ODESZA Keep Returning: On Australia And A Never-Ending Tour Cycle

Written By Sam Murphy on 03/30/2016

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It only takes one album to facilitate crossing the globe several times in a matter of months. ODESZA's tour cycle for their second record In Return has seemingly gone on forever. Released in September 2014, it was a breakthrough for the Seattle duo, connecting them with the entire world and building them strong fanbases from Sydney to Sao Paulo. It was bolstered by a re-issue released last year but for the most part it's the strength of the original songs and how they're translated in ODESZA's hypnotizing live show that makes audiences keep coming back for more.

Next month, the pair will visit Australia for the third time since the album was released playing to sold-out audiences and a mostly sold-out Groovin The Moo festival. They first visited in early 2015, returned later in the year for Listen Out and are now back again. Since starting touring their live show has come leaps and bounds, getting to the point where now it's like no electronic show you'll see. Despite operating in a genre that lends itself to DJ sets, ODESZA have cherry-picked elements of every type of music an all-encompassing visual and sonic experience.

They will return to Australia next month more as part of the community than as a visitor. They're friends with Hayden James, Golden Features and RUFUS and on each visit have immersed themselves in the scene down-under. Earlier this year, they released RÜFÜS' sophomore album Bloom on their label Foreign Family Collective - a record Harrison Mills calls one of the best he's heard in a decade. We chatted with Mills, who was having some downtime in between festivals in Sao Paulo, about coping with the touring schedule, the expanding live show and returning to their home away from home, Australia.

Does it feel like you've been on a never-ending tour for the last few years?
It did earlier but we recently had two months off which was very refreshing because we had been on tour for all that time before. I'm feeling very refreshed and it's been really nice and honestly there are a lot of breaks between each of these Lollapalooza shows so we're getting to enjoy the places we're visiting this time.

Are you using the time to relax or are you trying to get down some new music?
Well, it's hard for us to write music on the road just working on the laptops without all of the gear we would use usually. We try as much as we can to work but I think that as much as we can we have to try and get outside our hotel room and refresh teh palette so we can come back to writing music. It's a give and take. We try to work but you don't want to overdo it and try and force it.

You guys have been touring with In Return for a little while now. How's the live show developed over the past few years?
It's completely changed. It's so different to what it used to be. Now we have a live horn section and a guitarist and 70 per cent of the music in the show is remade almost in its entirety for the live show.

Did you always feels as if the live show was going to grow like that or did growing popularity open more possibilities?
I think we just got bored of it. We just kept touring the music and feeling like this could be so much better. We were getting better as musicians and growing and seeing other live music. It's forever growing, it's always going to change. I think we're really happy with where it is at the moment.

You obviously get to play a lot of festivals and see a lot of other acts. Are there any in particular that have really inspired you recently?

Some shows I'll go to and I'll really love the music and it will be really raw and intimate and other shows, I'll be like, "I can't even see who is up there but the visuals are crazy". I think you can always get a piece from something. Recently the other night in Sao Paulo we saw Alabama Shakes and, oh my God, incredible performance.

That's interesting because with your shows you're taking elements from rock music and all types of genres. Did you always feel as if you wanted to branch-out from electronic music?
I don't think it was extremely conscious. I guess we were never really DJs. We always felt like we were producers and we came from a place where we loved a lot of different genres and styles of music so when we approached the live show we felt like, how can we take the music we grew up seeing and the music we like and try and incorporate it with what we love in electronic music and try and blend everything. I think that the challenge with doing electronic music live is it's really hard to recreate especially when there's heavy beautiful moments, you don't want to sound like a jam band. Trying to find that balance is what took us so long.

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You guys have had some really amazing vocalists on your tracks. Is there anyone you've seen over the last few months that you'd love to get on a track?
That's all the time and then you have to meet them awkwardly and bring it up. I'm constantly being impressed by things. This is a really incredible time for music. It's hard because I think everyone makes music but then that makes it great because you find out there are 12 year old kids in Brazil that are making incredible dance music that you never would've heard otherwise. All over the world I'm finding new influences.

One of the ways to showcase the things your finding is through your label Foreign Family Collective which recently turned one. You guys must be stoked with how that's going?
Yeah, it's been incredible. Where it is now, we predicted it to be there in three years. It was 100 per cent a passion project and something where we wanted to shine a light on some people we really thought deserved it. A lot of those people ended up coming on tour with us and it all ended up working out. We're really lucky that our audiences are generally very open-minded people that are willing to listen to that music.

