Man at His Best

Interview With ODESZA

ODESZA's Clayton Knight tells us a little bit more about their music and 'immersive experience' live performances.

BY Jayme Teoh Jiah Mae | Jul 9, 2018 | Music

Tonje Thilesen

Clayton Knight and Harrison Mills, better known together as American electronic music duo ODESZA, have made huge waves within the electronic music scene. They made their debut television appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live! last October, were nominated for Best Dance/Electronic Album at the 60th Annual Grammy Awards, and climbed the charts to #2 on the Billboard 200 with A Moment Apart. With weeks before their upcoming performance at Good Vibes Festival on 22 July, we got a chance to talk to Clayton about his inspiration, music, and how excited he is to be performing in Malaysia soon.

ESQUIRE: Where does your biggest inspiration come from when writing your music?

CLAYTON KNIGHT: Well, it comes from a lot of different things. Most of the time it comes from other music, but we’re also big fans of movie soundtracks. We also tour quite a bit so, seeing other countries, we get exposed to a lot of different music and a lot of different styles. Hearing all these different sounds really opened up our palette. A lot of it also comes from our early love for Electronic Music; there are a couple albums we tend to go back to time after time and rediscover and try to fall in love with it again.  

ESQ: Did your approach towards the production of A Moment Apart differ from previous albums?

CK: Yeah, definitely. This album definitely has more of a darker tone, a little more cinematic elements. A lot more orchestral arrangements. It kind of takes from the sounds we had in our heads for a long time - an orchestral mashup of electronic music and classical style and putting them together. It's definitely a little different from previous albums. It's a little more electronic, a little more synth-based, a little more organic feel. 

ESQ: What was it like collaborating with so many different artists with such different styles like Regina Spektor, Leon Bridges etc? 

CK: It was amazing. Both of those artists so talented. Working with Leon has kind of been a dream of ours since we first heard him a while back. We popped into the studio when he had a day off in Seattle. We showed him some simple tracks with some piano loops and simple beats and he started writing straight away and we just bonded over that and wrote that whole song in one 8 hour session. It was pretty magical. Working with Regina was pretty awesome as well. She's a sweetheart and super talented. We gave her the demo a while back and she wrote some stuff to it but she wouldn't send us what she wrote; she wanted to sing it to us in person. We had never met her previously, but we just met her at her hotel after her show in Seattle and she opened up her laptop, played the instrumental and sang over it. That was the first we heard what she had done, and we were blown away. We ended up stripping down a lot of the production of music to match the setting to let her voice breathe a little bit and match what we were hearing.

Tonje Thilesen

ESQ: How do you incorporate your style yet find an individual style for each different collaboration?

CK: That's a really tough thing. Usually what we'll do is we'll send a demo beat or instrumental to an artist and they'll start writing something over it. And then what we'll do is take what they've written and then re-write the entire instrumental around their vocal tones and style to match the setting. So, the song will usually start one way and then end up being something completely different. It's a lot of back and forth and customizing the audio to the vocalist.

ESQ: Who else would you like to work together with?

CK: Oh, yeah. I'm a huge fan of M83 - I think he'd be really cool to try to do a track with. I'm a big fan of Panda Bear - I love what he's done. Yeah, there's a long list of people that I'd love to get in the studio with. Definitely more that indie, electronic side, which is my first love and would love to explore more.

ESQ: What’s something that you and Harrison bring differently to the group? 

CK: We kind of each hear music differently. Harrison comes from more of a hip hop background, so it's definitely more drum orientated. I come from more of a classical pop kind of setting. When I listen to music, I really focus on the harmonies and melodies, whereas he focuses more on the rhythmic stuff and drum sounds and tones. Together, it's a good combination. We complement each other in that way. What he hears I don't, and what I hear he doesn't. When we put it all together, it ends up being something full and big.

ESQ: ODESZA’s live show is what you call an “immersive experience.” Can you tell us what that means and how you hope to achieve that every time?

CK: We kind of think of "immersive" as something that hits all the senses. We have very visual heavy shows, and we customize a lot of the audio for the production vice versa. So, we try to hit all these big, expansive moments where we have these heavy electronic moments, these dance-y moments, hip hop moments. Getting all this to sit together to flow right is pretty hard but in the end you get this total, encompassing experience that doesn't drag. It feels completely full. Yeah, that's what we mean by it; just trying to do it all in one setting. 

ESQ: Is this your first time coming to Malaysia/are you excited for Good Vibes?

CK: Yes, I am very excited. Never actually been to Malaysia so, I'm super excited to check it out and see what the culture is like: eat some good food and take some sun in. Seattle is usually pretty rainy so it'll be good to get away and just get some sunshine. 

Good Vibes Festival 2018 will be held on the 21 and 22 July at the Ranch, Gohtong Jaya, Genting Highlands. Tickets are available here.