ODESZA for ‘Last Goodbye’, film voiceover aspirations and more

Electronic duo ODESZA (Harrison Mills and Clayton Knight) recently released their fourth album, Last goodbye. Coming a decade after their debut, Summer is gonethe Washington state duo’s latest album finds Mills and Knight growing up musically.

Exploring a wide range of styles, including a healthy dose of atmospheric hooks, the record is ODESZA at their most vulnerable, including snippets of the band in therapy.

I spoke to the two about the new album, their dreams of making music for a film, how the electronica genre is growing and seeing friends like Alison Wonderland and Rufus Du Sol inspire them, the current tour and much more.

Steve Baltin: Where is today’s hotel room?

Clayton Knight: We are currently here in Everett Washington rehearsing. It’s kind of outside of Seattle. Yes, it’s beautiful up here right now, summer has finally sprung. So we’re happy it happened. [laughter]

Baltin: Are there any songs that you’ve started rehearsing from? Last goodbye are you excited to play live?

Knight: Yeah, I think there were a couple that were surprising that you didn’t necessarily think of. But yeah, put it on the big platform, put it on the big speakers, getting the band out there, there’s a few, like “Equal.” I think that’s something that I think in the set and how it’s arranged is going to be a really huge moment and it’s kind of like on the album it kind of sits in the background, but here I think it can take a front row seat and really shine.

Harrison Mills: That song though, when we were all asked the same question by different people on our team, “Which song stood out for us?” Four different people on our team said it was the same song. So it’s funny because we were thinking about ending this song at one point and we were like, “Oh, maybe not.” But now who knows because it’s coming out really great.

Baltin: It’s interesting because a lot of the stuff you put out early on was obviously a little more atmospheric, a little slower, but I also feel like that stuff can be kind of a slow burn and really surprise.

Knight: Yeah, and what we also tend to do is we’ll go back and remix and edit a lot of the audio. For example, “Forgive Me” has this extended version where it kind of addresses that darker house moment. And even “Equal” has a few moments where we break it up and some pieces that are maybe hidden in the record are highlighted a little bit more, which is really fun to do in the big system. And like you said, even some of the atmospheric stuff will be reinterpreted for the live setting, and it becomes a fun project to re-imagine those tunes that have been sitting around for a while.

Baltin: Now, like everyone else, you’ve had two years to sit and really process everything that happened in the years leading up to the lockout. Are there things you’ve developed a new appreciation for that you want to bring to this tour?

Mills: I think we took a lot of the ideas of how we really wanted the show to run and really put it on steroids in a lot of ways. Because we really want the whole show to feel like one band, but also to give you 10 different genres of music, all different kinds of energy. We want it to have cinematic moments and theatrical moments, but you also want it to just have dance party moments. And to really refine that and make sure that it feels like a cohesive journey and it’s really fun. We want you to laugh, cry, dance and do all the things. So taking the time to sort that part out was a really fun experience for us.

Knight: Yes, and it also took years of trial and error, starting from “AMA” (Moment Distance) tour of it by just taking all these errors and different trial-and-error situations where something doesn’t work here, but maybe move it. Like the kit we have now, audio-wise there’s almost a decade of touring under it. I think it’s really kind of a success when we feel really good about it and are really excited to show it to people.

Baltin: When you started putting the show together, were there any moments that surprised you when you realized that this is who you are now after a decade of touring?

Mills: I think that really says more about the album than our tour. It’s weird, this record in many ways, it’s meant to be celebrated with friends, but it’s also, in many ways, our most personal record. There’s a lot of bits of us, home footage, there’s a therapy session, there’s notes from a psychiatrist, there’s all sorts of things that happen on the record that feel deeply personal and intimate to us. But we also really wanted it to feel like a journey that you’re a part of and you experience it yourself and then you embrace it. From the inside to the outside, it’s kind of a journey, and hopefully it’s one of those records that you can go through with your friends and go and have the time of your life.

Baltin: Will there eventually be a Metallica-type documentary, the ODESZA therapy session?

Mills: (They crack up) I don’t know if we need this.

Baltin: I was going to say you guys just told me you agreed with everything.

Knight: (Laughs) It took a lot of therapy to get there, let me tell you.

Baltin: I look back at the piece we did in 2018 at the SUNDARA festival and I have to quickly ask, is this going to happen again at some point?

Mills: We want it, there’s a lot of logistical stuff and obviously COVID has given us a pretty big setback. It’s a pretty big undertaking because we’re pretty hands-on. We want this to be a really fun interactive experience, and if we know we can do it right, we will.

Knight: Yes, absolutely.

