Electronic duo Odesza—made up of Harrison Mills and Clayton Knight—just dropped a new album and trust us when we say, it’s dreamy AF. Their record is called A Moment Apart and that’s exactly what it delivers: gentle vocals and mellow beats to help you turn on #ChillMode.
A mere five years ago, Mills and Knight were just two college students at Western Washington University who bonded over a shared love of electronic music. Five days after meeting, they produced their first song together, a project born from the desire to do what they loved before entering post-grad reality and getting “real jobs.”
Flash forward to today, and their one-time hobby has spawned three critically acclaimed albums, upwards of 300 million plays across their top ten songs on Spotify and epic collabs with huge names—like Regina Spector on their track “Just a Memory,”and the soulful Leon Bridges on “Across the Room.”
FLARE chatted with one half of the band, Mills, who dished on a wild night out in Germany, what happened when their power went out during a show and why the eff they quack before going on stage.
A lot of people categorize Odesza as an EDM band, but you’re so much more than that. For those who haven’t heard your music, how would you describe your sound?
It’s a blend of a lot of different styles and genres using organic elements but mainly electronic music as a platform. It’s rooted in orchestral music, just as much as it is in hip hop. We try to take a lot of music from around the world and make it cohesive to the electronic sound.
This latest album has been described as a more mature sound. What do you hope your fans get out of listening?
Once it leaves your computer, you never really know how people going to take it (laughs). But for us, it was the most personal we’ve made it. It’s the idea of perspective and gaining perspective by stepping away from the noise in the world. [It’s a] sense of hope, so I hope they grow with it and that allows them to reflect on key things in their life in a hopefully good way.
Would you say you experienced a lot of personal growth while making this particular album?
We had been on tour for a couple years straight. We wrote the album and sat down with it while reflecting on the last couple of years of this crazy journey we had been on. We basically came out of college, came out with an album, and have almost been on tour since then. It was a long process of self-reflection.
What has the transition been like from college musicians to world-touring superstars?
This isn’t false modesty or anything, but we really live in a bubble. We try not to pay too much attention to that stuff because all of it is so fleeting and it’s better to just keep the people around you close and stay as level-headed as possible. We have been very lucky and it has been kind of insane, but we try not to think about it.
You recently played at Bumbershoot Festival in Seattle, your hometown. What was it like being on stage at a festival you were once in the audience for?
It was a pretty crazy experience for us. We had a bit of a journey we wanted people to go on with our music, and about 20 minutes in, the speakers blew out and the power got lost on them. This thing we had built up in our hometown, we really wanted to see the perfect experience. When we went back out, the fans were singing one of our songs a capella. The speakers came back on, and we went right into a brand new song. It was the most insane energy I’ve ever felt. That really felt like we had made it; I felt very proud to be from where I’m from.
Since it’s just the two of you up there performing for hours, how do you complement each other on stage?
Really we’re paying more attention to the crowd, and unconsciously, we’re doing a lot of the same thing without even knowing it. Maybe that’s why we work so well in music. [We have] the same unconscious feeling of love for the same things and feeding off the same energy. It probably looks rehearsed but it’s not (laughs).
This album definitely sounds different than your previous work. Where did you look for inspiration?
This sounds cheesy, but life around me. There was one major influence on the album that happened when we were in Cologne, Germany, of all places. After we played in this club, this guy said we should stay because there’s this Latin night there and it’s super fun. We ended up going to it and it had four different rooms within the club, and each room had a different live band. There was such a sense of community. I was blown away by all these different rhythms I was experiencing for the first time. That night had a massive influence on some of the things we did.
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Do you have any pre-show rituals?
We used to have this funny one where we would do the Mighty Ducks “quack” with the entire group (laughs). We all surround ourselves with the band. There’s so much anticipation, so there’s not a lot to talk about. Everyone is jumping up and down and getting ready to go. It’s like a group of people getting ready for war.
While you’re touring, what’s something you miss most about being at home?
It’s such a weird dichotomy because when you’re at home, there’s so much silence and when we are on a road, you never know what you’re doing. You have to look at an app to see your schedule. [I miss] getting a sense of calm and that’s really what this album is about in a lot of ways.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
When we first started out, we were pretty nervous. We were playing shows for the first time and this guy who was playing said, “Play to the person in the front you think is dancing the hardest.” I’ve kept that forever. I don’t really stare into the crowd any more. I just look at that one person having a good time and I play to them.
Who are some artists you’d love to work with?
There’s a few people I’d love to work with eventually, but I’m not one to get offended if it doesn’t work out. I really like Damon Albarn of Blur and Gorillaz. I’d love to try some hip hop stuff and work with Run the Jewels.
What’s one thing people would be surprised to learn about you?
I wanted to be an animator from when I was 12 to about 20. I never even thought about doing anything else. I wanted to make cartoons.
What does success look like to you?
I really believe if you work your ass off, you do something very true to yourself and you put it out there, just the ability to put it out there [is success]. I know people that are incredible musicians that never want to put out a song because it’s never perfect and it’s tough to get through.
Is that something you and Clayton have ever struggled with?
If we were sure of it, it probably wouldn’t be good. If you’re not sure, it means you tried something, which is something to be proud of. We’re unsure about a lot of different things, but in the end, we always had to try to be as authentic and genuine as possible. Do exactly what you want to do, whether you think the audience will like it or not. We made the album we wanted to make every time.
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