This isn’t EDM, yet it’s making everyone who hears it want to dance. At the same time, it’s making us want to throw on our headphones and soak it all in. It’s the balance of high energy and relaxation. This is ODESZA, a production duo out of Seattle, who quite honestly, sound exactly like what this self-proclaimed electronic music snob wanted out of the genre, instead of the bubble-gum “gutz-gutz” and robotsex sounds typical of electronic music today. ODESZA arrives with “tasteful electronic,” as member Clayton (Clay) Knight half-jokes.
They’ve had crazy internet success, with eight tracks (and counting) hitting #1 on Hype Machine, and have started shifting from being the remixers to the ones being remixed. This is notable, as their 2nd full length LP, In Return, just dropped September 18th on Counter Records (Ninja Tune). The subsequent remixes of song-of-the-summer candidate “Say My Name (feat. Zyra) are pouring in—from the likes of RAC, Slow Magic, and even Thievery Corporation’s Rob Garza.
There’s a certain finger-on-the-pulse feeling with ODESZA. Their grasp on the direction of electronic music sets them apart and they’re becoming the gold standard of acts born from sounds exchanged on the internet. “We take elements from classics and try to blend them into something unique. But we keep it tasteful, to not feel like we’re using a trend or taking a piece because we know its popular,” ODESZA’s Harrison Mills adds.
Speaking on the increasingly social exchange of and inspiration for their music, Harrison explains that, “we take in so much music on a daily basis. We search it out on Soundcloud, YouTube, the radio, the people we tour with. There’s no way that it can’t play a role.” There’s certainly a saturation of music sprung from the internet, but it takes something special to rise to the top. “A lot of electronic music is formulaic…we try to hold on to the roots of it,” he adds.
Maybe it’s how “Say My Name” just never leaves your head, or maybe it’s how they’ve created and collaborated organically on it and other tracks from In Return, but there’s definitely something different going on here. Take the vocalist on “Say My Name,” Zyra, for example: “We found her on Youtube. She was jamming on one of our tracks and writing her own hooks. She’s really talented and has a good idea of where she wants to go.” It’s a wonderful feeling for music fans, when artists with a similar mindset about a genre find each other and their output is masterful. It makes you marvel at the beauty of the internet all over again.
People across the country are definitely taking notice, as ODESZA just embarked on a headlining tour for In Return, boasting a slew of sold out shows. Four of their US dates have already been moved to larger venues to accommodate the demand, and then they’re off to Europe.
I had the pleasure of seeing ODESZA kick off their tour to a HIGHLY engaged crowd in San Francisco. “As soon as the album was finished we just started working on the live show and trying to get it dialed in.” The preparation showed as Clay and Harrison bounce to every beat seemingly in unison, with a trippy visualization screen in the background and the crowd going absolutely bananas, dancing in sync to every beat.
But for every headbanger, there was also the chill-out crowd having drinks and smiling to the beat with a subtle sway. “In Return is a mix of our love for headphones music and how we’ve been playing lots of shows, getting the crowd moving and adding energy to our set,” said Clay. This matches how ODESZA’s first LP, Summer’s Gone, featured more chilled-out beats, and how their subsequent EP, My Friends Never Die, was higher energy.
The vibe of My Friends Never Die evokes shades of LCD Soundsystem’s classic “All My Friends,” a track that makes you want to latch on to whatever friends are near you and soak in the moment together through the music. As for the origins of the title, Clay explains how when they were coming up in the scene and starting to tour, “we were sleeping on a lot of couches. So it’s an ode to them for helping us make it work when we were just barely getting by.”
The value of giving back is an important one for ODESZA, and they recently put out a remix contest for their fans, in conjunction with music blog This Song Is Sick, “...in search of fresh production talent.” The winner will be included in an ODESZA release via Counter/Ninja Tune. “It’s where we started” Harrison explains: “we take sounds from other people and add our own voice to that. It’s cool to be a part of someone else’s journey through music.”
This is what the functional exchange of remixes and digital music is supposed to feel like: creating communities and providing tangible avenues for up-and-coming producers to make a name for themselves. This humble approach has led ODESZA to the brink of superstardom in the electronic world. They have a major slot alongside mega-stars like Disclosure, Skrillex, and Zedd for New Year’s Eve at the Snowglobe Music Festival in South Lake Tahoe, CA and will then embark on the sold out Holy Ship! festival cruise thereafter.
But they haven’t lost their edge, or a humble approach. Clay says that, “playing Red Rocks [in Colorado] is a dream place to play.” And when asked which city on their packed tour they’re most looking forward to, he says, “I always like Salt Lake City ‘cause they’re so rowdy. They’re a surprise every time. I like people that bring a lot of energy to the show and they do that every time.” Hmm…not one of their exotic European tour dates like Rome or Prague or Paris, but Salt Lake City. You have to appreciate that mentality and the genuine excitement to play in every place from Utah to France.
From a humble approach to making “tasteful electronic” music that’s become loved by the internet and on the ground, to wanting to help other aspiring producers come up in the same way that they did, there’s a lot to love about ODESZA. At this rate, they’ll be playing at Red Rocks in no time.