One of the acts you guys have on the label is RÜFÜS who are obviously a huge favourite here in Australia. How did that connection come to be?
That is a crazy one. I absolutely love Bloom, it's one of the best albums I've heard in a decade. I feel really, really honoured to have that on our label. I met those guys, actually we opened for that at Enmore Theatre, our first show in Sydney. That was two and a half years ago and we've stayed friends ever since. Now they're playing Red Rocks with us.

You've been to Australia quite a few times now and the audiences just keep growing and growing. Is there anything you're particularly excited about this time around?
Honestly, I love the scene down there and I love the people down there. I find them all to be really positive people that are always up for anything which is an amazing energy. We have so many friends down there, we're so close to RÜFÜS and Hayden James and Golden Features. When we go down there it feels like we become part of a small music scene there. It's really close and it's really cool to play them new music we're working on and bounce ideas around and collaborate. I think we're going to come down early this time and start working with people.

How important is it for you guys to try out new music on crowds?
We used to do it all the time. Now we've actually built songs for the live show. I think through a lot of trial and error we've learnt what works and what doens't. I think we're always surprised where stuff works and where it doesn't. Some places where there are heavy references to deep house music people will really love the four-on-the-floor type stuff and other places like in America where people love hip-hop you'll realise the beats with more swing are the ones people really like. I think we've found a way to come into our own and take them, it sounds corny to say but, on a bit of a journey through all different genres we like. That's how we've built it now where people get to hear some trap, some house music, some indie stuff.

You guys have been quite vocal about access to free music and also done some amazing remixes. Apple Music has just announced that producers will be able to upload bootleg remixes and DJ mixes onto the platform. Do you think that's an important step given what's happening with Soundcloud?
My opinion on free music is not so much that it's amazing for the music industry, it's more that, that's how it is. I think when you become an obstacle for your own music, for people to hear you it's going to become an issue. There's always going to be avenues to create revenue but those are constantly changing. If you're going to stand in the way of that it's only going to be detrimental to your career. We try to be forward-thinking and see how people are accessing music and work out how we can be heard. Really with the saturation of everyone making music these days that's the hardest part of having a voice that people want to listen to.

Do you think the immediacy of being able to connect with your fans and upload tracks instantly has helped you?
Yeah definitely. It's a huge shift in power. There used to be a filter between the audience and the musician. There was an A&R guy who said, "nah, that sucks, yeah, that's cool". In some ways that's good because you weren't flooded with music but now days people can't tell you your music is band before other people hear it. It's good and bad. A lot of poeple who wouldn't have got heard get heard now.

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It only takes one album to facilitate crossing the globe several times in a matter of months. ODESZA's tour cycle for their second record In Return has seemingly gone on forever. Released in September 2014, it was a breakthrough for the Seattle duo, connecting them with the entire world and building them strong fanbases from Sydney to Sao Paulo. It was bolstered by a re-issue released last year but for the most part it's the strength of the original songs and how they're translated in ODESZA's hypnotizing live show that makes audiences keep coming back for more.

Next month, the pair will visit Australia for the third time since the album was released playing to sold-out audiences and a mostly sold-out Groovin The Moo festival. They first visited in early 2015, returned later in the year for Listen Out and are now back again. Since starting touring their live show has come leaps and bounds, getting to the point where now it's like no electronic show you'll see. Despite operating in a genre that lends itself to DJ sets, ODESZA have cherry-picked elements of every type of music an all-encompassing visual and sonic experience.

They will return to Australia next month more as part of the community than as a visitor. They're friends with Hayden James, Golden Features and RUFUS and on each visit have immersed themselves in the scene down-under. Earlier this year, they released RÜFÜS' sophomore album Bloom on their label Foreign Family Collective - a record Harrison Mills calls one of the best he's heard in a decade. We chatted with Mills, who was having some downtime in between festivals in Sao Paulo, about coping with the touring schedule, the expanding live show and returning to their home away from home, Australia.

Does it feel like you've been on a never-ending tour for the last few years?
It did earlier but we recently had two months off which was very refreshing because we had been on tour for all that time before. I'm feeling very refreshed and it's been really nice and honestly there are a lot of breaks between each of these Lollapalooza shows so we're getting to enjoy the places we're visiting this time.

Are you using the time to relax or are you trying to get down some new music?
Well, it's hard for us to write music on the road just working on the laptops without all of the gear we would use usually. We try as much as we can to work but I think that as much as we can we have to try and get outside our hotel room and refresh teh palette so we can come back to writing music. It's a give and take. We try to work but you don't want to overdo it and try and force it.

You guys have been touring with In Return for a little while now. How's the live show developed over the past few years?
It's completely changed. It's so different to what it used to be. Now we have a live horn section and a guitarist and 70 per cent of the music in the show is remade almost in its entirety for the live show.

