Exclusive: ODESZA Talk Life, Love, and Making Dad Happy
ODESZA, a duo comprised of Clay Knight and Harrison Mills, graced the first line of Snowglobe’s lineup (under headliners: Flume, Porter Robinson, Skrillex, and Zedd), and played to an excited crowd so large that people began sneaking through trees and crawling under the perimeter of the tent to snag a space in the audience. A festival worker was soon assigned to guard the sides and stood with a menacing pair of large scissors, threatening to snap off anyone’s wristband that crossed him.
This excitement was definitely caused by fans of their recently released album, In Return. Their sound is a genre defying hybrid, with Clay describing it as "tasteful electronic." Clay’s musical background started with years of piano lessons, as his dad was also a classical pianist. Although Harrison played trumpet in middle school, his real beginning was in senior year of high school where he got into “instrumental hip hop”. Focusing more on the instrumentals than the lyrics, he learned how to make those songs using beat machines and sampling vinyl records, reforming them. Around the same time, Clay started playing around with recording piano loops and the like. Then came his “intense phase with heavy 4 on the floor dance music” in college. Their different backgrounds help balance the duo, as Clay tends to focus more on harmonies and melodies, saying, “Harrison has always been really good at writing the percussion. I learned a lot about swing [from him]… all of my stuff was really rigid before. And we’re awful lyric writers so we usually leave that to the singers.”
Although widely praised by fellow musicians and critics alike, the duo seems to find the overwhelming respect hard to believe. Harrison confesses, “I feel like we’ve had tons of moments where we felt incredibly lucky and it doesn’t feel real. I always feel like we’re imposters and someone’s going to tell us that we’re not supposed to be here.” Clay adds, “We’re so new to all of this that it’s like all pretty surreal. When we played Sasquatch, we had done only two tours and a few live shows…” Harrison continues, “Yeah, no one knew who we were and we opened for Disclosure.” “Doing a show like that was like, ‘Wow maybe we’re onto something here. Maybe we can actually pursue this,’” Clay finishes. Harrison describes the feeling as, “It’s always like, ‘We have a couple months before we get real jobs. Do you want to try to make more music before we have to do that?’” Clay speaks to the difficulty of family support on an unconventional career, “Moms are always on board. Dads are always tough.” Harrison agrees and adds, “Well, now my Dad’s stoked because his friends’ kids like us!”
When questioned about relationships, Harrison responds simply, “It’s a rocky road.” Clay elaborates, “It’s up and down. I had a long term girlfriend before this started and we had a little falling out… cause the road life is just so tough. It’s nice to have a relationship, especially when you come back and you can have that connection. It’s nice to have someone who knew you before all of this kind of started. Cause there’s a lot of people who come up and want to talk to you and want to be a part of your life because you do what you do. We try to surround ourselves with our friends and people that knew us before all of this; we try to be around them as much as possible, because they put you in check.”
Favorite artist you discovered this year?
Harrison: Hayden James, yeah. I just love that guy.
Favorite show of the year?
Harrison: I loved Denver at the Ogden Theater, but I also really loved our hometown show in Seattle.
Favorite remix you guys produced this year?
Clayton: Slow Magic.
Harrison: Really? I was going to say the ZHU one. And it’s funny because I didn’t really like it when we put it out. We had to make it in such a short amount of time– I think I was really frustrated with not being able to like do certain things or flesh things out, but maybe that was good, maybe I would’ve over thought everything.
Favorite performance you watched this year?
Clayton: We watched a Slow Magic show, when we were on tour with him in Europe, I think it was his last show in Lithuania, he was just free forming and getting into it..
Harrison: He stole the drums from the other band and started playing them over his set… when you can tell something is being done on the fly and being done really well that’s an amazing thing.
Clayton: He’s just so talented, and watching him play has just been awesome.
What comes to mind when you hear, “In West Philadelphia..”?
Harrison: Born and raised, on the playground where I spent..
Both: ..most of days. Haha
Harrison: Of course.
Photography by Irene Yoon