Enter the Cosmos with ODESZA’s New Album, ‘In Return’

In 2012, electronic music duo ODESZA released their first album Summer’s Gone online—for free. The pair, comprised of Harrison Mills (aka CatacombKid) and Clayton Knight (aka BeachesBeaches), quickly received attention for their fresh sound that far from revealed itself as the product of a debut venture into the scene. After releasing the My Friends Never Die EP in 2013 that garnered widespread acclaim and prompted performances at major festivals, Mills and Knight are back with In Return, a 13-track album that is their best yet.


Featuring vocal performances from Shy Girls to Madelyn Grant to shake things up, In Return shimmers from its start, sequined with smoothly spliced and layered samples. The electrifying, groove-inducing tunes are there, but so are a couple of lovely reflective gems, like “Sundara” and “Kusanagi,” which blossoms gorgeously with soft chimes and pattering synths.

We caught up with ODESZA while they were in New York to play two sold-out shows and talked about the album, sampling music, and whether the praying hand emoji is actually just two friends high-fiving each other.

So everyone knows that story about those kids having sex on the monitor at one of your shows. What’s the craziest thing that’s happened on this tour thus far?

Clayton: We were playing in Philly last night, and it was a really small room, a pretty intimate setting. This girl—obviously she was just obliterated—she’s trying to take selfies while I’m playing. Finally we get done, and it looks like she wants a hug, and so I give her a hug. And as I’m stepping away to leave, she just grabs me right in the cojones.

Harrison: So she took your breath away!

C: Yeah, not in a good way. That was the first time that’s ever happened.
H: And then she just pounded on the green room door, being like, Let me in!
C: We just kind of hid. It was a new experience, but that was the worst thing that’s happened to me so far. A mild form of rape, sexual harassment.

You’re in New York for a couple of days…do you have any must-dos or must-sees?

H: We got to go to the Highline today. It was his first time, my second. We usually just go by recommendations.
C: Eat pizza, a lot of that. And Williamsburg’s always good. I’d like to go back to Barcade. I love Barcade.

What games do you play there?

C: There’s a racing game that I probably spend like 20 bucks on. But I did get a high score. I think [my name] is still on there. It wasn’t the top one, but it’s like 17 or something. I’ll take it.

I know ODESZA’s name stems from Harrison’s uncle’s ship that sank. What about the roots of your own DJ names?

C: Mine really has no meaning. I was messing around with a lot of Beach Boys albums at the time, trying to do a remix of the Pet Sounds album, basically. That’s my favorite album of all time. It sounded right at the time.

H: I was really into hip-hop at the time and I was listening to an Aesop Rock album that just came out, and there’s a song on there called “Catacomb Kids.”

So when I listen to you, I hear traces of Phantogram, Gold Panda, Flying Lotus, and even Shlomo. Who are some of your influences?

H: I mean, those people too. We’re always scouring the internet listening to different people, but definitely the first ones for me were Gorillaz, A Tribe Called Quest, Aphex Twin, Radiohead, Bonobo.
C: Beach boys, of course. I love their harmonies. Four Tet is always killer. M83, Animal Collective…that kind of experimental stuff is what got me excited about electronic music and showed me that music can be a lot of different things.

I notice you tend to use a lot of high-pitched samples. Is there a certain allure to that sound?

H: We just really like falsetto, and we can’t get everyone to sing it for us.
C: It’s all about the energy, too. That frequency range can really pop through a mix. It’s kind of a different sound that we may be overusing.
H: I think at this point it’s probably been done quite a bit. It really stems from sampling hip-hop… when they had to speed up the samples to get it into the MPC2000, they only had 15 seconds of sampling time so they would speed it up and slow it down once it went into the MPC, but people started going, Oh, it actually sounds kind of cool. So that’s why a lot of old-school samples have that high-pitched stuff.
C: Yeah those old-school soul samples pitched up with hip-hop beats are some of my favorite sounds.

You also use sounds from instruments like the sitar and the koto on this album. Were you drawn to Eastern sounds for a specific reason?

