Odesza: Music to live by

This might sound weird, but I listened to the same album on repeat for like four hours the other day. Whether I’m driving, snowboarding, reading, writing or socializing, it provides a perfect soundtrack — and I’m still not sick of it despite listening to it constantly for the past three months. It’s one of those albums you can always put on when everyone around says they “don’t care” what music you play, but you know they are going to judge your music tastes no matter what you choose. So next time you’re in that situation, try playing “Summer’s Gone,” Odesza’s debut album.

When my friend asked me if I wanted to see ODESZA play at the Main Street Arts & Entertainment Complex last November, I was like “Who is Odesza?” and “Isn’t that a high school club?”

It turns out that Odesza is a young DJ duo from Washington, the Main Street Arts & Entertainment Complex (aka: Club YOLO) offers a full bar, and the show was worth every penny and bike pedal from downtown Bozeman.

Two months later, on January 29, I opened the Bobcat Buzz email from ASMSU. I was shocked to read “Tickets for upcoming Emancipator with Little People and ODESZA concert on March 7th.”

First of all, Emancipator in the SUB Ballrooms? I’ve been in love with his music since I saw him in Missoula a few years ago. It appears that my years of financial contribution to Campus Entertainment have finally paid off, because Emancipator is kicking off this tour in Bozeman and not even stopping in Missoula.

Second of all, Odesza playing a second show in Bozeman already? They’ve only been playing music together for like nine months! I don’t want to jinx this, but I think we are witnessing the beginnings of an electronic legend.

“We were hoping to make something that can be headphone music and you can enjoy it while you’re working or something, but that when you go to a live venue it’s got enough kick to it to be able to have a good time and dance to it.”
— Harrison Mills of Odesza

As soon as I heard about the Odesza show last November, I looked them up online, downloaded all of their music for free, and listened to it on repeat for the next week straight. I was obsessed. But I didn’t realize that the two DJs that comprise Odesza had just started playing music together last summer, when they busted out their 11-track debut album “Summer’s Gone.”

Club YOLO was only the beginning. Fresh out of college, Harrison Mills (aka: Catacombkid) and Clayton Knight (aka: BeachesBeaches) skipped the awkward transitional period and got shit done.

Harrison took the time to chat with me the other day, and I usually don’t print straight question-answer format interviews. But after painstakingly transcribing it, I’ve decided it’s too interesting to not post. And if you get bored, this is the internet — you can always stop reading. I’m sure there are plenty of cool new cat videos up on YouTube.

Karen: You’re playing on campus in Bozeman — how do you feel about that?

Harrison: Really pumped. I’ve actually only driven through the campus and that was the day before the show we played when we were there, but it looked really cool. A lot of my friends went there, so it will be good to check it out.

You met Clay in college?

We met at Western Washington University in Bellingham, about an hour and a half outside of Seattle. I really liked it. It’s got an awesome campus and it’s really open and nice.

Were you both independent DJs before you started collaborating?

We weren’t really DJs, we were producers I guess you would say, but we would make a mix of different styles of beats separately. We had a mutual friend who Clay lived with, and I would come over and visit him every once in awhile. He actually played guitar — he ended up playing guitar on some of our songs. We had talked about collaborating, but it never really happened, it was never really easy because it seemed like he was always going somewhere or I was doing homework or something. And then as we were graduating, I was just like, “You know, I’m going to be done here in a second, do you want to just try to work on something?” And we sat down and in like one day we pumped out a few tracks and we were just like, “It would be a really fun project to try to do a whole album together.” And it all came together.

That was just last summer, right?

Yeah.

What else have you been doing?

We’ve been trying to work on a few more EPs I guess you would say, like four-track EPs. We’ve got a ton of music in the process. We’re always working on a couple remixes for friends and other people, as well as trying to get other shows to play, and festivals. We just got signed on for Sasquatch, which we are terribly excited about because that was like the number one dream of being something we could do with Odesza. We feel like we can retire right now, it’s the end.