Baltin: The reason I brought this up specifically is because you play Alison Wonderland, who is one of my favorite people in the world. She went through a very similar process when talking about her new record that you’re talking about. Is it exciting to see everyone grow emotionally at the same time and become more comfortable talking about these things?

Knight: Absolutely. Even watching Rufus do what they’ve done this year and how much they’ve grown. We remember touring with them and doing smaller rooms, and it was just a short tour, and now they’re selling out stadiums, which is great to see. And Jai Wolf has been with us for a long time on our label and that’s just how he’s grown. Jackson Big Wild was great to watch, so it’s really cool to see this generation of almost Soundcloud-based electronic artists step into this new paradigm and really excel in it.

Baltin: Who are the artists for you that you want to take you on that journey that really inspires you, whether in electronica or outside of it?

Mills: Radiohead is probably one of my favorite bands of all time and I just love everything they do, even just what Johnny Greenwood does and his film scores, I love that stuff. like Blood will be shed was one of the best movies of all time and its soundtrack was amazing. But growing up, I think Clay and I loved a lot of niche markets, like Four Tets and Boards of Canada and other worldly things. And I think what we loved about them is just always evolving and always doing different takes on their sound, which I think was a big influence on us. Don’t be too afraid to try new things and that’s what excites us about making music.

Baltin: The writing is often subconscious both musically and lyrically. Are there times when you go back and listen Last goodbye did that surprise you?

Knight: Oh, yes, I think there was. Yeah, especially because towards the end, you’re in the mixing process and you’re so granular with it and you’ve heard it for so long that you lose track of what it sounds like. But now working on the live show and being able to step away from that, rediscovering the music in a way has been really nice. And I think you get a different appreciation for some of these tunes that maybe have been overlooked. But yeah, I think “Light of Day” because we had finished that song first, so in the writing process it kind of went out of mind for a little bit. And then going back to it now, I’m just really happy with how it turned out, I think it just does a great job of rounding out and giving the whole range of emotions and energy that the album does in one tune. So this one really surprised me how it came together in the end.

Baltin: Do you think people connect with it on a deeper level because you’ve gone much more personal so far?

Mills: I think it will probably take the whole album coming out for people to really understand the story we’re trying to tell. A lot of the record has bits of our family footage and all that stuff, and I think that’s the thing that’s more in the middle between some of the singles that’s been out. So I think when they get the full picture of everything, that’s when I think it’s going to be the clearest communication of what we’re trying to say. But I definitely think people have an emotional connection, especially with “Light of Day” and seeing the responses of a lot of people saying they’re crying in their car.

Knight: But yeah, I think just going back to that real approach, the more honest you are as you write these things and frankly, that kind of translates, so people pick up on it. So this record, I think we approached it with a more open mind and a free form and a little bit more of a relaxed setting than in the past. And I think that shines a little bit more on that. It’s a bit more upbeat, you get a bit more of that dance energy going, and we wanted it to be something that people play with their friends, and that sense of community, kind of vibe comes through.

Baltin: What’s the last song that made you cry?

Mills: Oh man, I always go back to one, “The End (The Climb),” by Brian Eno. This one just punches me in the gut every time I hear it.

Knight: The last time I really cried was probably me and my wife arguing and then some Billie Eilish, “Ocean Eyes” I think came on and it just broke me. There is something personal.

Baltin: When you go back and listen Last goodbyehow do you hear all these influences come together?

Mills: Yeah, I think that’s what we like about being producers. And what’s so fun about electronic music, I feel like in a lot of ways, is that you can really put all these different genres together in one song and try to make a song feel like something fun. And that’s why the show is such a big undertaking, because we want all these different styles and journeys, all these other things to come together in one long journey. Yeah, I think the most fun thing for us is taking all these different things that might not look like it on the outside, working together and making them feel the way they should and in a different way.

Baltin: If you could make a score for any film, what would it be and why?

Mills: I think we just love movies, and we’d probably do a lot of movies, but if I had to pick one, I think it would be fun to do I’m driving. I love the movie I’m driving, I think it opened my mind to liking the 80s. It was an area of ​​music that I was never a big fan of, and after seeing that movie, all those modern takes on 80s scenes and all that stuff, it’s like 80s pop, it exploded into a whole creative perspective for me.

Knight: Yeah, I think in that area a little bit, Blade Runner it would be fun. I think that’s something that really appeals to me personally.

Mills: We’d be ready to score. We’d love to try it to be honest, we’ve never delved into it. But one thing we’d like to do, once we get off the beaten track a little bit, we’d like to unbox it and try it out. It’s always been something we really enjoy, the original soundtrack is always something we really enjoy, so I think it would be a logical next step.

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