If pop is sugar and the rest of us are flies, it’s safe to say that EDM has drunk the Kool-Aid. Alas, NYC duo SOFI TUKKER — née singer/guitarist Sophie Hawley-Weld and programmer Tucker Halpern — go unabashedly towards the infectious. With their minimalist approach to EDM and a penchant for incorporating world element into their music, the NYC based duo is releasing material that is resonating with a wide audience, also thanks to a dynamic live show that successfully breaks the rather static tendencies of the average electronic performance. We asked the duo a few questions about their gear and creative process.
Where are you guys from, and what brought you to NYC?
We came to NYC to pursue this dream of SOFI TUKKER. Sophie is from everywhere and nowhere, Tuck is from Boston. B Roc from The Knocks is the reason we ended up in NYC because he gave us the confidence to go for it.
What’s been inspiring the songs you included in your debut EP?
Everything. Our inspirations come from such different places, because our backgrounds are so different. Sophie is most influenced from Brazilian Bossa Nova and Tuck is most influenced by house music, since he was initially a DJ. Mixing different styles and sounds is what has made us excited about creating.
How does the chemistry in the band work, do you specialize in different things or do you wear different hats depending on the song?
We both do everything. Sophie is more of the lyric magician, and Tuck more the drum, bass, and production guy, but we are both present through the entire process and don’t make any decisions without the other. There is a clear spot in the middle of the venn diagram of our musical minds where SOFI TUKKER sits, and it’s always clear if the song is living in the right space or not. We can usually tell by our excitement.
Does the songwriting start directly on the DAW or do you sketch ideas with a real instrument first?
It depends on the songs. We have started some songs completely acoustically, others just riffing while rehearsing our live show, some from a drum part we made on the computer, others simply from a poem. The important part for us is that we have that one initial inspiration to build from and then we just take off.
What are the plug ins and “in the box” tools you abuse of?
We like to keep things as minimal as possible so that each little part can have its time to shine, even if it’s just a triangle or a bongo hit. So we don’t overpower the session with too many plug ins generally. (Tuck : ) I like playing with Soundtoys Echoboy, but I usually experiment with it and then dial it back to make it work in the mix. I also like to use Abelton’s native plug ins like the Multiband Compressors on vocals, and the standard EQ 8.Do you like synths (both real and virtual)? If so, which ones are blowing your mind these days?
I love synths, playing around with them and making different sounds is one of the most fun things to do. But in SOFI TUKKER production we actually don’t use much synth work. The one synth that is in almost all of our songs in the Moog Minitaur. It is my favorite instrument to create the right bass sounds. Most of the pad-like sounds in the songs are Sophie’s vocals that we use instead of synthesizers to create builds and drama within the songs. I am also a big fan of the Microkorg xl, which has found its way into a couple of our tracks as well.
Are there any real instruments, pieces of equipment or musical toys that lately made you rediscover the playful side of creating?
We hear sounds everyday that will give us the excitement and imagination to create something new.
Is there a person outside the band that’s been important in perfecting your recorded and/or live sound?
We like to keep it as much just us as possible to make sure the vision isn’t diluted.
You guys have a curious live set up, triggering pads set up high up, what made you think of that?
They are actually books. We built contact microphone triggers inside all of the books that are connected to the interface, go into the computer, and trigger different instruments and sounds for each song we play. We wanted to move around, use Tucker’s height, be physical, and not hunched over a controller or standard drum pad. We also wanted to make it different and something fun and new for people to see. We initially tried all sorts of things… fruits, coconuts, but the books ended up being the best. We use Brazilian poetry in some of our songs, so when we started, we were hitting Brazilian poetry books by the poet Chacal (whose poems are the lyrics to a few of the songs.)
With bands doing more of everything themselves these days (recording, performing, self-promoting, etc.) and the evermore multimedia nature of the world, how much effort do you put into the visual component of your band: fashion, styling, photography, graphic/web design, etc.?
We just try and be ourselves. We love expressing who we are, and we are continuously learning who we are! It’s fun to feel the freedom to just be what we want and make what we want to hear. The visual stuff is a bit harder because, unlike the music, we can’t just produce all of it ourselves just yet. But we are picky and try to have it all represent us as truly as we can.