Sofi Tukker Dance to the Beat of Their Own Drum
The twice Grammy-nominated duo just dropped "Mi Rumba", a contagious dance track alongside major producer, Zhu.
The twice Grammy-nominated duo just dropped "Mi Rumba", a contagious dance track alongside major producer, Zhu.
Text: Brandon Tan
Across Sao Paolo stages to Apple commercials, Sofi Tukker's vibrant tracks are heard across the world. Recognized for their mastering of rhythm and beat, the young duo's debut album, Treehouse, is now nominated for a Grammy for Best Dance/Electronic Album. While nominated within a genre, the duo prides itself in defying category with a global perspective. Toting their all-inclusive attitude with their classification-resistant tunes, Sophie Hawley-Weld and Tucker Halpern perform around the world with an album that has placed on the charts everywhere but Antarctica.
Today, the duo releases "Mi Rumba", a track with esteemed producer, Zhu. The duo discloses that it's the first time they've worked with Zhu, though the seamless collaboration speaks to a fostered relationship. That's because it is. "We tend to collaborate with people that we are already friends with, and then the friendship comes first and then we hang out in the studio and then something happens." Sofi Tukker brings back an authenticity that is endangered to the industry where followers and celebrity take precedence over organic work.
"Mi Rumba" is the fruit of artistic labor. "A dirty baby," if you will. "It was just like fun because ZHU is a really good producer and we both wanted to integrate what the other people do best and we just made this thing that sounds a lot like the two different sort of Zhu and Sofi Tukker, and if they had a baby, like a dirty baby," Halpern puts it clearly. Forging together the best qualities of two creative entities, the artists brought unto the world an incredible dance track whose dancing spell is impossible to ignore.
Read the full interview with Sofi Tukker below and take a listen to "Mi Rumba", but good luck sitting still.
Firstly, congrats on the Grammy nomination! It's your second one. Does this feel any different than the first?
Tukker: Yeah, I feel like it feels a lot different actually. The Grammys were never even considered as a goal the first time. The first time was so crazy and surprising. We were more like aware of the whole thing and nominations, but the first time we were so blindsided and were still shocked this time. And we’re not at all expecting it but we’re so, so excited. But at least we knew the process a little more because we sort have been through it. It was a little different, but it feels really, really good. It almost feels better.
Sophie: It’s like a whole body of work. We’ve showed so many sides of who we are in the album. It just feels really good to be acknowledged for a whole body of work. And we’ve felt acknowledged before, just the fact that anyone is listening to our music is already just like something that we are really grateful for. It is not our goal, but when it does happen it does feel really wonderful.
Yeah, that’s really cool. I realized the last one was for Drinkee right? Which was a single, and now this one is for a whole body of work. And when you describe it like that, obviously it means a lot to you that it is for this one singular project, Treehouse, that puts together all these different tracks. So, what does Treehouse embody for you as a whole?
T: Yeah, I think one of the reasons we also feel so special is because Treehouse has sort of really become an example of really what were about. And the reason we made the album name Treehouse is because we wanted it to be like a sort of metaphorical, architectural place where you can sort of go and be transported and be your childhood self. And like you’re making the rules, your friends are there, and you are really being yourself. And it is like this safe space. And that fact that that’s up for the reward. I think also the past couple of years we have realized that that’s something so important to Sofi Tukker as a whole and as what we’re trying to do with the world and holding a space in the world. And that is what makes it extra exciting for us that something like that and means that can get a little extra shine. Because we find that important, and we want to share and want to keep inviting people into.
Right, and its perception obviously resonates with the public you know? So, 2018 was a really big year for you guys considering the nomination and releasing the album. Now you start off 2019 with "Mi Rumba"! How did the project kind of come about?
S: We had never worked with each other, but it was really organic. I forget exactly who met who and exactly how it happened. But somehow, we ended up at a studio in LA. It was one of those things where we sat and talked about music for a long time and we talked about electronic music and how it’s changing and what we love about it. We found a lot of common ground in what we love so much about music and then we just started creating and it happened really quickly. We were in a really quirky mood and made something pretty funny. We were dancing around the studio laughing the whole time and then we were like “okay, well that was fun.”
T: It’s really fun to go in and create something with someone that you’re like mutually fans of each other and you kind of respect what each other does. It was just like fun because ZHU is a really good producer and we both wanted to integrate what the other people do best and we just made this thing that sounds a lot like the two different sort of Zhu and Sofi Tukker, and if they had a baby, like a dirty baby. It was kind of like what would come out of it. It’s like a dirty baby. And it’s fun to just go in and find out what comes from the sex of those two artists. You don’t know what’s going to happen and when we came out of it, I at least felt like that kind of makes sense. And I love it because obviously we make music we really love and what we really want to hear. And we wanted to hear what he had to make too, so it was just fun.
