What do Larry Bird, tennis, and persimmons have in common?
They're three of the many motifs that comprise the DNA of SOFI TUKKER's long-awaited sophomore album, WET TENNIS, which is out now after appearing in our list of the top 22 electronic albums to come out in 2022.
Considering the fact that their debut album, the Grammy-nominated Treehouse, was released in 2018, it's safe to say that Sophie Hawley-Weld and Tucker Halpern of SOFI TUKKER have evolved both individually and as a pair over the past four years. And WET TENNIS is not only a testament to that growth, but also an intricate statement on liberation and self-empowerment.
There are three levels to the album's title: the "WET" part, the "TENNIS" part, and the full acronym.
"The 'WET' part is excitement, flow, sweat—it’s an ode to the pussy," Hawley-Weld tells EDM.com. "Then there’s the 'TENNIS' part, which is everything that we do is a back and forth. Traditionally, tennis has been very exclusive and you have to dress in all-white to get in to the country club. We really wanted to flip tennis on its head and make it wet and colorful, and make it inclusive."
"The acronym ['When everyone tries to evolve, nothing negative is safe'] is basically what we really wanted to say," Halpern adds. "It’s a thesis statement of the whole idea and what we wanted to put out into the world. We want people to leave this album feeling good and feeling hopeful and inspired to build and evolve and be better, always."
In celebration of WET TENNIS, Halpern and Hawley-Weld caught up with EDM.com via Zoom to break down each track from their remarkable album.
EDM.com: Sophie, it’s no secret that you have a "healthy" obsession with persimmons, which inspired the album's first track, "Kakee." Can you tell us a bit more about how you and [70-year-old Brazilian poet] Chacal wrote this ode to persimmons?
Hawley-Weld: Chacal lives in Rio, and I texted him one day and said, "I am really obsessed with persimmons, we have to write a song about persimmons." So he worked on this poem and sent it back to me and it's almost verbatim what he wrote.
It's really absurd. It's like, "I'm not Sophie, I'm persimmon. I don't go by car or by foot, I go by persimmon. The persimmon juice is all over my body, so sexy, so sticky." It's just one of those absurd poems that he is very good at writing.
Halpern: [Chacal] is definitely like an eccentric nutcase and that's what we love about him, because he really thinks about how the words sound. That's what's really cool about the Portuguese language because it sounds so good and it flows so well and it's sexy.
Hawley-Weld: That is his speciality. He's all about sound over meaning.
Tucker: Same. I don't even like persimmons. I was making a techno track and Sophie wanted to make a song about persimmons and she just kind of went off and talked to Chacal and they made this thing.
2. "Original Sin"
EDM.com: “Original Sin” was your first release of 2022. Let’s dive into this one.
Hawley-Weld: We wrote ["Original Sin"] during the pandemic, when we were locked in our house. It was towards the beginning when we were livestreaming every day in our living room and the Freak Fam had been created.
We were having a lot of conversations within the Freak Fam and within the chat, talking about how people were not necessarily their best selves to the people that they love the most and the people that they are quarantining with.
We were ingesting a lot of really bad news all the time and there was so much anxiety and so much uncertainty in the air, and I think a lot of people took it out on the people they love the most. This song really started as a reminder...
Halpern: Be nice to yourself. We are in a shitty time. It's okay if you have bad days.
Hawley-Weld: Exactly. And it's okay if you make mistakes.
3. "Summer In New York"
EDM.com: After graduating from Brown University, you moved to New York to pursue music full-time. What is it about New York that you love so much?
Hawley-Weld: Gosh. It's the best city ever.
Halpern: Yeah, there's an energy that no other city that I've lived in—or even been in—feels like. We also have so much community there. We have so many friends that we will walk out onto the street and we will run into people from different eras of our lives nonstop. No other place do you just run into people getting coffee, and then they join you for the rest of the day, and then you go somewhere else and run into another friend. There's just a vibe.
Hawley-Weld: For me, it's also that it's a walking city—that's part of what does that. I was telling Tucker the other day that it kind of feels like college. Like there was a spot called the Main Green that was the gathering spot at Brown, and New York just feels like the Main Green because you walk out of your door and you have no idea who you are going to run into, and what you're going to do, and where you're going to go. And that is just so electric.
Halpern: ["Summer in New York"] literally inspired us to move back to New York. We were in Florida when we wrote it during quarantine, and we were like, "Shit, we want to be in New York."
We hadn't lived there in three or four years and we decided, "Let's just do it." We wrote a song about our ideal day and then we were like, "Let's have that day. Let's live that."
4. "Forgive Me" (with Mahmut Orhan)
EDM.com: “Forgive Me” came out last month, one of your most personal songs to date. Can you tell us about the inspiration behind it and creative process? How have your fans responded to it ?
Hawley-Weld: It's been really exciting hearing [the feedback] from people. The people who do connect with this song connect with it on a level that is extremely meaningful. It creates a connection instantly, in part because it comes from a really hard situation.
It definitely is one of the more emotional and dramatic songs we've ever made. Something really challenging happened in my life and I was like, "Tucker, I really don't feel like writing music. I am a mess, I am bawling my eyes out, and the last thing I want to do right now is write music." And he said, "No, let's use it. Why don't we just write a song about it?"
We usually don't write from that place, but it was the only thing that I felt like I could write about. It has been really cool to now see that writing from that place has created all of these connections with people who have been in challenging situations that feel similar.
