ODESZA Discuss Their Most Grandiose & Personal Album Yet, 'A Moment Apart'

Tonje Thilesen


You're at a party. The music thumps so hard, your teeth can feel it. The air is thick and hot with sweat and smoke. A girl's hair brushes your face as she dances, a man's arm rubs against your back from behind. Your head starts to swirl in the strobe of green and red, as you stumble through a sea of squirming bodies that refuse to stand still.

You dance your way to a door, swing it open to a blast of fresh air and shut the door behind. As the door closes, the music fades into a steady, pulsing hum. You lean against the wall and look up at the moon. Suddenly, inexplicably, the world has paused and for one instant, you're lost in some beautiful forever, alone in the quiet, chaos all around.

“It's kind of a cheesy way to think about it, but in a lot of ways, it was the idea we were grasping.” says Harrison Mills, one half of electro-indie pop duo ODESZA, explaining this is the scene he pictures when he thinks of the band's latest release, A Moment Apart. “We were doing that ourselves. We had toured for a long time, [and when we got in the studio to record] we were away from all the loud festivals. We love all that, but we had been doing it for three years and we hunkered down and tried to create a bit of an incubator.”

A Moment Apart is, at its core, an album about growth, maturity and perspective gained through hard-earned experience. From more than 50 written song, it was whittled down to 16 expansive anthems -- each an emotional journey of epic proportions exploring humanity's intimate moments expressed through glorious chords and layers of textured beats.

From it's theatrical “Intro” into its title track, all the way down to the heavenly chorus of closer “Corners of the Earth,” A Moment Apart stands strong as ODESZA's most grandiose offering to date. It's a fully-fleshed concept with a strong, hopeful point of view -- the uplifting sort of magic the world can really use.

“We've always tried to embrace those things, but I feel like we're finally at a point where we felt like we could really tackle it for the first time,” Mills tells Billboard. “I felt like we've grown a lot as producers, so we really went for it. We've always been trying to make soundscapes and cinematic music, but this is the first time I think were fully embraced it, tried to go all out, and create an entire album that's centered around those sounds.”

Mills and his partner Clayton Knight can trace A Moment Apart's beginnings to the days after its predecessor In Return saw light of day. Some of these songs started coming together in its wake, although they've been through countless reworks, edits and remixes to find their final forms.

“I can hear a little bit of growth throughout the entire thing, because I can pick up where this idea started a long time ago,” Knight says. “It is kind of a snapshot of three years, ideas and influences joined together to make whatever the album is. [We're] exploring a lot of different territories and trying to figure out ways to push ourselves but capture who we are at the same time.”

Jonathan Gipaya
ODESZA perform at the 2017 Bumbershoot Music Festival in Seattle.

Some of these tunes mirror specific experiences in ODESZA's life, literal translations of influences pulled from the road. Tribal chants on “Meridian” bring the duo back to exotic landscapes experienced because of In Return's success. “Everything At Your Feet” features Spanish-language vocals from The Chamanas, a band ODESZA met during their time in Brazil. Even “La Ciudad,” one of the brightest standouts on the album's easy flow, can be traced to one wild night in Cologne, Germany.

“We played this really interesting venue and we played pretty early,' Mills remembers. “The guy said, 'You really should stay, because we throw this really crazy party.' It's Latin night here in Cologne, Germany. They have these four rooms within this club and each room has a different live act, so there's one doing a 15-person live horn section with singers and dancers. The next one is more of a DJ set. One is more mellow instrumental stuff. It's super interesting and we just walked through it and I was really impacted by that. It stuck with me and I started listening to al these diff styles of music because of that, and you can hear it in the song.”

“Just A Memory,” a collaboration with ODESZA's longtime inspiration Regina Spektor, also captures a particular moment in time.

