Harrison Mills and Clayton Knight of Odesza are in a creative sprint. With the recent release of In Return (Deluxe Edition), the duo continues to usher in the rise of EDM with their unique blend of dreamy, genre-bending electronic music. Currently on a world tour – which is sold out in nine countries spanning three continents – Georgie caught up with Mills and Knight to talk about what it’s like in the eye of the Odesza whirlwind.
Odesza formed in 2013 in Seattle when Mills and Knight were attending college, taking their name from Caribou’s classic anthem, “Odessa”. The duo began their career playing tiny shows to tough crowds who were more into indie-folk than electronic music. An outlier on the Seattle music scene, Odesza remained inspired by their city.
Longing for summer is something that we do a lot of in Seattle – that’s why we have these bright sounds on our album
“Longing for summer is something that we do a lot of in Seattle – that’s why we have these bright sounds on our album,” explains Mills. “The weather is constantly overcast and drizzling, so when we get these brief moments of light, that feeling is something we try to capture in our music. We are constantly grasping for these moments.”
Odesza’s music has a unique duality of being both exotic and accessible. The duo have become experts in blending genres together and, from the chaos of their creation, something new and familiar emerges.
“Our music is kind of a melting pot for all the things we’re listening to at the time, and we try to blend all these different pieces together,” explains Mills. “I think that’s what our art is – a collage. It’s a lot of overlaying colours that wash together to become something beautiful, and that’s something that we always aim for.”
“We work with the balance of harmony and melody but use non-classical instrumentation,” describes Knight. “So our music tends to have a pop feel to it but it doesn’t sound like pop.”
“Pop gets a bad rap sometimes but it’s something that people are familiar with,” adds Mills. “It’s a familiar structure in the verse and the chorus. We try to sneak in genres like weird experimental or eclectic electronic music into a more pop structure so people don’t realize they might like something that’s a bit stranger than usual.”
Odesza’s debut album, Summer’s Gone, was released on Counter Records in 2013. It was sonically warm and atmospheric, and well received by critics – but it failed to gain momentum. On their second effort, In Return, the duo worked to streamline their multi-layered textures to produce a more refined sound.
“Our first album was kind of like our hobby,” explains Knight, “We weren’t overthinking it at all. On In Return, we took more time to get the production down. We wanted to make the album cleaner and more precise.”
In an effort to push past their comfort zone, Odesza worked with a number of up and comers on their second album, including London artist Py and Seattle native Jenni Potts. The deluxe edition of In Return also features a collaboration with Swedish group Little Dragon on the sultry and soulful track, “Light”.
“You can try to get a super megastar on a track but it could still end up sounding like shit. It’s pretty much trial and error,” says Knight. “Not every studio session is going to be fruitful, so you’ve got to take your time with it and try not to force anything.”
While on their world tour, the duo use their down time to connect with and to scope out other artists for their own label, Foreign Family Collective – a curated collective of visual artists and musicians.
“It was a label Clay and I started when we first met. That was the first thing we wanted to do – even before forming our band,” explains Mills. “We tried to put together a label of music we liked because we knew a lot of people, either online or in person, who needed a push. While we’ve been touring we’ve been slowly building a team. We wanted to make sure we were doing this right.”
As for the future, Odesza plans to expand Foreign Family Collective into other art forms – and they have their sights set high.
“We’ve got music in the works, but music is just the beginning,” says Knight. “We’re doing singles now but we plan on releasing LPs and EPs later. We would also like to jump into visual art and any other type of art form we’re into checking out. Really, in terms of where we want to go, the sky’s the limit.”
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