Meet Sofi Tukker in the Treehouse [INTERVIEW]
Sofi Tukker’s debut album Treehouse is out now via Ultra Records
Unless you’ve spent the last few years living under a rock, you’ve undoubtedly encountered the vibrant jungle pop of Sofi Tukker. The New York City-based duo, comprised of Sophie Hawley-Weld and Tucker Halpern, has been on a steadfast path to success since releasing their debut single “Drinkee” in 2016. The song, which was later featured on their EP Soft Animals, was an international triumph — amassing nearly 50 million Spotify streams, charting in Italy and Australia, and ultimately earning the duo their first Grammy nomination for Best Dance Recording in 2017. Since then, the duo continues to relentlessly refine their unique brand of pulsing electronica, cutting their teeth on a spectrum of singles and pounding remixes, touring the world as headliners and alongside some of the biggest names in music, and alluring millions of fans in the process.
Now, following an unprecedented year for the duo, Sofi Tukker has released their debut album Treehouse via Ultra Records. Like Soft Animals, the new album finds the duo blending their charming and at times whimsical bilingual lyrics with thumping house-inspired beats and an overabundance of diverse influences and sounds. It’s a known recipe for success and one that unapologetically courses through the veins of tracks like “Fuck They,” “Best Friend,” “Batshit,” and “Energia.” The album, however, also presents an interesting and valuable paradigm shift — with Sofi Tukker finding solace in midtempo and dreamy songs like “Benadryl” and “The Dare,” and a darker rock tinge on the previously-released and FIFA ’17-featured track “Johny.” Though the album is only 30 minutes long, Sofi Tukker successfully manages to demonstrate their sophisticated worldly influences in an exciting and accessible way. It’s an overall strong first effort for a group happily playing by their own rules.
Following performances at Okeechobee, Estéreo Picnic, and Lollapalooza Brazil — Sofi Tukker kicked off the first leg of their North American tour in support of Treehouse. We caught up with the rising artists on the first night of their tour, moments before rocking a voracious and sold-out crowd at DC’s iconic music venue, 9:30 Club. The U.S. leg of the tour will go through May before the duo runs off to Europe through September. A majority of the US dates are already sold out, but if you can still grab tickets in your city, you absolutely should.
First off, congratulations on the release of your debut album, Treehouse. How does it feel to finally have your first full-length release out in the world?
S: It feels really good to share more of ourselves. I think giving people an even bigger picture of who we are and what we’re about is just really gratifying.
T: We’ve been so busy. It came out right as we were preparing this new show, and had just gotten back from touring in South America. We’ve been a little hectic, so I don’t think we’ve been able to enjoy it that much. I mean, we’re enjoying it, but we’re also busy so we’re not celebrating and partying. We’re more just like “yay” – but also have to keep going.
I know you were just saying you’re constantly on-the-go and running, but you’ve also previously mentioned being in constant “create” mode — even while on vacation. Did having that content make creating the album any easier?
S: It’s funny because I feel like most people would think that it would make it harder, but I do think it made it easier. We get so inspired when we’re on-the-go, on the move, and meeting people.
T: We didn’t take time off to write this album, we’ve just written it over the past year and a half that we’ve been on tour. Actually, longer ago really because we’ve been writing a lot of new stuff that will be the next album or whatever it is — already for a while. So it’s just sort of like we’re just constantly on the go, constantly being inspired, and constantly making shit. And this group of things felt like a good — “tie the bow around it” — moment and a clear era. That’s a thing in itself and the new stuff is a different thing. So we were like “okay, here’s an album, let’s do it.”
So even though creating the album felt easier, were there any major hurdles you faced taking on this album that you didn’t experience while creating Soft Animals?
S: Well, one of the cool things about the way we’re operating is that it’s not like we have a label that’s saying “you need to deliver an album on April 1st of 2018,” we’re just making things and enjoying making them and if at a certain point we feel like we have an album, then we have an album. But it’s not like we’re under any time pressure.
T: Yeah, we didn’t have to make an album.
S: No, we didn’t have to do anything.