As long as you can survive Sasquatch, you can retire.

Yeah, we were making the joke that we’re probably going to die in a plane crash right before Sasquatch and we’ll never get to do what we always wanted.

Sad. That’s really exciting, though.

Yeah. I feel like I really don’t know how it all happened yet.

So you guys are touring with Emancipator.

Yes.

How did that happen?

Our manager is actually friends with his manager and sent him our album. They starting talking and then he sent it to Emancipator, and Emancipator liked it. And we were kind of blown away, because we’re big fans of Emancipator, and he ended up coming to our show in Portland. We got a text like ten minutes before the show that Emancipator was coming, and we were just like “Ah, shit. We’re gonna fuck up now.” I was really worried, because it was like a teensy bit before and we were having technical difficulties. But it all went okay.

So he liked it.

Yeah, we got to meet him really briefly after we played and he’s an incredibly nice guy, super cool and laid back, it was really cool to meet him. We were talking about possibly playing shows with him at the time, and we didn’t know what to expect, because it was like too good of an offer. But it ended up all working out.

How did you guys develop the Odesza sound?

It was interesting because we didn’t know what to expect. Clay’s a bit more uptempo than I usually am. He’s a little more dancey and I’m a little more ambient and atmospheric than he is. So when we came together, I was like “I’m not really sure what we’re gonna make here,” but we were hoping to make something that can be headphone music and you can enjoy it while you’re working or something, but that when you go to a live venue it’s got enough kick to it, enough punch to it to be able to have a good time and dance to it. So that was kind of the medium that we were going for. Hopefully that’s how people would describe it, but that was kind of the original thought process.

When did you guys start playing shows together? Was this after you recorded all your songs?

Yeah, our first show was after the album came out. It had been a month or two and we toured with Beat Connection just around Washington, and we played like four or five shows. And we got to play at Neumos which was awesome. We’re going to play there again with Emancipator. It’s a really big venue in Seattle, actually my favorite one — I’m really excited to play there.

When I saw you in Bozeman, it was a really good show but it seemed like you just sort of played your songs, basically as they’re recorded.

Well, I have an ATC and Clay just bought one as well. I’m trying to describe this without sounding too technical, but basically I have every single part of the song in small loops, so I have every little piece and I’m mixing it live. And I’m also doing a bunch of steps on each piece, and turning things on and off, so it’s really versatile — I mean, it would be really hard to replicate all of those sounds live, it would be like ten different things going on.

I think the best way we can upgrade from that is maybe one of us playing drums behind it, but then no other thing would be happening — we wouldn’t have much control over the other pieces of the song.

We definitely want to work on having a more diverse show, but we’re trying our best to make it so that every time we play, we have so much control over each piece that it will be different each time.

So you can sort of like, make it jammy in an electronic way?

Yeah.

Has your show changed over the past few months as you’ve been playing more together?

Yeah, we’re trying — Clay is buying basically the machine that I was using, which allows a lot more versatility. The machine he was using before had less possibilities for tweaking. Now we’re going to upgrade to both of us doing that, so I think a lot more things will be happening at once. We’re also going to try to add stuff, like extra drums in the background, just create some kind of different feel.

Why do you make music?

I would say over time it’s become an outlet for me and I think the same for Clay. It provides an outlet for kind of everything — life in general. For me, I’m a very stressed-out person, all the time. But when I make music, it’s really relaxing, and I think that in a way it’s kind of self-therapeutic, and also a way to channel good emotions when you’re feeling them.

What are your expectations for the Bozeman show?

Oh, man. I don’t know, because I feel like it’s going to be really different — it’s going to be on the college campus. I think one of the problems when we played our last show was that it was a little bit outside of town and a lot of people didn’t want to make the trek. But this one, I have a feeling a lot more people will be there, especially since Emancipator’s playing. So I think it will just be a different audience. Probably a little bit harder for us to win over, but I’m not sure. It’s all up in the air for me, I’m excited either way.