Music Duo Sofi Tukker Talk Touring, Poetry, and Why They Never Hug

Music Duo Sofi Tukker Talk Touring, Poetry, and Why They Never Hug

Sofi Tukker won over audiences early on with their debut EP—which earned them a 2017 Grammy nomination for their first single, "Drinkee." V sits down with the duo for a candid conversation about where they're coming from—and what's coming next.

Sofi Tukker won over audiences early on with their debut EP—which earned them a 2017 Grammy nomination for their first single, "Drinkee." V sits down with the duo for a candid conversation about where they're coming from—and what's coming next.

Photography: Paul L Carter

Text: William Defebaugh

WILLIAM DEFEBAUGH How did you two meet?

SOPHIE HAWLEY-WELD We met in college, our senior year.

TUCKER HALPERN We were at Brown, doing very different things. I was playing basketball at Brown, and then I was a house music DJ and Sophie was doing whatever she was doing.

SHW [Laughs] He doesn't get me. I was studying conflict resolution and making music.

WD So did you start working  together when you were still in college, or was it after?

SHW We wrote “Drinkee” our last week, and that was the moment we were like,“Oh—”

TH “We should pursue this.”

WD And where are you based now?

SHW We are based in New York, but we’re probably only home like two or three days out of every month. I wish we were home more. We don’t wish we were home more, I didn’t mean that. We love being on the road.

WD How long have you been on the road?

TH For the past year really. And the next year—

SHW Year and a half.

Sofi Tukker

WD Tell me about your creative process. Who does what?

SHW We do everything together, we’re in the same room making decisions together. We both have to love every sound that comes out, and if we don’t, we scrap it. Even if one of us loves it and the other doesn’t.

TH Sophie does more of the writing, lyrical stuff, I do more of the sitting at the computer and the board stuff. But it blurs. If we’re both really feeling it, then we’ll keep going with the song.

WD Where do you find most of your inspiration?

SHW We’re definitely finding a lot of inspiration from being on the road. The first EP we made without ever having played live, so that was very different.

TH That inspiration was still for me a lot of the parties I would DJ in college, and after parties, and the way people move in different situations to different music, so even then [live performance] was still part of it. We didn’t make them for performing because we didn’t know how to perform yet, but now we get to take that into consideration too. We know what type of things really go off and make the crowd get excited, and we probably want to make more of that because it’s so fun for us when we’re on stage. Also traveling.

SHW Inspiration comes from everywhere. Obviously my lyrics are what I most care about in the moment and what I feel like I need to say.

WD And I understand a lot of your work is influenced by poetry as well.

SHW I mean, all of them are influenced by poetry in general because I love poetry, but in particular, the ones in Portuguese are actual poems. We’ve been collaborating with a contemporary poet in Brazil called Chacal—those are his poems. He’s sort of part of a group of poets from the '70s in Brazil, and we’ve been actually working with some of the other poets recently.

WD And I know you're a Mary Oliver fan.

SHW Yeah, so the title of our EP is from a Mary Oliver poem, “Wild Geese.” “You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.”

WD Who are some of your other favorite poets?

SHW Right now I’m really into Rumi and [Pablo] Neruda. The more romantic the better. But I just watched the movie [Neruda], and I was really upset. I didn’t like the way that he was portrayed. Have you seen it?

WD No.

SHW Don’t see it. It’s way better to think of him as a super romantic guy. It portrays him kind of in a weird light. He’s not that likable on purpose.

TH Maybe he’s not likable.

SHW Yeah I know, that’s the case, but I sort of like romanticizing him, you know? I was so upset.

WD So what does the EP as a whole mean to you? Is there a collective theme to it?

SHW I think it’s a coming-of-age story for us as a band.

TH It’s a coming-of-something. We were nothing before that. As a band, together, it’s us coming into the world as one. Putting our art and feelings—

SHW Into one person, who has one name.

TH Yeah, literally. It still changes every time we make a new song, it’s like where we are. That’s basically a snapshot of where we were at that moment right when we graduated college, trying to figure our lives out, growing a lot, learning a lot about ourselves, going through it.

WD How does it feel to have a Grammy nominated song with just one EP out?

SHW It feels ridiculous.

TH We were so, so, so, shocked.

WD Where were you when you found out?

TH: We were on a studio shoot. It was early in the morning, and Sophie walked around the corner with the weirdest look on her face walking towards me. I was like, “What happened?” I thought something really bad happened. She was like, “You’re not even going to believe this.”

SHW I got an email from our manager.

TH [Sophie] came and gave me a hug, and we like, rarely hug. That was pretty tight.

WD You two don’t hug much?

SHW No, never.

TH It’s because we're having a mental hug all the time. A constant hug. We’re hugging right now.

SHW [Laughs] Can’t you see?

WD I can see it. Are you working on a full-length record right now?

SHW Yeah, I mean we have enough songs for a full-length record. We’re going to start putting out some of the songs soon, but I don’t think we—

TH We probably won’t make it a full album. We’ll probably do another EP because of the way music is consumed these days.

SHW We don’t want them to get lost. We want people to hear all the things we care about.

TH If it was 12 songs that felt complete as unit, as Soft Animals did, then I feel like we’d still put it out as an album, but I think some of the songs go better together.

WD Is there anything you can tell us about the songs that haven’t been released it?

SHW We love them.

TH We love them so much.

SHW And we’re playing some of them live. I think we’ve learned so much about collaborating and songwriting. I feel very proud of them, and am really excited to play them and hear them. We make the music that we want to hear, so I think at this moment we’re really feeling like we made the music that we did want to hear.

TH If you don’t authentically love it, why would you expect anyone else to? These new ones kind of take the excitement to the next level. We are so excited about life and about every song.

WD How do you feel on stage performing? You mentioned when you started working on music you hadn’t.

SHW Oh my god. I feel like we didn’t necessarily know it about each other or even in general, but it turns out—

TH Tell them, how does it turn out?

SHW We love it. And we feel so at home on stage together. It is like our happy place.

TH We feel so comfortable on stage. You can be yourself so unapologetically, and do whatever. It’s been really good to have this year and a half or whatever it’s been to really figure it out and get comfortable, and now we can really connect with a big crowd, small crowds.

WD You're both wearing all white right now. Did you agree to that, or did it just happen?

SHW I almost always wear white.

TH When we’re on stage we wear white because when you’re against black backgrounds you kind of don’t stand out. I realized that because I used to wear black and she would wear all white and we were like this yin-yang thing, and then it was just Sophie [visible on stage]. So then I was like, “Fuck it. I’m going to wear white too.”

SHW I don’t wear all white all the time, but only when I’m performing, because also in kundalini yoga if you’re doing the practice, you always wear all white and you wear something on your head and you just enter into that zone. That got me really excited. I remember seeing one of my favorite performers wear an all-white suit, and all signs pointed to me wearing all white all the time. We sort of followed suit.

Sofi Tukker is on tour in North America now—find dates here.

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