S: It was definitely a new side of us too, which was fun.
Right, I mean you guys collaborate with a ton of artists. Does it always happen organically, where the product becomes the sound of the two different entities coming together?
S: Yeah, I would say it almost always is and we tend to collaborate with people that we are already friends with, and then the friendship comes first and then we hang out in the studio and then something happens. But now we’ve had a lot of experience with different collaborations and it’s always just really fun to have no idea what is about to happen.
T: And it’s so cool. We only worked with people that we really are friends with. And like one, it’s just so exciting and fun to make stuff with friends and then be able to celebrate stuff with people you like. It’s just like, a fun thing. But it’s also we’re fans with all these people. And we’ve done a couple of collaborations with others that are going to be on the next project that we’ve been heavily into right now and so excited about. So, it’s sort of like the same thing. We would have never thought of that melody and would have never thought to do that there and it’s not even necessarily felt like Sofi Tukker. But with these other artists, it frees us up to be more open and that almost feels like we would never do on our own but that’s okay because we sort of have that buffer to explore. So, it’s just kind of a fun thing.
Yeah, that’s a cool way to put it. So back to Mi Rumba, how would you translate that in English?
S: Well, I’ll tell you the full secret of Mi Rumba.
Oh, amazing. Details.
S: So actually, I’m talking about a human who is nicknamed Rumba because he always cleans. And you know that cleaning machine called the rumba? So initially it was like Roomba, but then we were like rumba is this dance. So, then we were like let’s flip it on its head and call it both the dance and cryptically the person I’m talking about.
Does Rumba know that Rumba is about him?
T: Oh yeah, he does (laughs). Although we have plenty of songs that people do not know it’s about them.
Is there a music video for "Mi Rumba"? Can we expect one?
S: There is not at the moment, but you never know.
T: We aren’t sure yet. It’s interesting because Zhu’s whole thing is like really mysterious, which is not what we do. We are pretty upfront with everything. So, it is kind of funny and I wonder how that would be done. But we definitely would have fun with it. We just don’t know about that yet. It just depends where both of us are at with this year. We’re definitely excited about the release and taking it seriously.
That’s cool. So, how did the inspiration behind "Mi Rumba" then inform the making of it? The sound?
T: Well, I think that its extra funny because me and Sofi are best friends but not at all involved. I’m not the Rumba and not sexually involved but we kind of had fun with this song because I sort of play that role in the song. So vocally, I sing, talk, rap, whatever you call it as I sort of play the part with super sexual words. And we were kind of laughing the whole time because we can’t really look at each other when we sing it because it’s really dirty. But it’s kind of fun. We performed it in Zhu in Hungary and we were just like, I’m just going to go on the other side of the stage and sing this part. And we never really done that where we like sing to each other in a way that we sort of playing roles rather than playing our actual people. I mean Sofi is playing herself, but I am not who she is talking to. So, we just had fun with it.
There is kind of this whole surge of genre-defying music with so many young and emerging artists. Do you guys feel that you kind of share that within the industry? Or are you able to describe your sound in any particular way?
S: I mean we try to avoid it as much as possible because we don’t want to go to the studio and be like, okay we make x music and we must do it. But no, we go to the studio to just create like we feel like creating and if it’s that then it’s that and if it is something else then it is something else. We will find out way that feels really authentically us and really authentically good. But along the way we do not want to be forcing ourselves into any kind of sound really. Tukker: The only thing we really focus on is if we are super excited about this, like do we love this, would we want to listen to this, does this make us want to show everyone we know. And if we feel that way, then it doesn’t matter if it’s a folk song or a samba song. As long as we are that hyped about it.
Yeah, it just is what it is. Tukker, you were mentioning projects you guys are working on. Is there anything else that you can disclose?
T: Yeah, we will give you a very exciting collaboration that we are doing that’s going to come out sooner than later this year. It is one of our favorite bands, Bomba Estereo, they are from Colombia and we made a really fun song with them. It is sort of the same thing, we have been friends for a while now. We met at a bunch of festivals, spent time hanging out and talking, and finally got to work together, and it was a really just an exciting thing.
And we’re making some real, kind of crazy, exciting new music videos this month for some new songs that will be coming out soon. We have a lot coming near that we are so excited about, so it feels good.
You guys are performing at Coachella too, right?
T: Yes, it is going to be sweet.
S: We have a couple of exciting guests coming.
T: Very exciting guests. But we can’t say it (laughs).
Any new music on the stage?
S: Definitely, a lot. There will be a lot of new music and that there is going to be a whole new production for our show. So, we are really excited to be taking that to the stage too.