5. "Wet Tennis"
EDM.com: The titular track “Wet Tennis” is celebratory in nature, exploring inner work and transforming one’s shadows. How did this song come together?
Halpern: We got these amazing musicians from Cuba, Brazil and some other places, and we went to a studio in Miami and recorded a bunch of stuff. So basically, we wrote the parts in our house and then we were like, "These parts would sound really great if they were done by proper musicians on crazy instruments." So we got them to replay a bunch of parts and it was so much fun to watch the energy come to life.
The parts themselves didn't really change, but the musicality and the feel of it all was so different. Rather than a fake organ from my computer, it was a real Hammond organ. It was so fun and a really cool experiment for us, I think.
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["Wet Tennis"] gives out a lot of joy and positive vibes and that was definitely the goal.
EDM.com: The lyrics in "Interlude" define the WET TENNIS acronym and conclude with: "Maybe I don't want to know what's on the other side." Can you speak to that?
Hawley-Weld: I think the truth is: I don't want to know what's on the other side, but I'm going to be courageous enough to go there anyway.
The first half of the album has shorter, punchier songs and then the second half of the album is a little bit more of a journey. Placing the "Sun Came Up" next was purposeful.
7. "Sun Came Up" (with John Summit)
EDM.com: Did you know know that "Sun Came Up" was going to be a part of the album when you released it?
Halpern: No. We had so many songs and so many versions of the track listing. ["Sun Came Up"] was one of the later additions. We were like, "This actually feels really good here." And we did write it in the same time period of time with a lot of the other songs on the album, so it did feel like it belonged even though it was not part of the album campaign.
It feels like we started releasing the album with "Original Sin," but then we added a couple of previous songs that we felt told the full story from a beginning-to-end album.
8. "Larry Bird" (with Tuck's Dad)
EDM.com: So Tucker, your dad is actually in this one?
Halpern: Yeah! My dad is the one who gave that speech. We made it sound like a sample from a TV announcer, but that's just my dad talking old legendary stories about Larry Bird.
Larry Bird was basically my dad's hero—kind of my hero, too. Through my dad, I always wore #33 growing up and playing basketball in college. I learned a lot of work ethic that carried into all aspects of my life from hearing about Larry Bird, and I thought that it would be a really fun song.
Larry Bird definitely plays a big part in SOFI TUKKER because all of the things that I learned from him. We took into this project and the music world. I think it's a nice ode to him and it's a nice ode to my dad, who is hyped to be a part of the album.
9. "Hold" (with BOII)
EDM.com: “Hold” is a soft and sensual song, reminding listeners of the importance to first themselves before they can fully love another. Do you have more to add?
Hawley-Weld: The thing that is so cool about this song is that it is sensual and soft and introspective, but there is that rave synth that happens. So it also goes off. ["Hold"] is a combination of the internal and external.
Halpern: Like us.
Hawley-Weld: Yes, it's just like us. I probably represent more of the introspective element and Tucker is more of the external, but obviously we have parts of us that are both.
Adam's voice from BOII is one of our favorite voices ever and we are really blessed to have that on the album.
Halpern: And the other guy from BOII is a guy named Josh, he used to be on our crew. He was our Ableton stage tech. He ended up having a baby and moving to Michigan and starting a band and we've always been in contact, supporting that endeavor.
Hawley-Weld: We started this one together on the tour bus, when he was still on tour with us four years ago. This was probably the earliest song that we wrote that's on the album. I remember it so well. I was actually on the tour bus, having a hard time holding myself. I remember feeling very isolated and lonely, and so it was kind of like a song written to myself to remind myself what to do.
10. "Mon Cheri" (with Amadou & Mariam)
EDM.com: Over the years and countless interviews later, a common question has been, “Who is your dream collaborator?” To which you’ve always answered Amadou & Mariam. What was it like to finally work together?
Hawley-Weld: When we found out, we were shrieking and running up and down in our kitchen.
Halpern: We didn't think that they would be into it. They make really beautiful, interesting world music and we had this song idea and we sent it to them and they were down. We still haven't met them in-person—it all happened over the pandemic. [Amadou & Mariam] are incredible and like the most inspiring... We had both loved them separately—before we met each other even—so that was just cool.
I'm glad we put ["Mon Cheri"] on the album too because I want to give it a second life for those people that may have missed it. I would love more people to hear the song.
EDM.com: “Freak” is infectious, upbeat and true to the SOFI TUKKER sound. In your own words, what does it mean to be a freak?
Halpern: I think in the context of the Freak Fam, it really just means to be yourself. Whatever weird shit that you've maybe been told is not good or comfortable... Just be proud to be yourself and feel safe to be yourself. It can mean literally anything, like a weirdo, sexually, asexually... Whatever you feel like is authentically you.
12. "What A Wonderful World"
EDM.com: I love how you ended the album with a positive, unifying message. The power of positivity is everything.
Halpern: ["What A Wonderful World"] was a holiday special. We did it for Apple Music, but then we got the song and we are in love with it so we thought it was the perfect way to leave the listener and send them off into the world.
Hawley-Weld: My dad used to sing that song to me and he sang it to me when I was born, apparently.
Halpern: We each have a Dad song on the album.
In support of WET TENNIS, SOFI TUKKER are set to kick off a massive, eponymous world tour. You can purchase tickets here.
In the meantime, stream the album here.