H: We just gravitate to things that aren’t widely used. We like world music a lot, so we just try to grab from every genre we enjoy and blend everything, make it one big consistent thing.
C: A lot of those world instruments have really nice overtones and really interesting timbres that you can’t find in Western music a lot. It gives it another flavor. I think guitar is overused in Western music. It’s a standard for sure, but there are so many other instruments that have these nice timbres you can explore, run through amps, manipulate to have new songs.


You bring in a lot of collaborators in this album; could you share some memorable moments from working with them?

H: “Kusanagi” is one we did with our friend Sean Kusanagi, and we named it after him because it’s basically his song. He wrote those first guitar chords, and we were recording him at his house, and we built the song around little things he was doing on the guitar. His house looks over the water, and we had a little production shed we set up for just a day.

How do you guys work as a team and split up the work during live shows?

C: Each song’s split up into little tiny pieces, and my session has control over basically all the drum and bass. He has control over all the toplines. So we can manipulate, mix, and try different things. We each have eight channels with individual songs, so we have 16 different pieces to basically blend with each other…which gives you a lot of freedom, but it can also cause some mistakes.

You’ve sampled artists from Alicia Keys to Santigold to Lily Allen to Local Natives. What have you each been listening to recently?

H: I like Galimatias. I’m a big fan of the guys we’re touring with, Hayden James and Ambassadeurs. Big Wild’s a big one, Djemba Djemba.
C: Keys N Krates, Mr. Carmack, Lapalux, Glass Animals, Sam Smith, of course.

I saw Kimbra tweet at you saying she wanted to collaborate. Is there anything in the works?

H: We talk fairly often. She’s super, super cool. I’m so impressed by someone who can do like 10 different genres. I’m just thoroughly impressed by her diversity and range. I would love to work with her, but it all depends on schedules…we both just released albums.


Ok I’m gonna branch off into random questions since we have some time. What are your favorite snacks?

H: Wasabi almonds.
C: Pistachios, Cheetos…I just love shitty snacks. Anything really unhealthy, I’m in to.
H: It’s not a snack, but I love Thai food.

Do you have any major pet peeves?

C: I hate when you’re sitting down at dinner, and someone takes a phone call. I think that’s extremely rude. People are on their phones too much.
H: I hate when people can’t admit they’re wrong or caught in a lie, and they’re sitting there fighting it. Like come on, man, we all know.

Any pre-show rituals?

H: We box a little bit before we step out.
C: Like boxing warmups. It gets the blood flowing. Drinking.

What do you guys drink?

H: Jameson and ginger beer is our go-to. We’ve had it every day.
C: And a nice beer. Seattle has a bunch of local breweries that are really good.

Here’s something I asked Flume: What are your most recently used emojis?

C: The hand pray.

Ok, so is it a hand pray or a high-five?

C: I don’t know.
H: I think it’s a pray, but I think it should be used as a high-five.
C: And the noise things are coming off. You’re clapping, and it’s an action shot. But I like the pray. I think it should be a praying one. We’ll go with the pray.

Who’s better at growing facial hair?

H: Come on!
C: I get blond hair in chunks so it looks really bad.

Like a weird Chia Pet or something?

C: Yeah, that’s a good way of looking at it! So yes, I shave.
H: It’s nice not having to shave so much.

What would happen if you woke up one day and had switched bodies?

C: I’d probably draw because he’s pretty good at that.
H: I’d probably just do impressions of him constantly.
C: But you ARE me.

I have to ask: when Washington legalized weed, did you celebrate?

C: We were gone, actually, when the day came. But you can’t really buy it there. They sell out immediately, and there’s no supply because the demand is ridiculous. It’s a little more expensive. Plus I have a guy.
H: I don’t mind smoking whatsoever, but I recently just stopped.
C: Yeah, no smoking on the road.
H: We’re trying to stay focused.

Who rolls the best joints?

H: Oh, this guy [points at Clayton]. He rolls cigarettes.
C: Spliffs. Spliffs for days. At home.

Clayton’s WILD Wish:

If I could go back in time and meet Hendrix and the drummerfrom Led Zeppelin, John Bonham.

Harris’ WILD Wish:

I’d like to run a popular cartoon show. Something on Adult Swim. I’ll make music for it, do weird voices, write funny scripts. Sounds like a dream job, not like this isn’t fucking great.


Photos by Claire Voon; header photo by Bronson Snelling


text by: Claire Voon

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