Seattle’s ODESZA have ushered in a contra-EDM movement with their bassy, deep and glitchy melotronica. Harrison Mills and Clayton Knight even enjoyed a latent crossover hit with the pretty Say My Name (featuring Zyra) off 2014’s In Return.
The combo again toured Australia with their live show last summer. Now they’re back to headline the niche, curated national dance festival Listen Out alongside SBTRKT, in DJ mode, and Dusky, plus rappers Childish Gambino and Joey Bada$$. And they have a poppy new single.
ODESZA may today be a big name but they still get starstruck. In January they joined Nas on the bill at Melbourne’s Sugar Mountain, yet Harrison, a hip-hopper of old, was too nervous to introduce himself.
“We walked by him in the hotel lobby and that was enough for me!,” Mills laughs. “I pretty much had a fanboy moment where I was like, Oh my God, Nas is right there, and then I just kept walking. I didn’t wanna embarrass myself.”
Watch: ODESZA – Say My Name
Mills and Knight met as college students, both already involved in music. They devised ODESZA in 2012. They initially disseminated a free album, Summer’s Gone, which went viral. An early coup came when their remix of Pretty Lights’ Lost And Found was synced for the blockbuster Divergent soundtrack.
Last year the pair presented their sublime official debut, In Return, experimenting with soundtrack vibes, Balearic and chillwave, via the Ninja Tune offshoot Counter. Notably, ODESZA brought in obscure vocalists.
Say My Name, an unusual two-step garage throwback, proved a radio favourite, its video also popular on rage. In the interim, ODESZA began gigging solidly with their live show, entailing laptops, MPC and dual electronic drums (despite their NO.SLEEP mixtape series, they don’t DJ).
Over time ODESZA have forged strong connections with the Australian music scene by way of remixes – they’ve transformed tracks for acts as varied as Angus & Julia Stone, Sia and Future Classic’s Hayden James, likewise billed at Listen Out.
Listen: Hayden James – Something About You (ODESZA Remix)
“Hayden James is actually one of our best friends ever,” Mills enthuses. “We think similarly on so many different levels and [have] a love for different kinds of music – we’re just very similar mindsetted individuals. He’s such a talented producer. We’ve done three tours now I think with him – two in Australia and one in the States, where it was almost a month-long. So we got to know him really well and he became a really close friend. He was working on a lot of that music that is out now then – we knew it was gonna do really well. I’m really happy for him. He really deserves all the attention he’s getting.”
ODESZA have delayed interviews for Listen Out so they might spruik an opulent new single, Light, with Little Dragon’s Yukimi Nagano. It’s being released as part of September’s In Return Deluxe Edition together with instrumentals and live tracks. Meanwhile, ODESZA have launched their own label, Foreign Family Collective, its latest single from Maine’s Greyhat. “We always wanted to put shine on people that we felt deserved it.” ODESZA are determined to offer tangible support, not lazy SoundCloud pushes.
That ODESZA should title their album In Return is symbolic since, Stateside, they’ve spearheaded a return to deeper, underground sounds following the EDM explosion. Theirs is intelligent EDM. “I do believe there is a bit of a movement – I think even in the audience, not just musicians – where I feel like people want melody back. There was so much noise being produced at shows.
Listen: ODESZA – Light (Ft. Little Dragon)
We really liked the energy that EDM created, but we felt like [the recordings] weren’t necessarily things that were super-musical all the time. And, while there’s definitely a place for those things, for us as people who grew up on so many different genres and [a] love for, like, soul, funk, tribal music, indie, folk, everything, we appreciate more of those elements in music – and we try to recreate that when we play live and music-make.” It’s an alternative ethos well represented at Listen Out.
ODESZA won’t repeat their summer show. “I think we’ll probably play our new single. We’ve remixed quite a few of our older songs to kind of match the energy for a live show, so that’s really cool. We’ll probably drop some unreleased material ’cause it’s just more fun for us that way.”
ODESZA have been known to embellish their set. At this year’s Coachella they were accompanied by a marching band. Says Mills, “I don’t know what we will be bringing out to Australia necessarily yet, but we always like evolving and changing our set and try to make it a bit more live each time.”
Listen Out tours the country from the end of September, tickets are on sale now.
Listen: Greyhat – Glider (ODESZA Label)