Sofi Tukker Chat About Their New Single and Panorama Performance
Sofi Tukker, the Grammy-nominated duo behind ‘Drinkee,’ a track that your ears are probably way too familiar with, recently released their latest single, ‘Fuck They,’ paired with a music video that premiered yesterday. The upbeat track, complementing the attitudes of its makers, celebrates the rejection of the status quo. The band defines “They” as “anybody that holds you back from being who you are.” In today’s tempered social and political climates, this anthem of self-love seems ever so necessary. If tequila is liquid confidence, then this song is lyrical confidence.
The video, as eccentric as the track, features the pair doing super weird shit—full of color, movement and joy, but out of fucks to give. We sat down with the pair, Sophie and Tucker of the aptly named Sofi Tukker to discuss their personal incentives for writing this track, the odd way that they came together and what we can expect from their NYC homecoming performance at Panorama Music Festival this upcoming weekend. Check out the video and full interview below.
Let’s get started with ‘Fuck They,’ which you guys just released. Could you guys get into how that came together in the first place?
T: Sure, it started a long time ago. I guess, over a year ago with our friend Jake Shears who was the lead singer of the Scissor Sisters. We were at his house in L.A. and we just wanted to write a song together, because he’s a really fun songwriter and I think it might have been the first session that we ever did with anyone outside of ourselves, actually. We usually do everything by ourselves. But we were just giving it a shot to see what it’d be like to write with someone else and we knew that we liked him as a person, so we were hoping it could work and we wrote a weird version of ‘Fuck They,’ but very little of that actually ended up in the final version, because we kind of sat on that for a year and then we took the back and forth part that Sophie and I do now in the song and just built a song around that with this other guy Jon Hume who is an Australian producer who we also knew.
So the message behind it seems pretty explicit in the name, but was there anything in particular that inspired it? Who is “they”?
S: “They,” is anybody that holds you back from being who you are. I think “they,” is often in our own mind about who we should be and there were a few specific things in our life…
T: Yeah, they’re definitely specific things but it’s been fun to see how relatable it’s been, because everyone has been writing these, like “Fuck they”‘s basically, and it’s been happening on Instagram where people are like ‘They say I should shave my head, fuck they.’ And it’s so cool because everybody really does that, whether it’s like a parent or a friend or whatever. It’s been really cool for us to see everyone relate to it.
Right, exactly, which is what I was going to say. It’s super applicable and super relatable, especially in regards to where we are in society and our exposure to each other’s lives through social media and everyone being all over each other’s business. It’s no surprise to me that it’s gotten that sort of reception from the public. Specifically, though, as musical artists and in the beginning, pursuing music, can you guys specify certain instances where you were combatting “they.”
S: Yeah, all the time. I was actually thinking this last night, and it’s something that I often kind of keep to myself, but fuck it. I feel like “they” say that you should drink to have fun, and “they” say in order to be a successful musician, you have to do that, but I don’t know, I just feel like it doesn’t really work for me and I don’t do it. I don’t like it. I don’t look down upon anybody that does, but it’s a choice that I’ve made that I feel there is a lot of pressure outside of myself and within myself to do it, to drink, and I constantly have to remind myself that it’s okay, it’s not about what people think. I don’t really like to say it in interviews, actually, and I don’t really like to lead with it, but it’s something that for me is definitely a strong “they.”
T: Yeah, that’s definitely not one of my “they’s.” I do drink. I mean, there are so many. I don’t know, I’m trying to think about they’s of when I started music. Well, I was a basketball player in college, and I guess I’ve posted about this already, but it is the most important one for me. “They” say you can’t be an artist and an athlete, or they say that if you do one thing and you’ve worked your whole life at it, you can’t push it up and do something else, you know? And I had a lot of friends kind of looking at me like ‘What are you doing?’ And then I had some that were super excited and supportive, and you know, I just had to know think about what they said and go pursue my passion and my dream. I guess that’s the most obvious one for me.
