Local musicians Harrison Mills and Clay Knight (ODESZA) visited us at the shop this week before embarking on their highly-anticipated A Moment Apart tour. The visit was rare, because the duo have been consistently on the road since their first album was released in 2012. During our conversation with Clay and Harrison we got to catch up about their life, art, and how they are developing a balance between the two.
What are you each of you excited about learning this year?
Harrison: I feel like I'm always learning. I was watching YouTube videos all last night on Ableton 10 tricks. What's so cool about it is sometimes a even a little adjustment in process can allow you to discover a whole new part of your sound that you might not have known about before. Technology really inspires me in that way.
Clay: Our live show is getting bumped up a level this year. We know that some of the new things we are experimenting with will work and some won't so we'll have to learn from that and move forward from there. We're also about to start another tour and while we are on the road we are going to try to learn how to write more in the moment as we travel .... you know being on the road allows us to see so much and hear so much and we want to try including those inspirations immediately into our creative process rather than waiting for a month to start writing. For us the writing process is like anything else that's creative, it takes a lot of time and practice to develop something that works. I'm hoping that we can find a way to stay in that inspired-creative space and always be writing rather than just having a set chunk of time each year where we have to write.
Is there anything outside of music that you guys are trying to get better at this year?
Harrison: Something that I'm interested in learning how to get better at is collaborating in-person. For so long we've just collaborated online because it was the easiest way to communicate and now we're more interested in discovering a sound together and influencing each other in the moment. It can be really powerful when it works. That kind of quick inspiration of finding a sound and chasing it with someone is such a fun process and that's something I'm really trying to get better this year.
Clay: Outside of music ... you know, I'm turning 30, so I want to learn how to kind of grow up a little bit. Being on the road all the time, it's hard to be healthy, but it's important for us to take care of ourselves physically and mentally. So, I'm going to try and find stability and a nice balance between our career and you know ... the rest of our lives.
Harrison: Yeah, we toured for the last three years straight and during that time we were always the last people that we thought about. I think we said yes to nearly every show no matter how difficult it was ... and when you do that it can be pretty brutal on your body, so I think we're definitely trying to change that a little bit on this next tour.
Clay: We kind of just dove into this headfirst and everything got pushed to the wayside, so we have to find a better balance for the people that we surround ourselves with and lifestyles we want to live and our careers at the same time.
That makes sense to me, I can totally relate to being inspired by a big creative idea and taking every opportunity possible to make it become a real thing, and maybe going to far and getting to a place where you're like, holy shit ... I'm not sleeping ... I'm not eating ... I'm not happy! (laughing)
Harrison: (Laughing) Yeah, it's sooo easy to let that happen. We were talking about this at the store and I think that it's just part of growing up. Since I live where I work I'm constantly surrounded by it to the point where I would walk down the stairs in the morning to make some eggs, and someone would jump out and say "Yo, you get my email?!" (laughing) Sometimes it drives me insane! So ... I've had to create ways to check out (laughing). Recently I've been taking care of other people's dogs which makes me periodically leave the house and it's been really helpful to get me to take a break and I can say ... "Hey guys these dogs have to be walked." And then I go walk the dogs and clear my head. So I've actually just given myself another job, but it's one that I want.
So, can I find you on Rover right now? (laughing) No man, I get it, if you don't make that time and space for yourself no one else will and there's always going to be more work that can be done.
Clay: Yeah, you've really got to make that time for yourself. Exactly.
Right now I think you guys are probably traveling to more countries in one year than the average person visits in their entire lifetime. Can you share how you choose to take in the culture of the places you are visiting and if you have any travel tricks that you've learned over time.
Clay: That's a good question.
Harrison: I definitely have the same seven things in my backpack for every trip. Strangely enough, I always have a kendama. I got introduced to it by Luke up there ... because it's huge in the snowboarding community and they do it while their on the lifts. It's great because it keeps my mind busy while I'm waiting in lines or on long business calls. I have a back-up battery charger, and then a passport, laptop, phone, sunglasses, and then a neckrest. Those are my travel basics that I need for every trip.
