When Clay Knight and Harrison Mills started fooling around with synthesized rock at WWU in 2012, they had no idea they would be playing festivals like Lollapalooza and Coachella. The duo performs three sold-out shows at the Paramount Theatre Saturday-Monday, Dec. 5-7.

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Seattle electro-pop duo Odesza — which plays three sold-out shows at the Paramount Theatre Saturday through Monday (Dec. 5-7) — has only been together three years, but Harrison Mills and Clay Knight have already demonstrated that they can command a big stage in front of tens of thousands of fans.

At Lollapalooza in Chicago this summer, Mills and Knight built a performance that blended programmed elements with on-the-fly change-ups, multimedia and spontaneity, ebb-and-surge dance tracks and pop melodies. There was a guitarist, a horn section and the Chicago Bulls drum line, the Stampede. The show suggested a play or a movie, with one scene leading to the next, each holding a surprise that ratcheted the momentum higher. It was a heck of a way to spend a summer evening in Grant Park as the sun dropped behind the downtown skyline.

That performance underlined how Odesza has quickly separated itself from the booming DJ-dominated EDM scene.

Concert preview


8 p.m. Saturday-Monday, Dec. 5-7, at the Paramount Theatre, 911 Pine St., Seattle; sold out (877-784-4849 or stgpresents.org).

“We’ll mix the synthesizers and drums from different songs, and mix and match different elements,” says Knight. “We started doing that two years ago, and added a guitarist and horn section, and once in a while we can add a drum line like we did at Lollapalooza and Coachella.”

“I’d love to do a full orchestra some day,” Mills says.

Such ambitions seemed ridiculously out of reach when Mills and Knight began collaborating in 2012 during their senior years at Western Washington University in Bellingham. Most of their fellow students were into indie rock and folk, and Mills and Knight felt like they were both out on an island experimenting with electronic composition on their own when a mutual friend introduced them.

By that time, both had gravitated from traditional instruments to sampling. Mills bought a sampler off eBay when he was 19 and began experimenting with mixes. Knight played in a couple of bands in high school, but a roommate introduced him to electronic music and he was hooked. He and Mills forged a bond when they began working on remixes of ’60s Beach Boys vocal tracks.

They began trading beats and pieces of music on their computers, developing compositions that mushroomed into an enchanting single, “How Did I Get Here,” and a chilled-out album, “Summer’s Gone” that folded together thumb pianos, loops of obscure indie vocalists and snippets of Gotye and Santigold. The free recordings got millions of streams online and built enough of a buzz that the duo was able to tour, eventually opening shows in 2013 for Pretty Lights.

A 2014 follow-up album, “In Return,” put a greater premium on pop hooks and vocal melodies.

“We related more to album-based artists and the singer-songwriter stuff that was around us growing up,” Mills says. “And that’s influenced how we approach the shows, by adding a lot of live elements with a guitarist and our own drumming and electronic drumming. EDM used to mean you’re a guy with a laptop on stage. When we play live against artists in that realm, we do like the energy that EDM creates, but we go about it in a different way.”