opposed to a DJ set where you just mix two songs together. I can take a high hat from one track and throw it into another track. We can create entirely new tracks and remixes on the fly this way and just jam out,” Mills relays with a gleeful smile. This innovative approach to live performances makes ODESZA stand out among the many similarly crafted DJ sets of their peers.

“There’s not a lot of reference points for people. The average person doesn’t listen to music every day 24/7 and studies it. A person may say, 'Oh, I like this song. That guy is a DJ? Must be exactly like this other artist,' but luckily people are starting to recognize us,” said Knight.

Before their headlining set, they walk among the venue chatting with friends, one of which is opener Kodak To Graph.

“A few nights ago we were standing in the back of the crowd during [Kodak To Graph]’s set and some guy walks up to another guy and goes, 'Who’s playing right now?' It was hilarious because despite the big backdrop behind him that said 'Kodak To Graph,' the other guy said, 'ODESZA.' Sometimes people think we’re only one person, which is a little more understandable,” Mills chuckles.

Despite some growing pains, their upcoming American tour has sold out a number of venues far in advance. With past performances at festivals such as SasquatchLightning in a Bottle, and the Hudson Music Project, along with appearances at HARD Day of the Dead and Holy Ship on the horizon, ODESZA may just become a festival favorite in 2015.

“We played the Do Lab stage at Coachella this past year but to play one of the main stages would be a dream come true,” said Mills.

“Yeah, a main stage at Coachella is an intense dream for us,” agreed Knight.

ODESZA’s quick success should come as no shock. Their tracks seep at the seams with a unique identity, a musical fingerprint firmly stamped on each synth and vocal sample.

“It’s all been a rapid change. For now we just want to expand our live show, add more lights and production, and keep putting out tracks and remixes,” said Knight. Suddenly, the title and lyrics to their song “How Did I Get Here” carry a much more personal message.

One mystery remains. How did the two come up with the ODESZA moniker? One rumor suggests Mills’ uncle heroically survived the sinking of his ship named “ODESZA” while another rumor claims they changed their name from “ODESSA” since another artist already owned the name. When asked, the two laugh hysterically, suggesting a scheme at work.

“I’ll let you handle this, “laughs Knight.

“My uncle sinking the ship is a totally true story but we made up the reasoning behind our name to tie into it. When we first started out we didn’t have a cool story behind our name, we just liked the name with a “z” added on, so our original joke was to come up with a new story every time someone asked us. Then people came to us with cool meanings behind the name and those were much cooler than the real reason. But yeah, my uncle surviving that boat sinking was a totally true story. He was out on a rowboat for four or five days, I can’t believe he survived,” Mills recounts.

“They actually based Life of Pi off his uncle,” Knight jokes.

“Just to be clear, ODESZA is actually the name of the ship I saved all of the orphans from when it sunk,” Mills quips.

Cover Photo Credit: Bronson Selling

Photo Credits: Michael Ettinger, Daniel Zetterstrom 

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It was only a few months ago when the Seattle natives Clayton and Harrison first toured from city to city in a rental van. On one particular Saturday night during their quest, Clayton (the blonder of the two), found himself in dire need of a wardrobe change, as he was unable to perform in his dirtied and stained attire. Harrison (the brown-haired member of the duo) laughed, and citesd that this was one of the many struggles of an artist while touring across the country. In just a few short hours, the duo would be performing for a wall-to-wall crowd, hammering on MIDI controllers and mixing a collage of dreamy tracks. The last time the duo performed here, they opened for Pretty Lights-collaborator Michal Menert, but to only a fraction of the crowd. It was only months later when they reached headlining status, and this specific performance represented a big step forward in the astounding success the duo has achieved.

Hot on the heels of releasing their latest album In Return, the ODESZA duo primes for a nation-wide fall tour, one that aims to best the near-universally sold out tour that they organized this past spring.

“The crowds are a lot different. They come out for us now instead of just discovering us randomly,” said Harrison Mills, the darker haired half of the downtempo duo. Clayton Knight, the lighter haired of the two, quietly smiles and nods in agreement as his partner describes their rapid success.

When I talked to them on this night, the existence of In Return had not even been revealed yet. Their previous album Summer’s Gone released in 2012, the year in which EDM genres like electro and dubstep began to kick off. In 2013 they released the EP My Friends Never Die, an eclectic collection of dreamy soundscapes and cheery vocal splices. Youtube channels like MrSuicideSheep, TheSoundYouNeed, Magestic Casual, and SOUNDISSTYLE helped expose their music to larger audiences.