KEXP Exclusive Interview: SOFI TUKKER

Gabe Pollak
all photos by Morgen Schuler (view set)

If you're wondering about the irresistibly funky house track behind the latest iPhone X ad, we've got you covered. KEXP recently spoke to Grammy-nominated, New York-based duo SOFI TUKKER, whose new song, "Best Friend," soundtracks the new Apple ad out last week. Before their Saturday night set at the Bumbershoot Music and Arts Festival earlier this month, producer Tucker Halpern and singer Sophie Hawley-Weld chatted about unexpected collaborations, freeing yourself from guilt to pursue your passions, and working with Grimes' brother and collaborator, Mac Boucher, on a new music video for "Best Friend."

Interview edited for length and clarity.

KEXP: Finding the right collaborator can be a tricky thing. You want to find someone who you share influences with, share something in common with --

Sophie Hawley-Weld: [laughs] Sorry, we have nothing in common. We share none of the same influences.

Tucker Halpern: Yeah, it’s funny because that’s what you would think would make a good collaborator, but I actually think our case disproves that a tiny bit because we’re so different. We kind of stumbled upon each other. It wasn’t like either of us was looking to be in a band, or whatever you call us. I think we both wanted to pursue music as a career. Definitely, neither of us really had any idea how we were going to do that, but we just wanted to try. We met during our senior year. I was a house music DJ, sort of going the DJ route. And Sophie was…

SH: I was making slow --

TH: Very slow --

SH: Bossa nova-inspired music that Tucker thought was beautiful, but really boring.

TH: It’s true. It was very beautiful but very boring.

SH: Tucker has a low boredom threshold.

TH: That’s true.

If you thought the music that Sophie was making was boring, why did you want to work with her?

TH: I could see the potential.

SH: I knew you were going to say that.

TH: I thought "Oh wow, this could be incredible if it was totally different." [laughs]

SH: You asshole. [laughs and shoves Tucker playfully]

TH: I thought she was incredibly talented and had something really special. I was like, "Can I do a remix of this song?" I wasn’t thinking in my head, "Oh, I’ll do a remix and show her how good dance music is and then she’ll want to make it." But that’s kind of what happened.

SH: That is kind of what happened.

TH: We've been working together every day since, but, basically, we didn’t really become friends for --

SH: A year.

TH: We graduated and I sort of convinced her to move to New York with me.

SH: Fully convinced me to move to New York.

TH: I was like ‘Yo, let’s go for it. Why the fuck not? We have to. One life!"

SH: And I was like, "Oh, I don’t know."

TH: She was like, "No, I could do all these other things. I have all this education and I have to use it, blah, blah, blah." And I was like, "No, you can do this and then you’ll get a platform you can use to make the world a better place."

SH: I felt guilty for a really long time for being really selfish by pursuing music.

TH: And now you see the joy you bring. We’re like ambassadors --

SH: Ambassadors for joy! Someone wrote that as a headline for an article. I sent it to my parents and was like, "See. Look what I’m doing. I’m an ambassador!" [laughs]

Has some of that guilt subsided as your career has grown?

SH: It’s all subsided. I feel no guilt about it. I feel only affirmation.

TH: Not only are we making ourselves feel nourished and happy every day, but we feel that we’re making other peoples' lives better in a way that we didn’t necessarily foresee.

SH: We had no idea if anyone would give a shit. Now, it feels like we’re creating community everywhere we go, which is the most nourishing thing. It really feels like we’re contributing. It doesn’t feel selfish at all. It just feels great.

Tucker, I understand you've had a pretty interesting journey in music. Can you tell me about when you got your start in production?

TH: I didn’t really start making music until I was a junior in college. I played drums growing up in a garage band. In college, I was just playing basketball and didn’t have time for anything else. Then I got really sick and had to leave school for a year. I was bedridden for eight months. That’s when I decided to teach myself how to produce music on a computer. I really wanted to do it but never had time.

Your new video for "Fuck They," which is directed by Grimes' brother and frequent collaborator Mac Boucher, is wild, weird, and fantastic. You dance out of a moving car, drink green slime, and, in probably the most bizarre part of the video, crawling around on your hands and knees in leashes held by a wealthy-looking couple dressed in all black. What was the leash part like for you? 

TH: It was funny. Some people with young kids would walk by and I’d be like "Sorry!" [laughs]

SH: It was so funny. It hurt the knees a little bit.

TH: My knees were scraped up. We had like knee pads on but it was still tough. I just have bad knees from basketball.

How did you strike upon the idea for the video?

SH: We came up with the treatment one night, laughing so hard in Tucker’s apartment.

TH: We were like, "We need to get some amazing director. We need to get the person who does Grimes’ videos to do this. We have to." And then we did! [laughs]. Mac has become a good friend. We’re doing another video with him in Ibiza.

SH: It’s a friend song. We wrote the song and sent it to a bunch of people and were like, "Hey! Throw on a verse and send it back."

TH: Drop a verse! Drop a verse!

SH: Now we’re going to film the music video with him in Ibiza.

TH: And with all our friends. We Airbnb-ed a house and we’re all gonna go and make a video. And we have a show there too.

SH: It’s going to be really fun. A big friendship celebration.

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