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Spectrums of Sound: An Interview with Odesza 

 March 1, 2015

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Odesza (Harrison Mills & Clayton Knight) has been a strong new presence in the dance music scene recently, bringing a refreshing new sound and innovative live performance to audiences everywhere since 2012. Released late last year, their second studio album “In Return” has been a major hit especially among Indie electronic fans who most appreciate live instrumentation and performance. After their sound check at the Canopy Club in Urbana, IL the duo, having already broken sweat on stage, diffused from their energetic performance mode and sat down for a chat with us.

EDMC: Hey guys, once again, I’m Cameron from EDM Chicago here today with Odesza –

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Harrison: That is correct

EDMC: Welcome guys, how is your tour going so far?

Clayton: Pretty solid, we were in Columbia, MO last night, and we think it was one of our better shows so far.

EDMC: Ya [tour manager] and I were talking and it sounds like you’ve been hitting a lot of college spots with Columbia last night, Urbana Champaign tonight, Bloomington – whats the dynamic of that been like so far?

Harrison: It’s definitely been different with the younger crowd, as opposed to the older, more diverse crowd we would normally see in a major city. But it’s a good thing, usually people start dancing earlier (laughs).

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EDMC: Any interesting stories from the tour thus far?

Clay: I crowd surfed for the first time, but so far that’s the wildest I think its gotten.

EDMC: So you guys met at Western Washington University. What was the time frame like from first meeting each other to becoming serious about Odesza?

Harrison: It wasn’t serious for a long time. We first met senior year of college through a mutual friend Clay lived with. We started making music shortly after. That summer we both had graduated so we spent that time making an album before we had to get a real job. A couple opportunities popped up after the album came out that allowed us to start touring and then it was kind of a snowball effect.

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EDMC: And prior to Odesza you both had solo projects with “Catacomb kid” and “Beaches Beaches”

Clay: (laughs) I wouldn’t really call it a project, just more like a hobby with a stupid name.

EDMC: Right, well just from having explored both of those myself it sounds like you both had really similar styles even at that point, was coming together and forming Odesza as seamless as one would’ve expected?

Harrison: Yeah, it was pretty straightforward; the workflow was good. We each had really good energy to feed off of.

EDMC: Now from what I’ve heard this is the point in the interview where I ask you guys how you came up with the name, and you guys make up an original story.

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Harrison: (laughs) We’ve been telling the truth for awhile now.

Clay: Yeah, we’ve given up on that.

EDMC: So for the record, what is the real story?

Harrison: The real story is, there is no story.

EDMC: (laughs) Plot twist!

Clay: Yeah, the real story is we wanted to be Odessa, with two S’s of course, but after a little research we found out there was a screamo UK band with that name that already had a decent following, so we thought ‘ok we got to botch that’ so we just put a ‘z’ in it. (laughs).

EDMC: Your album “In Return” dropped late last year, and the response to that has been huge. Is there a particular meaning we are supposed to derive from the title of that album?

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Harrison: Ya the whole time we were working on it we were touring a lot and something that became precious to us was returning home, and it was what we looked forward to the most. We got to finish the album at home and it felt right to name it after something we cared about a lot, and even when you look at our logo [the geometric icosahedron] we feel it is representative of that idea.

"in-return-cover"

EDMC: Switching gears here, from a production standpoint, are you guys hardware or software centric? What’re your “go-to” tools?

Clay: Most of it is in the box, but a lot ofthe writing is done on Maschine and Komplete (Native Instruments). Basically we’ll use maschine as a plugin inside Logic (Apple), and we’ll do all of the mixing and EQing inside Logic. But the beginning of all our ideas is done with Maschine because the workflow is so fast and easy.

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Harrison: We try and keep it organic sounding.

EDMC: It definitely shows. And then from a live perspective (in the past) you guys have talked about bringing in more live elements into the show. Can you talk about how you’ve accomplished that, and what you’re doing on stage?

Clay: Well basically there are two Ableton sessions set up as a “master/slave” setup. Meaning one is giving tempo and data to the other. So what we have setup is Harrison’s computer is running all of the top lines, and I have control over all the drum and bass on my end. It allows for a combination of a lot of different sounds, and things can be layered differently. We’ve come upon some happy accidents where we’ve done some weird transitions by accident that blend two things together. So that allows for a little freedom, and then we’re also trying to add some more drum pieces and vocalists in the near future, so it’s a work in progress.

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Harrison: We each are playing toms, crashes, and electronic drums up there as well.

EDMC: What can we expect from you guys moving forward?

Harrison: A lot of new music. We were constantly working and thinking about it, but it’s so hard to make music on the road. I actually hate it, but there’s no option. So we just try to find a couple hours where we can setup a mini studio down in the green room or something. But in general it’s like sitting on planes or busses trying to move a mouse to the right midi note, which I’m not a fan of, but it is what it is.

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EDMC: I see you drawing upon a lot of varying instrumentation between tracks, and albums. Who are some of your current influences who are inspiring your sound?

Harrison: I like Lido a lot; he’s really innovative. He’s the king of transitions in songs. I feel like he puts eight songs in one song, which is something that seems really hard to do and I really like hearing it.

Clay: The Australian scene is blowing up; we listen to a lot of that. But also, we try and go back and listen to old stuff. We listen to everything like soul, ambient, rock. Whatever it is, it all feeds into the creative process.

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Harrison: I feel like the biggest inspiration has been going back and hearing something that made us first really excited about music, because you have more of a palette to understand what you like about it.

EDMC: How have your tastes changed?

Clay: I don’t know that they’ve changed, but maybe they’ve evolved in that I’m open to more stuff now. But I still like the stuff I liked then, but for different reasons.

Harrison: I didn’t really like dance music until I met Clay, who was really into dance music. There was a lot of different stuff I heard from him that made me end up liking it.

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Clay: There’s a lot of music out there, and I think the more you can consume of it, you’ll be a better producer and musician because you have more to work with.

Thanks again to Odesza for taking the time to chat with us! If you have not yet seen them on tour, perhaps it can best be described as a cinematic experience. It is a performance guaranteed to entertain throughout and is likely to make even the casual Odesza fan a loyal believer.

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