Going Focus: Sofi Tukker
Months after its official release, Sofi Tukker‘s debut single Drinkee has gone viral in Italy, thanks to the support of one of our biggest mainstream radio. They’re not exactly the usual Italian cup of tea, so their success here can only make us happy, even if it still seems some weird joke. Meanwhile the NYC-based experimental pop duo had moved on, paving the way for the release of a new EP titled Soft Animals. Sofi Tukker’s kaleidoscopic sound, as much as their aesthetic, can hardly be limited within the usual boundaries, so we thought it was a good idea to ask a few questions to Sophie Hawley-Weld and Tucker Halpern to better understand the personality of this promising duo.
Going Solo: Let’s start from the beginning. How did Sophie and Tucker meet and eventually formed Sofi Tukker?
We met our senior year at college (we both went to Brown). Tucker was DJing and Sophie was writing acoustic bossa nova music but when we met we were inspired to fuse our influences together. We started making music together right away but didn’t become good friends until after we moved to New York together!
When The Knocks enter in the equation? I guess their support has been vital for you your early days.
Tucker opened for the Knocks at a DJ set in Providence and they became good friends. It was Ben of the Knocks who encouraged us to pursue SOFI TUKKER and helped convince Sophie to move to New York so that we could work out of their studio (Heavy Roc) in Chinatown.
You’re based in NYC, but you’re music is tinged with so many influences that it turns out to be hard to confine you in a single place. For example, the use of Charango in Matadora is quite singular. What this instrument adds to the melody of your music?
That part was taken from a recording that Sophie’s friend made of herself playing the charango and recording it on her iPhone. It was actually recorded in Rio but the instrument is traditional Andean. When we heard it, we were so inspired. We chopped it up and moved it around until the Matadora part was born!
How do you usually work on a song? Who’s the lyricist, who’s the beatmaker… you’re 100% collaborative on everything or you just meet halfway with your ideas?
We are 100% collaborative and our best work happens when we are both in the studio together. Often, we can’t remember who came up with what part. We are giving each other feedback on everything we do, so even though Tucker is at the computer and Sophie is writing in a notebook, the lines are blurred.
Another source of inspiration is the brazilian poet Chacal, whose words can be heard on your first single (and massive hit) Drinkee. Poetry and arts in general seem to be something that goes hand in hand with your music. What you can tell us about this collaboration and the impact that arts and the surrounding environment have on your songwriting?
(Sophie) I met Chacal at Brown and was inspired by his word play. Portuguese is such a sensual language and it lends itself so well to music.
(Tucker) We are always being inspired by our environment. Especially when we are on tour, watching people’s reactions and witnessing what makes people want to move and dance influences us a lot when we get back into the studio.
(ST) We are currently in Florida, spending the days in between the studio and the ocean. We hope you will get a sense of that energy when listening to the music!
I think the most charming aspect of Sofi Tukker it the ability to melt so many elements into a song without screwing everything up! I mean, it would be so easy to make a huge mess blending Portuguese lyrics, South American instrumentals, tribal percussions (which in Hey Lion has something that reminds me of African world music) and throbbing bass. But you can do that and even well! What’s your secret?
We make the music that we want to listen to!
By the way, Hey Lion is my favorite from you. Speaking about it, you said that it is like the “opening chant to Soft Animals (Sofi Tukker upcoming debut EP nda)…we want to welcome people into our version of this animal-world, where strength is soft and nobody is boss.” I’m just curious about your animal-world. What are its ingredients? Have you ever thought that your idea goes exactly in the opposite direction to the nature’s laws?
Perhaps. But in other ways, it is nature’s law! If we think about moss, for example… it is a species that does not compete with any other. It thrives and has been around for centuries precisely because it is not competing with any other species. And it is very soft!!
We are always being inspired by our environment. Especially when we are on tour, watching people’s reactions and witnessing what makes people want to move and dance influences us a lot when we get back into the studio. Sofi Tukker
You recently performed at SXSW, which is basically the “place to be” for artists every year in March. How did it go? Did you discover any new artists while you were there?
SXSW was amazing. The crowds were so responsive and we really enjoyed watching everyone move while we were performing! It was a really nice symbiotic experience, we got so much excitement from the good energy we encountered in Austin. We didn’t end up getting to see that much but we loved a lot of the bands playing before us! Kill J was really great!
Before SXSW, you also performed in Rome, Italy, for Radio DeeJay’s birthday party, which is the exact opposite of the Texan festival. How was that experience? Moreover, how did it happen that you became famous in Italy? Trust me when I’m saying that’s not easy at all, especially for a band that has not even a LP out.
Haha we don’t know, that is a question we are asking ourselves too! Our record label, Ego, is really amazing and they believed in us early! Rome was absolutely surreal. It was a special feeling to hear our song sung back to us by such an enormous crowd… we feel very lucky and hope to return to Italy soon again!
I spotted Sophie answering in a fluent Italian on Sofi Tukker’s Facebook page. I discovered then that she attended University in Italy. Where exactly? What memories do you have of that period?
(Sophie) I went to il Collegio del Mondo Unito Dell’Adriatico in Duino between ages 16-18. I have so many beautiful memories from that period… I was lucky to meet amazing people – students from over 100 countries! – and to share many fascinating discussions and Italian meals together with them! I also joined an Italian women’s soccer league in Monfalcone. That helped my Italian, but I am very out of practice.