Yeah, totally. And I’m sorry to bring it there, but I can’t help but think about High School Musical—athlete pursuing music, fuck the status quo, fuck they.
T: Haha, someone said that the other day! They were like ‘Oh, so you’re Troy?’ And I was like ‘Who’s Troy…’ And he was like, ‘High School Musical,’ and I immediately made the connection, like ‘Oh, fuck.’
Anyway, I wanted to touch upon your start in music, which came from an 8 month break from basketball, right? You could have spent those 8 months doing anything else, so what was it that pushed you to pursue and learn music specifically?
T: Um, I always wanted to. I was always really into it, burning CDs with all of the new tracks, wanting to be the first one to find the songs. I was into Garage Band growing up and I played the drums, but I always had to put it on the back burner because I really didn’t have any spare time at all for literally anything else. So, basically that time, when I decided that I wasn’t going to feel sorry for myself and I was going to be productive while I can’t move, that was clearly the first thing that came to my mind that I wanted to do. I guess there are a lot of others things I could have done without moving, but it was the first one I thought of and the only one I’ve focused on. I’m glad it happened.
Yeah, and Sophie could you touch upon your exposure to music growing up? Was it something you were surrounded by or something that you sought after?
S: It was a combination. Growing up, I was also an athlete, I was very soccer-focused growing up, also my parents listened to a lot of music. In my house there was a lot of jazz and Gypsy Kings and Buena Vista Social Club, and we were always traveling as well. I don’t know, it wasn’t until middle school I guess where I started writing folk songs on the guitar, and just started stalking some of my favorite artists. I had a lot of phases of different styles of songwriting, and then when I moved to Brazil, I got really, really into Bossanova. Music has just always been there in a lot of different shapes and forms. I was training in West African dance at Brown, I was in the dance troupe, taking some drumming lessons, I was in choir, musical theatre for a second.
Wow, so lots of different disciplines. Did moving to Brazil influence your music and art?
S: Oh, yeah. I’m still so inspired by that time. And we got to go back for four days and it just all came back to me. It was the most inspiring feeling.
Yeah, and considering ‘Drinkee,’ is an interpretation of a poem by the Brazilian poet, Chacal, could you talk a bit about that connection?
S: Yeah, I met Chacal while I was at Brown, and I was doing this little performance with him where he would recite his poetry, and then my professors invited me to meet him and do a performance with him, to interpret the poetry in song after he had recited it. We really got a long. I thought about moving to Brazil after college and planned to continue working with him, but Tucker convinced me to move to New York, so I didn’t exactly do that, but I’d say it’s even better.
That’s interesting. I know you guys met at a gig that Sophie was performing at and Tucker went up and sort of remixed her track right there. How’d you guys come together following that up?
T: Yeah, I mean I wouldn’t really call it a remix. Basically, I thought one of the songs was amazing and I knew some of the performers that were playing through classes that I was in, so I went up and looped an intro on a house track, which was basically just some drums, then I slowly made it faster and faster, and sort of just made her keep up with the pace so that it sped up a lot, because it was really slow music and it was just really fun. Then I asked her if I could remix the song, but she didn’t even really have a recording of it, so the next day we got together to record that song so that I could do a remix, and then we just basically ended up working together.
Was there a moment where you guys decided ‘Okay, let’s form this group,’ or was it really just that organic?
S: We decided to form the band basically a week before we graduated. Then, once we were like ‘Okay, we’re moving to New York, we’re jumping in,’ we actually wrote ‘Drinkee,’ a day or two later.
T: We still weren’t even sure at that point that we were forming a band. Like, we didn’t have a name or anything.
S: Yeah, we were straight up just going to be working together and in the city. So we didn’t have a name, or a sound that we had established.
So what did it take for you guys to commit to that?
