Interview with Harrison Mills of Odesza

Posted March 19, 2013 in
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Clayton Knight (L) and Harrison Mills (R) of Odesza complement each other in the music they produce. Photo: Marybeth Coghill

Odesza will be playing at Urban Lounge on March 22 as a part of their current tour with Emancipator and Little People. SLUG had the chance to sit down and have a chat with Harrison Mills, one half of the production duo, to learn a little bit more about their music, how they approach making it and what their plans are for the future.

SLUG: How would you describe your music to someone who had never heard it before?
Mills: I guess I would say it’s experimental pop with influences from hip hop, atmospheric and ambient all grouped into one.

SLUG: You and Clay met your senior year of college. What brought you two together?
Mills: We had a mutual friend who lived in the dorms during my sophomore year, who actually ended up playing guitar on a few of the tracks from Summer’s Gone. But I would always hang out over at his house, and we would talk about making music videos for the project that I had going on at the time. Clay and I had met before and we liked each other’s music, but he wasn’t always there when I would go hang out at our friend’s place. We had always talked about jamming before, but had just never gotten around to it. I remember it was my senior year, and I really wanted to start a new project, and one day, Clay was at our friend’s house and I said, “I have my stuff with me. Do you want to try and make some music?” We went downstairs and ended up making two or three songs in just one sitting.

SLUG: What do you guys use to make your music?
Mills: We use Maschine, which is a MIDI sampler. It’s really good for making loops and patterns and cutting up samples. After we get our bass and samples taken care of, we move all that into Logic where we finalize things and add a lot of synth and effects and basically build all that into a real song. And after we’re all finished, we stem it all out into little pieces and then we separate it between our two computers, and do everything on Ableton Live.

SLUG: Why do you guys choose to create this kind of music?
Mills: I think we both have similar influences. We both like creating music in general, and together, we just kind of let it flow. I don’t know how much thought we really put into trying to make a certain sound as much as we hear something we like and we try to make it bigger and grow it. We try to inspire each other and create things we think the other will like and want to work with.

SLUG: What artists or groups do you pull your influences from?
Mills: There are some big artists that we both definitely enjoy and that have pushed us into the field that we’re in, but we just like to sit on SoundCloud and find as much music as we can. I feel like there are so many influences now that it’s so hard to say who they are.

SLUG: What was the inspiration for the track “How Did I Get Here?” on your album, Summer’s Gone?
Mills: Well, that track all started with the main string sample in the background. It’s a sample of a harp, and I was just messing around with the sound of it. I actually made it a long time ago and I played it to Clay and we were both like, “Hey, this is kind of a cool loop—let’s try to make it into a cool song.” We made the song pretty quickly, ’cause it’s not the most technical song, but after we made it, it was the song that kind of stuck in both of our heads, and we agreed that it was really different from the first couple songs we had made together and one night, after having a few too many whiskeys, we put the song out online, and it was the first and only thing we had put out before Summer’s Gone. We just put it out at, like, 1 a.m. on a Saturday, and we expected nothing to happen. We just wanted a song to put up online to show our friends. It ended up getting a lot of buzz on SoundCloud, and we were just kind of like, “Oh my gosh, something could really happen with this here,” because it was pulling so much attention.

SLUG: How does your music change when you play it live?
Mills: We try to bring up the tempo on a lot of things, try to make it a little more bouncier and fun. It starts slow, and by halfway through the set, we bring it into dance mode. We want people dancing up until the end of the set. People come out to have a good time, so we try to create a good atmosphere.

SLUG: What’s your impression of Salt Lake City?
Mills: I flew over it once … I have a few friends that live there now and they all ski, so it must be a fun place to ski and whatnot. But it’s weird, when I was doing solo stuff as CatacombKid, my friend was coming up in the ski scene, putting up movies and he was using my music. And someone who had shot with him was working at a media firm in Salt Lake who started using my music, and that’s how we met our present manager, who in turn introduced us to Emancipator. So it’s just like this big chain, and in a way, we’re connected with Salt Lake.

SLUG: Are you working on a new album?
Mills: Yeah! Before tour, we were working as fast as we could to get as much done as possible. And even on the bus, we’re trying to create new music. We’ve added two new songs we made into our set list. We’re trying to finish an EP soon. I mean, we’ve got a lot of half finished songs and three or four finished ones. Hopefully, we can put out something soon—I’m really excited to share these new songs.

SLUG: What can we expect from a live performance from Odesza?
Mills: We try to make it different every single time. We stem out our songs in so many little pieces that we have a lot of control over every little piece of the song. We have tons of effects and we try to make it as jammy as possible.

SLUG: What can we expect from Odesza in the future?
Mills: We’d love to keep working together. We don’t really know what the future holds—this is the beginning for us. Sasquatch is coming up: We’re really excited to see how people react to us there. We’re going to keep making music, and hopefully, people like it. We realize people are going to listen to our new stuff and be like, “Oh, this isn’t Summer’s Gone, this isn’t Odesza,” but I feel like you’re going to get that no matter what. We’re going to keep growing as artists and try to get better, get to the next level of production and hope people keep listening.

Be sure to make it out to the Urban Lounge on March 22 to catch Odesza, who are playing with Emancipator and Little People.

Photos:
Clayton Knight (L) and Harrison Mills (R) of Odesza complement each other in the music they produce. Photo: Marybeth Coghill Odesza will build The Urban Lounge into a dancing frenzy on March 22. Photo: Marybeth Coghill