T: What are you saying? We had to make an album? [laughs]
Yes, that is exactly what I’m getting at right now… and when is the next one coming out?
T: Ha, Fuck They, but yeah, I’m saying the same thing.
S: But, seriously, it would be challenging if there was a record label saying “so have you delivered your album?” — that’s just not how we work, so its been really fun not to have to.
So, the first two releases have been pretty light-hearted, fun, and in-your-face with robust melodies. I love the electronic carnaval vibes and undertones that I get from both efforts. Do you ever see yourselves trying a different sound completely or wanting to experiment with something completely new?
S: Definitely, we’re experimenting all the time.
T: Yeah, I think it’s always going to be like that. From Soft Animals to Treehouse, we tried a lot of different stuff. We did some rockier darker stuff, we did some punkier stuff, we did some banger-y stuff, more than the first EP.
S: I think there’s definitely some more vulnerable and emotional songs on this album, too.
S/T: Like, with Benadryl – yeah.
I love everything about “Benadryl.” That’s been my stand-out favorite so far.
T: Oh good, we love hearing what peoples’ favorites are. That one is a high contender for a lot of people I think.
S: I think they’re like “wait, what? You’re making an emotional song… what’s this?!”
T: Yeah, and we have some awesome content for that song that we will definitely put out at some point, whenever we’re ready to focus more eyes on that song in particular, but we do love that song.
S: We do.
So, now that we’re running through the tracks, I want to go back to the album opener “Fuck They,” which carries a distinct vibe and in my opinion, has a very straight-forward meaning. Was there something about the message you felt necessitated it being track one?
T: I remember when we first started talking about it, I think someone had said that it’s a bit risky for a first song because it’s the type of song that will turn some people off and we were like fuck they.
S: Yeah, literally!
T: And the conversation was over after that.
That’s amazing. After “Fuck They,” there are a handful of Portuguese-driven tracks like “Energia” and later “The Dare.” As you continue to develop as a group, are there other languages you want to experiment with?
S: Yeah! We actually just wrote a song in German, which is fun because I was born there and I speak German. I also really want to learn French — I’m just putting that out there. I think Spanish is also a natural progression that I feel pretty drawn to. I think those ones will happen first, but I also think what if one day we did a song in Arabic. That’s what I’ve been thinking, but just putting it out there.
T: It would be a lot easier to do a song in Arabic with an artist who sings in Arabic, so you don’t have to go learn the language.
S: Yeah, we put Japanese into a song without me having to learn it. I think I would probably learn French, Spanish, and German for songs.
So, it seems as though your relationship with Apple continues to grow stronger with each passing release. In September, your single “Best Friend” helped debut the long-anticipated iPhone X. Now, your newest single “Batshit” is the soundtrack for the release of the new (Product)RED iPhone 8. What’s it like to collaborate with such an iconic company and to hear your songs on their commercials around the world?
S: No kidding, we are so grateful.
T: It’s fucking amazing. Every time, we’re like “no fucking way, like really??, how sick.” It’s an amazing way to get our music out to so many people who otherwise wouldn’t hear it. It’s sort of just in daily life. I’ll unintentionally hear our songs now if I’m watching a basketball game or something else. My dad has texted us like 5 times every day because there are so many NBA playoffs and hockey playoffs going on right now, and he’s just been watching the TV a lot and it’s just on all the time. He’s like “it’s weird to hear your voice on this every day,” it’s pretty wild.
Especially now with “Batshit”…
T: And it’s my voice! It’s too much.
It’s your first time as the lead vocalist on a track, right? Can we expect more of that in the future? I thought that was such a cool touch.
[Tucker begins to sing the opening lines of “Batshit.”]
S: Yeah, you can! We’ve written a bunch of new songs with Tucker’s vocals on them.
T: Yeah, I do a little singing. Actual singing on one song, but we’ll see how that goes. “Batshit” is just really fun because it’s just like my personality. We were kind of making it, being ridiculous and having fun. Like, fuck it, let’s try something and then we were just like “oh… it’s a song.” Definitely didn’t think Apple would want that in a commercial, not the intention at all.