T: So I was DJ’ing a lot during my senior year, then I met The Knocks, because I opened up at a club for them in Provedence and we became really close friends, and we ended up going to Miami Music Week together that spring and then, I came to New York and went to their studio and showed them some of the stuff that Sophie and I had been doing at school, more as an after thought to the dance music I was making on my own, and Ben from The Knocks was like ‘Oh, mate, you should pursue this, this is really cool.’ And I was like ‘That’s awesome,’ and basically said, ‘Hey, let’s actually start a band. Let’s go, let’s do this. Don’t go to Brazil.’ And it took me a couple of days to get her on board, because she had to cancel her life plans and tell her family that she was going off the deep end. But then, we moved to New York and it seems looking back on it, it was pretty crazy because we didn’t have anything besides Ben and JPatt’s support. We didn’t have any money. We were working at The Knocks’ studio in Chinatown at night, because they would work in it during the day and we’d be there until like 3 or 4am, but we were just doing anything we could to make it happen. Then we started believing in it, and the rest just started happening.
What’s it like, then, for you guys to acknowledge your start in the industry with nothing but verbal support from two guys and now being Grammy-nominated artists and performing basically everywhere?
T: We don’t have time to reflect often and to just sit and look back because we have so far to go in our minds, so we never really stop and say ‘Look at what we’ve done,’ because hopefully we’ll do that in a few years. But it is cool, after you just said that. We kind of just looked at each other and smiled, like ‘Woah, we’re alright!’ I mean, the Grammy thing was never even a goal. It wasn’t a thing we could even fathom. I think long-term goal for me was that I wanted to play Coachella some day, and when we did that it was like ‘Wow, okay.’ But then we set new goals and it’s time to get those.
Also, I’m curious about what your dynamic is as a duo from personal life to also producing the music yourselves and working in the studio. Like you guys mentioned, you haven’t worked with anyone else up until ‘Fuck They,’ so it must be a super close knit collaborative relationship.
S: Yeah, I mean we spend so much time together. I think in the studio, we’ve just gotten really streamlined working with each other and very comfortable with each other. So we can make things, or have things come out of us that are sort of ludicrous, and that’s okay.
T: Yeah, we’re definitely not judging each other or anything.
S: I mean, at this point we’ve developed a language that we share and have built for a long time together.
T: That’s literally a lyric from ‘Bestfriend’!
S: I know!! We just wrote a song called ‘Bestfriend,’ and one of the lyrics is like ‘we made our own language.’
T: We didn’t even write it about each other, but I guess it just morphed into it!
S: But yeah, we’re very collaborative.
T: I mean, we never really do any Sofi Tukker music without both of us in the room at all times. I think that’s really important to what it is and to what it ends up being. I think we just also really, really agree on Sofi Tukker’s sound and our identity and thank god. I’m thankful that there are just two of us too, because I think having three or four or five of us being in sync about what we want to do and where we want the band to go is probably impossible. I can’t imagine. It’s got to be tough. I think, also, we both just have the exact same vision for it and that’s really nice. We have such different influences and different backgrounds, that it’s kind of crazy that we actually really do want the same things from our music and from our band as a whole and what we stand for, look like, sound like. It’s funny, because we’re so different otherwise.
And what’s it like for you guys to spend so much time in the studio producing the music, and then performing it in front of an audience, putting a face to your listeners, meeting your fans?
S: We’ve been so lucky, actually. One of the things that we’ve been told is ‘You can’t choose your fans.’ And so we know that that’s true, but having met so many of our fans, it’s so cool to be like ‘Wow, we really like them. We really, really love them!’ I mean, the people that come to our concert tend to just be so free, happy, dancing so hard.
T: It’s unbelievably diverse. Different ages, different everything. Lots of queer people. It’s the coolest. We love it all!
Speaking of shows, you guys have Panorama coming up, so what can we expect from there?
S: We’re going to be playing a lot of new songs!
T: Yeah! We haven’t played ‘Fuck They’ since it came out. It’ll be the first live performance and the first festival to elevate its exposure. I’m excited for that, very excited for that. We’ll put a couple of new, exciting things out there for being back home in New York, but generally we’re pretty rehearsed since we play often.
S: I think because we haven’t played in New York for a while, it’ll be a lot of extra energy. And just being able to return in this way, at a huge festival, we’re just really excited.