Clay: Yep, packing light is a good one. I also like to bring a pair of running shoes to help me get out and explore the cities we're traveling through as opposed to just seeing the venue and the one restaurant we're eating at that day. It's also important for us to be open to seeing something new. In each city there is often a promoter that can kind of show us their scene and we're usually tired but we try to appreciate what is happening in each place and also that we might not be back there for awhile. So, we pay attention and try to stay open and let things take us where they may.
Have there been any countries or cities who had sensibilities that made a lasting impact on you?
Harrison: In Madrid ... the people were so happy and so positive. Their natural excitement and politeness was infectious. People were hanging out and drinking wine in the parks at 3AM and there was a kind of feel-good, relaxed mentality that was new to me. I'm just not used to in the States. Strangers casually came up and openly talked to us in this nice way and I'm used to walking and being surrounded by people wearing headphones that don't want to talk to us, you know?
I feel the same way! We work with some people from nearby in Porto, Portugal and every time we get to hang out with them it makes us want to be Portuguese because they are always so positive and happy. That attitude travels really well.
Clay: There's something about South America too. That was quite the trip.
Owe ... did you make it all the way to Chile and Argentina?
Clay: We did! We kind of went all around it and were able to experience that continent on a grander scale than other trips we've done and it definitely opened my spectrum quite a bit. We were exposed to the ups and downs of each place and I think we both really benefitted from it.
Harrison: One thing that we were reminded on that trip was that complaining should not exist for us. We get to play music for living and even though it can get really hard and really exhausting, we have it really good. We get to see people in the stands having the best times of their lives and it reminds us to be humble ... just be humble and never take what we are doing for granted.
I love that perspective. That's really awesome. It's apparent that you are hyper-aware of what it feels like to be on the other side of the stage. How are you currently designing that experience and the visual elements of your live show?
Clay: For this one, you know, we tried to focus on writing the best music we could first, and then we tried to adapt the show to what we have. We built a bunch of custom audio for the show. In past years we've tried to keep the energy up and keep it as more of an electronic show. In this one we are taking the time to make it a little more patient and building these moments then let stuff draw out and make it feel more cinematic. We've spent a lot of time developing the ebb and flow of this set to make sure that there is some room to breathe in between the hyper-intense and big energy moments.
Harrison: 80% of this show are new versions of our songs and we really want match the way the song feels to where they are in the set. We're trying to create experiences and feelings that people will walk away with and remember instead of just like transitioning from song to song to song. I think trying to build these arcs throughout the set are so important because when I see a show, personally, I'd like to walk away really feeling like I've saw a full spectrum of music and not just one kind of sound. We try really hard to develop something that can naturally go from dance to ambient to heavy to just feel good music. We're trying to touch on all these things that we like in music, things that influence us and inspire us, into one hour and a half set without it feeling disjointed in any way.
We are both living in Seattle right now, and I'm curious what it feels like for you to come home to this part of the world in-between your travels?
Harrison: Yeah, yeah, I mean that whole album "In Return" is about coming home to Seattle because we missed it so much.
Clay: Yeah, we've talked about living in other places like LA because it's such a big music hub, but every time we come back to Seattle, we don't think we could ever leave. It definitely has a very unique energy to it, especially for writing. The winter is prolonged, the rain can be a pretty intense, but it becomes a really nice internal thing.
Last winter was especially dark, that one felt different.
Clay: Right! There was definitely a different energy than winters before. For me it resulted in a new internal kind of self-discovery which I love ... plus this place has incredible scenery. It's a pretty inspiring place. Another big reason we are up here is that, you know, I've been up here since middle school, so it's a good place for us to catch up with friends and family which is really important.
Harrison: I think we have a sense of home here. We like to travel, and we put such a value on it, and I feel a sense of relief every time I get to be back here. It's funny because, before we started touring I'd never really been anywhere else. I think I went to Canada when I was twelve and that was it. And so growing up I always felt board of here and I didn't really know if I wanted to stay here, and as soon as I left and came back, I got it. I was like, yeah this is my home. I need to travel but I think I need to live here for the rest of my life.