Sound & Vision: Odesza Go Back to School

Sound and Vision
Emily Fox
photo by Dave Lichterman

This past weekend, Western Washington University's most famous alumni held a benefit concert for the alumni association Scholarship Fund. Called "Double Major," the bill features Death Cab for Cutie and Odesza. We spoke with Harrison Mills and Clayton Knight about how the event came together, what advice they have for students at the university, and what their songwriting process is like. 

How the Double Major Show Came to Be

We were doing a show in San Diego. It was a radio show, so there was a bunch of different kinds of bands playing that day and our paths finally crossed with Death Cab for Cutie who obviously are also from Bellingham.

We've been talking about them forever and they just stopped by our Green Room and came and said hello. Kind of like instant friends talking about Bellingham and growing up there and going to school at Western. And we almost jokingly said, we should really just go back and play a show there. And then pretty much a week later we start actually talking about it with management and all these different people so it was a long process, but we made it happen. 

What Advice Would You Give Aspiring Musicians?

Clayton: Probably the best advice I could give is, it doesn't really matter what your major is. Whatever you're passionate about and even the things you're studying, they can all correlate with each other and they all impact each other. So I don't think you have to worry too much about what exactly you're majoring in if it's not exactly the life you see for yourself. You can do a lot of different things. Don't feel like you have to decide right now like you have to nail your path. And also, hone your craft. If you really are serious about something, spend the time to learn all the ins and outs of what you're doing. Trying production? Whatever program you're using, learn everything you can about it. Spend those hours because it'll make a big difference in the long run. 

On Their Songwriting Process

It always kind of varies from track to track, but for this last album, when we first started, we'd just kind of throw everything at the wall, as many ideas you can bring the table as possible is usually the best route. And then from there, you kind of narrow it down and figure out what the energy and vibe you're looking for, and you kind of dwindle it down more and more as time goes on. And then the last 15, 20 percent is a really hard part. That's kind of fine-tuning what you have, picking the elements that work, the sound design, getting everything to fit really well together and, of course, then on top of that is, you know finding the vocal features. And that process can take a long time as well... But yeah, so it usually starts with something pretty simple like just a basic chord progression or a simple melody, something that's kind of catching your ear, and then building it up and then trimming down what we think works and building some sort of structure from there.

Sound & Vision airs Saturday mornings at 7 AM PST. Hosted by Emily Fox and John Richards, the show "uses interviews, artistry, commentary, insight, and conversation to that tell broader stories through music, and illustrate why music and art matter."

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