Did you always feels as if the live show was going to grow like that or did growing popularity open more possibilities?
I think we just got bored of it. We just kept touring the music and feeling like this could be so much better. We were getting better as musicians and growing and seeing other live music. It's forever growing, it's always going to change. I think we're really happy with where it is at the moment.

You obviously get to play a lot of festivals and see a lot of other acts. Are there any in particular that have really inspired you recently?

Some shows I'll go to and I'll really love the music and it will be really raw and intimate and other shows, I'll be like, "I can't even see who is up there but the visuals are crazy". I think you can always get a piece from something. Recently the other night in Sao Paulo we saw Alabama Shakes and, oh my God, incredible performance.

That's interesting because with your shows you're taking elements from rock music and all types of genres. Did you always feel as if you wanted to branch-out from electronic music?
I don't think it was extremely conscious. I guess we were never really DJs. We always felt like we were producers and we came from a place where we loved a lot of different genres and styles of music so when we approached the live show we felt like, how can we take the music we grew up seeing and the music we like and try and incorporate it with what we love in electronic music and try and blend everything. I think that the challenge with doing electronic music live is it's really hard to recreate especially when there's heavy beautiful moments, you don't want to sound like a jam band. Trying to find that balance is what took us so long.

You guys have had some really amazing vocalists on your tracks. Is there anyone you've seen over the last few months that you'd love to get on a track?
That's all the time and then you have to meet them awkwardly and bring it up. I'm constantly being impressed by things. This is a really incredible time for music. It's hard because I think everyone makes music but then that makes it great because you find out there are 12 year old kids in Brazil that are making incredible dance music that you never would've heard otherwise. All over the world I'm finding new influences.

One of the ways to showcase the things your finding is through your label Foreign Family Collective which recently turned one. You guys must be stoked with how that's going?
Yeah, it's been incredible. Where it is now, we predicted it to be there in three years. It was 100 per cent a passion project and something where we wanted to shine a light on some people we really thought deserved it. A lot of those people ended up coming on tour with us and it all ended up working out. We're really lucky that our audiences are generally very open-minded people that are willing to listen to that music.

One of the acts you guys have on the label is RÜFÜS who are obviously a huge favourite here in Australia. How did that connection come to be?
That is a crazy one. I absolutely love Bloom, it's one of the best albums I've heard in a decade. I feel really, really honoured to have that on our label. I met those guys, actually we opened for that at Enmore Theatre, our first show in Sydney. That was two and a half years ago and we've stayed friends ever since. Now they're playing Red Rocks with us.

You've been to Australia quite a few times now and the audiences just keep growing and growing. Is there anything you're particularly excited about this time around?
Honestly, I love the scene down there and I love the people down there. I find them all to be really positive people that are always up for anything which is an amazing energy. We have so many friends down there, we're so close to RÜFÜS and Hayden James and Golden Features. When we go down there it feels like we become part of a small music scene there. It's really close and it's really cool to play them new music we're working on and bounce ideas around and collaborate. I think we're going to come down early this time and start working with people.

How important is it for you guys to try out new music on crowds?
We used to do it all the time. Now we've actually built songs for the live show. I think through a lot of trial and error we've learnt what works and what doens't. I think we're always surprised where stuff works and where it doesn't. Some places where there are heavy references to deep house music people will really love the four-on-the-floor type stuff and other places like in America where people love hip-hop you'll realise the beats with more swing are the ones people really like. I think we've found a way to come into our own and take them, it sounds corny to say but, on a bit of a journey through all different genres we like. That's how we've built it now where people get to hear some trap, some house music, some indie stuff.

You guys have been quite vocal about access to free music and also done some amazing remixes. Apple Music has just announced that producers will be able to upload bootleg remixes and DJ mixes onto the platform. Do you think that's an important step given what's happening with Soundcloud?
My opinion on free music is not so much that it's amazing for the music industry, it's more that, that's how it is. I think when you become an obstacle for your own music, for people to hear you it's going to become an issue. There's always going to be avenues to create revenue but those are constantly changing. If you're going to stand in the way of that it's only going to be detrimental to your career. We try to be forward-thinking and see how people are accessing music and work out how we can be heard. Really with the saturation of everyone making music these days that's the hardest part of having a voice that people want to listen to.

Do you think the immediacy of being able to connect with your fans and upload tracks instantly has helped you?
Yeah definitely. It's a huge shift in power. There used to be a filter between the audience and the musician. There was an A&R guy who said, "nah, that sucks, yeah, that's cool". In some ways that's good because you weren't flooded with music but now days people can't tell you your music is band before other people hear it. It's good and bad. A lot of poeple who wouldn't have got heard get heard now.

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