If you liked ODESZA's last record In Return, chances are you really fell in love with them when you saw them live. The US duo's live shows took their music to a new level, re-working the songs into cinematic masterpieces that contributed to a grandiose show of euphoria and hypnotism.
Now, they're back with a new album A Moment Apart, one that demonstrates the learnings from touring that show worldwide. It's the grandest, most expansive thing they've ever done and yet you still get the feeling they're ready to take it to another level when they recreate it live.
Teaming up with vocalists old (Regina Spektor) and new (Naomi Wild), they've created a project that brings others, whether it be yourself or collaborators, into their very internal, personal world. It's a journey from start to finish that's sometimes joyous and sometimes very dark.
Ahead of the album release, we spoke to Harrison Mills of the duo about finding a new perspective, appreciating the moments after the storm and the time Regina Spektor played for them in a hotel room.
What’s a month out from tour look like to you?
Lots of preparation. We take a lot of pride in trying to make a very different live show than our album. We see the album as an introverted scenario and our live show an extroverted setting. We try to make sure it matches those different settings. We look at our old music and do different live version of songs so they fit the vibe.
Is it harder getting a show together when you know that people will be hearing these new songs off the album for the first time?
That’s a good question because it’s something that we struggle with. We want people to hear our new music but without the album being out for long it can be a struggle sometimes. People are like, “I like it but I can’t sing along.”
What’s the feeling like for you guys now the album is done. Are you happy and ready for people to hear it?
Oh yes, I’m very happy with it. I’m very happy for people to hear it. I very much consider ourselves an album band because our songs make sense in the context of each other. I’m excited for people to go on the journey of the album instead of hearing it in pieces.
It’s cool that you’re in the electronic scene but really focussed on albums which is something that wasn’t so common a few years ago. Was there ever a push for ODESZA to be a singles act?
No. I’ve always considered us an albums band. It stems from the fact we grew up loving albums we played front to back, over and over. We always try to attempt to make those albums.
What’s the process like? You’ve got big singles on both records but is it a battle for you to find the balance between big songs and the smaller moments?
Yeah, there’s definitely a bit of that. I think it really comes down to our albums showing dynamic. We take you on a bit of a journey and this one has the most narrative of any album we’ve put out. It really has meaning for us and hopefully that translates.
One of the things that strikes me straight away is that the record feels darker. It’s not sad or depressing but it’s got a weight. What caused that?
I’m really glad you’ve said that because it’s exactly how I feel. To me, the album represents perspective and seeing the beauty and the balance between dark and light. We had a long winter here when we were writing and the thing with the perspective is we’ve grown so much. We wanted to show different sides of us and not just focus on the nostalgic, uplifting moments but also the beauty and the melancholy.
I loved something you guys said where you described the moment after you step off stage after playing to thousands of people and you can reflect on it. How important was that moment for this record?
It’s very much the album is based off that moment. I like to describe it in a few ways and I’ll give you a couple of short little spiels. It’s kind of like if you have a party and you walk out and shut the door and all the noise from inside is shut out and you look up at the moon by yourself. It’s a moment of self-reflection being away from all the noise. I don’t know if it’s meditative but it’s one of the points where you gain perspective by being humbled by the world.
Is it ever hard for you guys to go home after touring and be by yourself?
Yeah. It’s interesting because we very much consider ourselves a family and I don’t think we’d be doing the show that we do if it wasn’t that way. Our live visual guy he is my best friend from college. Sean who plays guitar and does all the video stuff introduced me and Clayton. Our tour manager was the tour manager we opened up for four years ago. It’s all people we’ve known for a very long time who have become very close to us. It’s important that the people around us keep us grounded.
It would have been very easy for you guys to get a bunch of friends in the room and make the album but the vocalists you’ve used are left-centre for you guys. Regina Spektor and Leon Bridges sound almost like they never had before on this record. Was that your goal?
We are fans of such different music, we’re always trying to reach out to people who have an open mind. It’s a funny story actually. The Spektor song. We were fans of hers since high-school. We almost jokingly asked our manager if it was achievable and two months later she emailed us personally and said she really wanted to work with us. That moment of inspiration thinking we could actually work with her, we wrote the demo. It was called ‘Hearts For Regina’. We sent it over for her and she wrote a whole song to it. But she said she didn’t want to send it to us, she wanted to sing it to us live. When we were in Seattle she asked us to go to her hotel. We knocked on the door, her husband answers and we meet her kids and everyone. We sit down, she puts the instrumental on on the computer, closed her eyes and sang the whole thing to us. The demo had production all over it but after hearing that we wanted everything to fade away and for it to be about that moment we got to hear her for the first time.
When you’re playing the same songs night after night, I suppose it’s moment like that where you step back and appreciate what’s really going on?
Yeah. We approached this album not trying to be electronic artists or anything but to tell a story with music and touch on a lot of the things that we love.
Do you have any plans to get any of the vocalists from the album up on stage?
Yes. We will definitely be messing around with that at a couple shows. We’ll definitely have some surprises.
How did you guys find the time at the end of the hectic touring schedule to even think about another album? I imagine the temptation was there to take some time off.
You know it’s funny. I think a lot of people while we were touring were thinking where the hell is the next album? We’d be playing every day for the past three years! We really wanted to make new music though and we make the best music when we’re at home and comfortable. We took about a month off. I actually got ankle surgery so I was on painkillers.
Once you did sit down to flesh it out, did you go in with any ideas of what you wanted it to be like?
I think a big reason why there’s a lot more organic instrumentation on this album is because we’d been playing it at live shows. We’d been beaten over the head by being at festivals and experiencing so much heavy electronic music that we were yearning for a set that we really fell in love with when we first fell in love with music. Big sweeping, cinematic soundscapes. That had a big influence. Intro and A Moment Apart, those two were the first for the album. We used them as bookends of what we wanted to do at the beginning and the end.
ODESZA will play shows in Australia this week and will also return for Laneway Festival 2018 next year.
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