Bio : ODESZA
After more than 10 years, four studio albums, three Grammy nominations and massive world tours; Harrison Mills and Clayton Knight are more personal than ever with their brilliant fourth album: ‘The Last Goodbye’.
Better known to fans as ODESZA, the electronic duo returned in 2022 from a four-year hiatus with ‘The Last Goodbye’.
The project is poignant yet approachable, tackling heady concepts of life and deeper meaning through the guise of danceable grooves, primed for communal consumption.
It’s a return to force that proved full circle for the band. It merges the group’s early sampling days with its modern cinematic era, with glimpses of deftly placed hints of home movies, their parents’ voices, hypnotherapy sessions and emotional narratives to tie it all together.
“There’s a celebratory atmosphere,” Knight says. “‘A Moment Apart’ was more about taking a step back from the group and being introspective, where as this one feels more about coming back to life as a group.”
Euphoric as it is, ‘The Last Goodbye’ is also full of incredibly intimate reflection. Just as the band wrapped the grand finale of its global A Moment Apart tour, the world was forced into quarantine. The sudden stop forced Knight and Mills to go inward, and they began to contemplate who they are and where they came from – for which this record is a reflection of.
Mills and Knight met at Western Washington University, brought together by mutual friend (and current ODESZA creative) Sean Kusanagi. It was an instant meeting of the minds. In their first two-hour session, they created the track “How Did I Get Here,” and they pretty much never stopped until the release of debut LP ‘Summer’s Gone’, which was quite a surprise to them both, as design and physics majors, respectively, who had envisioned very different career paths for themselves.
“We both thought making that record was going to be like our last hurrah to goof around before we had to settle down, start trying to find jobs, etc.,” Mills says. “That’s why it sounds so carefree.”
ODESZA crafted a unique sound, partially because they didn’t know what they were really doing, but mainly because they didn’t really care. The ODESZA project has always been one of exploration for the two. Soundcloud streams brought interest from artists they admired, which in turn brought tour bookings. Before they knew it, they were living permanently on the road.
“Right around the time ‘Sun Models’ came out I was like, ‘okay, maybe we're on to something,” Knight recalls. “We were really interested in taking organic sounds and using electronic production techniques to manipulate them, chop stuff up in an almost hip-hop based style with electronic synths backing it.”
The ODESZA sound solidified around expansive, hopeful, and summery melodies on sophomore LP ‘In Return’. Third album ‘A Moment Apart’ was born of an aspiration to push themselves to another creative level: to use that hallmark production as the foundation to create musical narratives with cinematic wonder, original vocals and anthemic possibilities.
The experiment was a success, redefining ODESZA apart from being just another EDM act but rather as an artistic project with crossover appeal – one that pushed boundaries and transcended different spaces. The result? A project that drew in and resonated with fans across every lane. ‘A Moment Apart’ reached No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 200, and earned Grammy nominations for Best Dance/Electronic Album and Best Dance Recording.
“It was one piece of the bigger puzzle; a stepping stone for us coming from the sample-based world and trying to lean a little bit more on the pop sound,” Knight says. “Every new album takes what you have in the past and reinterprets it using new techniques or processes to revamp, rethink and explore a new direction — but also not losing where you came from.”
It also gave the group space to evolve its live show from two guys behind a table to a full-fledged audio/video experience, complete with a full, live drum line, a horn section, live vocalists, and renowned live visuals. During their 2018 performance at Coachella, they even pulled out an infamous drone formation display to light up the sky. In consequence, their live show has become nothing short of legendary.
Magical as the tour and success had been, the aftermath of ‘A Moment Apart’ led ODESZA to seek something entirely different. The result? A collaborative project with Australian producer Golden Features called BRONSON.
“That was really fun,” Mills says, “to just lean into sounds we weren't comfortable knowing how to make. Working on something with no preconceived notions of how it should or shouldn’t sound. It just took us out of our comfort zone, and now we're approaching the new record with more of an arsenal and a skill set. It made us better producers.”
Revitalized by the freedom the BRONSON project had afforded, ODESZA returned to the studio to craft ‘The Last Goodbye’. Mills and Knight strived to approach this album differently – creating an album inspired by relics of the past, dance, soul, with a twinge of indie/pop – and everything in between. The album feels full – and celebratory in nature. They kept things fresh and fun, buying new synthesizers and making one weird sound with which to form a song around. Emboldened by the lessons of ‘A Moment Apart’, they pushed themselves to incorporate that same air of grandeur and marry it with the house-focused rhythms and sampling techniques of their earlier efforts.
Conceptually, too, the album is somewhat of a homecoming for the duo.
“It had to start with us and how we were feeling in our lives,” Mills says, “what we've experienced but also in a way that makes it feel ambiguous as to whose story it really is.”
Coming from nearly 4+ years of nonstop touring on the road to complete lockdown was a shock to their systems. Much like everyone, they spent time reflecting on what really proved important – their family, friends and those they hold close. They dug up old photographs and rewatched home movies from their childhood, only to see themselves in the faces of their loved ones.
Those vintage echoes of the past which felt so much like mirrors of the present became the backbone of the project, and the cyclical nature of life became a guiding light for creation.
“The Last Goodbye,” which takes its name and vocal from a sample of Bettye LaVette’s 1965 song “Let Me Down Easy,” was one of the first songs ODESZA finished. It felt right to make it the lead single, then the album title track, encapsulating so many of the sentiments the band tries to make sense of throughout the project.
When Harrison asked his mother what she thought the phrase meant, her sentiment echoed the duo’s intention completely: that there’s no such thing as a final farewell, because the people, places, and things we cherish live on in an ever-present chain of love. We reverberate through one another.
“We just kept finding these little things and it just kept feeling like a part of what the record was trying to say,” Mills says. “We felt so honored that Bettye allowed us to re-imagine that song. Being released in the 1960s, we think she felt it had had its moment in the sun, so to get the opportunity to shine a different light on her incredible vocals anew - to share in that with such a legendary artist – that was one of the more special and meaningful parts of creating this project” – it wasn’t the last goodbye for that song. It lived on through another cycle, through a new interpretation, and we just have to go with what it is. [The name] decided itself, and we couldn’t stand in the way of what this record was becoming.”
‘The Last Goodbye’ received a GRAMMY nomination for Best Electronic/Dance Album, and earned praise from The New York Times, Billboard, Pitchfork, Associated Press, CLASH, Dancing Astronaut, and many more. The album also debuted at no. 2 on the Billboard Top Dance/Electronic Albums Chart, and received Times Square billboards in NYC from Spotify, Amazon, and YouTube. The album’s releases and subsequent success has led to over 200m streams, pushing the group’s overall total streaming number to surpass 5.5B.
Following its release, ODESZA embarked on their “The Last Goodbye Tour” -- the first of its kind for an electronic act with the duo bringing their cinematic live show to amphitheaters around the country (450k tickets were sold throughout its run with numerous sold-out, multi-night runs including in their hometown of Seattle at Climate Pledge Arena, LA’s The Forum, New York’s Forest Hills Stadium, San Francisco’s Shoreline Amphitheater and more).
Tracks off the album also received high-profile syncs with Apple, GoPro, Insta360, Sony Playstation, and much more, while also serving as a center point for an activation at HP’s Arctic Dome at the 2022 Coachella, and more.
More is still to come from ODESZA in 2023 as well…