The electronic duo from Seattle has a new album coming out Sept. 8 and was the closing headliner at Bumbershoot.
It’s becoming a tradition for the final Main Stage act of Bumbershoot to be a more recent Seattle artist to hit the mainstream. Last year it was hometown “Same Love” rapper Macklemore, and this year, Seattle-bred electronic duo ODESZA—made up of producers Clayton Knight and Harrison Mills and their Northwest-bred band — brought down the house and the power.
As people crammed closer to the stage, alight with ODESZA’s icosahedron logo and colorful, Rorschach-style videography, the band dove into the euphoric “All We Need.” About 20 minutes into their hour-and-a-half set, complete with a drum line and horn section, everything went quiet and dark.
Ten minutes later, ODESZA ran back on stage. “Bumbershoot just lost power but we don’t [care], we’re going to play another one for you!” Mills said. They grabbed attention again with the driving dance number, “Late Night.”
The day before, at their SoDo rehearsal space, the two wore humility on their sleeves, touching a bit on the meaning of playing a festival they grew up going to.
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“It’s pretty surreal [to play Bumbershoot],” said Mills, who grew up near Redmond. “Growing up and seeing the names on those posters, you never think, ‘Oh, that’ll be me.’ We try really hard not to think hard about things like this because we don’t want to stress ourselves out. We throw ourselves into the rehearsing. I think it would be dangerous if we focused on like, ‘Oh yeah, 10,000 people!’”
In 2012, Knight and Mills met at Western Washington University. The two were going to school — Knight majoring in physics, Mills in design—and in their free time working on solo electronic projects. “Mine was ‘Beaches Beaches,’” said Knight, laughingly, “Not one beach, but two.”
Finally, their friend Sean Kusanagi, now ODESZA’s guitarist and filmmaker, introduced the two.
“He kept talking about how his roommate, Clay, was doing something similar to me,” said Mills. “[Clay and I], we just ended up hanging out and talking about super-obscure producer stuff. We just started nerding out together.”
At the same time, a whole universe of bedroom producers was becoming more accessible on Soundcloud. Knight and Mills bonded over their mutual obsession with scouring the site for inspiration and teaching themselves production from YouTube.
Those explorations would build the foundation of ODESZA’s sound, and later the founding of their own label, Foreign Family, which signs producers and musicians the two discover on the internet. Five years later the two have fans across the globe, and their song “In Return” has spent 12 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100.
Part of what makes ODESZA so special is the way their music stops time and wraps the listener in a cocoon of emotion: Their production of “organic overtones” or acoustic sounds give the listener a tie to the past while the weight and body of the synthesizers and other effects push their ears toward the future.
Much of that essence is influenced by their Seattle upbringings and by getting through dark, rainy winters.
“We use a lot of organic sounds and mix it with the synthetic to make something new in a lot of ways, and you know, that comes from listening to folk and being around indie music,” said Knight. “You know, all my friends when I was growing up were into Death Cab. Guitar-centric music and shoegaze were huge when I was starting to learn to play instruments. I think that seeped into how I produce and what we like to hear because we’re both really attached to organic sounds and interpreting them in new ways.”
Their newest album, “A Moment Apart,” which will be released Sept. 8, is the pair’s most Northwest album yet. Encompassing a whole array of emotions — from light to dark — it feels more fleshed out and nuanced than projects past.
“I think because instead of feeling like it’s longing for summer, it is the full embodiment of all the seasons [here in Seattle]. All the things that make it the place we love,” Mills said. “It’s the most narrative album we’ve ever made, too … ‘A Moment Apart’ means taking a step back from all the noise and gaining perspective … and an underlying sense of hope.”
“A Moment Apart” also features many special guests, from newcomer Naomi Wild to soulful heavy-hitter Leon Bridges, both of whom graced the Bumbershoot stage on Sunday during the ODESZA set.
ODESZA begins their world tour for “A Moment Apart” in New Zealand on Sept. 14. They played Sunday knowing it would be awhile before their next hometown show. Fans swayed to their closing hit, “Meridian,” and on the two epic encores complete with fireworks accents, Knight and Mills jumped, danced and sang along.
“We love you, Seattle,” Mills said. “See you soon!”