S: Well, we had to make a clean version because of it. Honestly, we were stumped. We were like “nah, we don’t know how to make a clean version of that song.”
T: We were almost like “nah it’s lame,” but we had to.
Well, I think that beat speaks for itself. I think you could even listen to an instrumental version and be really content with it.
T: Yeah, people seem to really like the instrumental, the guitar is so popular.
Do you find it all funny or ironic, given how you first met and started working together, that one of your biggest singles to-date is “Best Friend”?
S: I think that song just has a really good karma. It started from such a beautiful place, celebrating friendship, and getting all of our friends on a track just for fun without thinking anything of it.
T: It’s just the vibe. It’s really our vibe and that song sort of personifies it. Our whole thing is bringing everyone up and letting everyone shine. Getting our friends on a track felt like the obvious thing to do for a track about friendship. It just made sense.
Okay, I just have one more question about a song that’s on the album.
T: Let me guess.
S: Which one? I know which one it’s going to be.
T: I think it’s “My Body Hurts” or “Good Time Girl.”
S: Well, of course, it’s going to be one of those two.
It is one of those two, but why do you say that?
S: Because those are the only other two that we haven’t released prior.
T: Is it?
S: Yeah, and we talked about “The Dare” a minute ago.
That’s fair. So, the album reintroduces the song “Good Time Girl,” which was once part of your live show before being pulled and re-done from scratch. What about the song did you want to change before re-releasing?
T: Whoa, wow. Did you hear the other version?!
S: Yeah! Wow – that’s crazy. Honestly, there’s a part of me that regrets this moment because in the original there’s this line and it’s so… every time I hear it, I get kind of uncomfortable, but I kind of wish we had kept it on the track. So, we might have to re-release the old one. But I say on it “I forget where the ground is sometimes / that’s partly why I like to have a body on top of mine / am I putting you in an uncomfortable position?” and every time I hear it, I’m like “I’m so uncomfortable.” But it was just like a really aggressive rocky version of it and I think when we revisited the song, especially with where we were at then, we were kind of in a rocky-aggressive phase and then we weren’t in that phase, and we kept listening to it and thought it just didn’t fit.
T: Also, when we were kind of in the grand scheme of the album, because we knew there was an album there when this happened, we already had “Baby, I’m a Queen,” “Johny,” “My Body Hurts,” and it was like the album wouldn’t have represented us correctly if there was that much aggression.
S: Yeah, we wanted to make something a little lighter.
T: And then we put our friend Charlie Barker on it.
S: Yeah, so it was perfect.
So, its the first night of your U.S. tour in support of Treehouse. What are you most looking forward to this tour?
S: I’m really looking forward to everything.
T: My favorite part about this tour is that we don’t fly at all, we’re on the bus the whole time and we don’t have houses anymore because we’re always touring, so I get to actually be in one bed for two months, which won’t happen unless we’re on a tour on one bus or something. Which is kind of unusual with no flying, and we filled it up with a lot of the people that we love. Even last night, Neil and Justina, who are our managers, were with us and we were just in a space of excitement with all of these people and we’re all so excited. We’re going on a mission together to go put on these great moments every night, and yes we’ll be tired, but it’s just so good.
S: Like a camp, or a slumber party, like an extended slumber party where you’re like “hey you guys, let’s write some songs and then let’s tour around the world together in a slumber party sharing it with new friends every night.
T: It’s like kids in a Treehouse, you know??
S: Are you kidding me? You know!
[Tucker attempts to drop a Cardi B *okurrrr*]
S: Oh my God – stop. He can’t do it!
T: I’m trying to do the Cardi B joint, and I can’t do it.
[A few attempts are made by everyone in the room]
Last question, Tucker, we know you love Die Antwoord. If you could remix one of their songs, which would you choose?
T: Hmm.. maybe “Baby’s on Fire.”
Sofi Tukker is on tour through September, be sure to check out the full list of dates to catch them in your city. Treehouse is available on all streaming services.