Performing on Coachella Sundays
By Noe Gutierrez
Grammy-nominated for the 2018 Best Dance/Electronic Album for Treehouse and 2016 Best Dance Recording for Drinkee, the potent musical duo SofI Tukker are graciously returning to the 2019 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. Coachella Valley Weekly was enlightened by the wide-ranging conversation as we spoke via Bluetooth as they drove to rehearsal for a show in Phoenix as they properly prepare for the “big stage” once again.
CVW: This is your second time performing at Coachella. Does the excitement taper off?
Sophie: “We’re so excited! We’ve been looking forward to this for a long time. We’ve been preparing for a long time too. We’re playing on Coachella Sundays!”
Tucker: “We played Coachella in 2017 around 3 p.m. We learned about the desert heat last time for sure. I think it will be a little cooler this time so it should be nice.”
CVW: One thing that sets Sofi Tukker apart is the use of multi-instrumentation in your live shows. How do you predetermine what you will do on stage?
Sophie: “We’re kind of a cross between a lot of things. And sometimes we play DJ and dance festivals and sometimes it’s like the live band for a stage or festival. We straddle the line between the two. We’ve been working on our visuals for a long time and we’re going to be debuting it at Coachella 2019.”
Tucker: “The difference between us and other dance/DJ artists is we’re actually up there playing. Sophie’s playing guitar and singing, I’m playing bass hitting the ‘thing’. We have this big sculpture; we call it the The Book Tree. We’re gonna be revealing the new version of it at Coachella and it’s basically this giant sculpture in the middle of the stage that we hit with drum sticks that triggers different sounds. We have performance art. We are very active, we don’t hang around controllers, we try to make electronic music as interactive and live as possible and also still go crazy and still have it be a big dance party. We also do a DJ set that we have done at some festivals. This is gonna be our real live 2.0 show.”
CVW: Your new song Fantasy is great and it sounds like it will go over well at Coachella. Any more new music on the horizon?
Sophie: “We’ve got a lot of new music coming. We just released Fantasy a couple weeks ago and we’re following up with a bunch of new music. We’re just unrolling in that phase of our musical lives now.”
CVW: What’s on your agenda for your break between Coachellas?
Sophie: “We played other shows last time but this time we’re gonna hang out a little bit.”
Tucker: “We’re gonna go back to L.A. we have some sessions and will work on some songs. We’re not gonna be touring so it will be a little more relaxed. The day after the second weekend of Coachella we leave for a month to tour Australia. We’re gonna try and rack up a little sleep in between the two weekends.”
CVW: What was it like early on for you two pre-Sofi Tukker?
Sophie: “We met our senior year at Brown University. Tucker would say he was majoring in ‘basketball’, ha ha.”
Tucker: “I actually majored in history of art and architecture but I went there to play basketball.”
Sophie: “I was studying a lot of different things. I majored in conflict resolution and I was studying Portuguese.”
Tucker: “Well I played small forward and shot a lot of 3s.”
CVW: Sofi Tukker continues to expand the art of music making. Where do you see your musical march taking you? Is there a journey’s end?
Tucker: “From our point of view, we still feel we have so far to go and we still have so many goals to reach. I just think we’re people who will always have more goals, more things we want to do and more people we want to connect with and make more impact. Luckily for us there’s no issue for having the drive or wanting to work hard for it because that’s just who we are. We’ve been touring for three years straight now and we don’t really stop and we don’t really plan to, we just want to keep building and building. We just feel we have a really long way to go so there’s no issue in becoming content.”
Sophie: “I think that’s part of what makes what we love so much better as a band. We come from such different places when we meet in the middle, that’s what Sofi Tukker is. I can’t even imagine having a third or fourth person because that’s the whole point of our band is that it’s exactly where the two of us meet.”
CVW: Has there been any significant artistic discord and when that has happened, how have you resolved any conflict?
Sophie: “We’re pretty good at talking through things. Creatively if disagreement happens, we usually scrap it. If we don’t both love something than we are not going to do it.”
Tucker: “There’s no compromising. If one person loves it and the other one doesn’t then it’s not a Sofi Tukker song.”
CVW: Our desert music community is increasingly wide-ranging and we’re seeing many artists flourish because of the community support they receive. Did either of you have that prior to or in the early days of Sofi Tukker?
Tucker: “I wasn’t really involved in the music community growing up, I was just focused on basketball and being an athlete. I was just in a different culture and world. I grew up in Boston so there was nothing like Coachella around.”
Sophie: “I moved around a lot. At my schools, there were other people making music but I didn’t live anywhere long enough where the music scene could be a big part of my life. We also started quite late.”
Tucker: “I didn’t make music until I was a junior in college. I really switched out my whole identity and just started focusing on music. I had some close friends support and some family and my parents for sure but definitely had a lot of people saying, ‘that’s not your thing, what are you doing?’ And, ‘you can’t’ just totally fit in and do something else from what you’ve spent doing your whole life’. It was a weird time for me; I was like, ‘why not?’ ‘Sure you can!’ It was an interesting time.”
CVW: There’s no way around the elephant in the room. Where does Sofi Tukker fit in the music world?
Tucker: “One of the more fascinating things about us is we don’t exactly fit into a genre. It’s sort of like in high school where the people that are friends with all the groups but not necessarily in one of the friend groups. We’re cool with everyone, that’s sort of how we are in the music scene. It’s hard to pick what genre we are in, we keep making new things that are confusing it even more, and we kind of like that. We don’t feel limited and we don’t feel restricted to certain sounds and to certain instruments. Genres get so specific, especially with dance music these days. It’s a fun thing that we don’t fit in. I think it matches up with our personalities too because I didn’t fit in as an athlete, Sophie didn’t fit in whatever she was doing, Ha Ha!”
CVW: Are there any basketball techniques or intelligence that can be transposed to the music world?
Tucker: “The broader answer to that question is I‘ve been shocked as to how many crossover skills that I think we benefit from my basketball life. The most important basic one is hard work and working through pain. We would wake up at 4 am and go run stadiums until you threw up, lift, go to class, back to practice for four hours, ice bath, get done and have an hour to try to study before you fall asleep then do it again. Just going through that and that being normal life when I got into this, I was like, jeez, I could sit in the studio for forty hours and I’m more comfortable than when I am running stadiums with a grown man screaming in my face. When we first started getting in the studio I remember Sophie was like, ‘I’m getting tired’, and I was like ‘so! We can push through a little bit’. She really adapted to that quickly.”
Sophie: “I still really believe in sleep!”
Tucker: “Ha Ha! We’re very health conscious and we try to take care of ourselves the best we can. Sophie has definitely rubbed off on me in other ways. It’s just the idea of working harder than everyone else. It’s not a competitive thing. I’m still from a competitive world. The beauty of this (music) is a lot of teams can win at once. You don’t have to have a loser necessarily. We go out every night and we play a game, we warm up and we work out before the shows, we go out and play and we can win every game. There’s no team across from us trying to make us lose, that’s a beautiful thing. But also, in my head, I’m still like, ‘you know what, when I’m not working, someone else is working and getting better’. That was always something that was put in my head from basketball and I think that mindset is still good to have.”
CVW: I’m just kind of blown away by how you two approach Sofi Tukker and each other. We could all learn a lot about music and life from you two and your relationship.
Tucker: “The music is definitely coming from a really cool friendship. We fill in the gaps where the other one is in need. We’ve learned a lot from each other.”
Sophie: “We also talk each other up pretty well. We’re very excitable but when the other gets excited and eggs the other person on we’re a force.”
Tucker: “It’s contagious positivity!”