“We sent her this one song that she wrote to and she said, 'I don't want to send it back to you. I'd actually prefer to sing it to you live,'” Mills recalls. “That was the first time we've experience anyone saying that to us. We were unsure how to react. But she came to Seattle, and we showed up to her hotel. Her room was on the 40th floor and we were super nervous. We knocked on the door, her husband answered, we met her kids and then she came in. She opened her laptop, played the instrumental and then she sang it to us, pretty much with her eyes closed. We got this private performance in her hotel room and it was absolutely beautiful. She opened her eyes and said, 'Uh, would you guys change anything?' And we said, 'Absolutely not.'”

The guy's actually stripped the song of a lot of production in an attempt to recreate the gravity of that moment. It's the same reason they start single “Late Night” with the sound of a car door, or “Thin Floors and Tall Ceilings” with the ambient noises of the living.

“It almost sounds like you're hearing or imagining being in a memory,” Mills says, “Maybe it becomes a personal element to you, or you feel like you're a part of someone else's, which is always an intimate experience.”

Now, ODESZA tackles the challenge of translating these penetrating and profound moments in a live setting. The forthcoming live performances of A Moment Apart will see the band perform updated versions of old songs and new as it attempts to take the introverted album and translate it into an extroverted communal experience, a skill the band fine-tuned out of necessity throughout its years.

It's a show built from the ground up, featuring more musicians, more moving parts and just plain more than anything they've yet dared.

“We're trying to create a lot more theatrical pieces in the show, so it feels almost structured like a play,” Mills says. “There's chapters, sections that really move and change and we're spending a lot of time trying to build these things that have sound design moments that create immersive atmospheres, less about just playing our song and more really trying to create a unique experience.”

It kicks off Thursday in New Zealand before arriving in North America on Oct. 19 in San Diego, running strong to Brooklyn in mid-December. You can plan your next-level ODESZA experience by checking the full list of tour dates below, but it all starts when you sit down and get comfortable with a pair of headphones. A Moment Apart is an album you can enjoy anywhere at any time, but it's best experienced the way it was created, by setting yourself apart from the world, creating some alone time and drifting away into yourself, lost in the sounds of another human's soul.

ODESZA 2017 A Moment Apart Tour Dates: 

Thu, Sep 14 - Auckland, NZ - Great Hall@
Fri, Sep 15 - Melbourne, AU - Forum@ (SOLD OUT)
Sat, Sep 16 - Sydney, AU - Enmore Theatre@ (SOLD OUT)
Sun, Sep 17 - Sydney, AU - Enmore Theatre@
Fri, Sep 29 - London, UK - O2 Forum Kentish Town# (SOLD OUT)
Sat, Sep 30 - Paris, FR - Elysee Montmartre# (SOLD OUT)
Tue, Oct 3 - Brussels, BE - AB Main Hall#
Wed, Oct 4 - Amsterdam, NL - Paradiso#
Thu, Oct 5 - Amsterdam, NL - Paradiso# (SOLD OUT)
Sat, Oct 7 - Berlin, DE - Astra Kulturhaus#
Thu, Oct 19 - San Diego, CA - Valley View Casino Center*+
Fri, Oct 20 - Los Angeles, CA - STAPLES Center*
Sat, Oct 21 - Las Vegas, NV - Downtown Las Vegas Events Center
Sun, Oct 22 - Phoenix, AZ - Lost Lake Festival (Headlining)
Tue, Oct, 24 - Santa Barbara, CA - Santa Barbara Bowl*+
Thu, Oct 26 - Berkeley, CA - Greek Theatre*+ (SOLD OUT)
Fri, Oct 27 - Berkeley, CA - Greek Theatre*+ (SOLD OUT)
Sat, Oct 28 - Berkeley, CA - Greek Theatre*+ (SOLD OUT)
Tue, Oct 31 - Sacramento, CA - Papa Murphy's Park*^
Thu, Nov 2 - Portland, OR - Veteran's Memorial Coliseum*^
Fri, Nov 3 - Vancouver, BC - PNE Forum*^ (SOLD OUT)
Sat, Nov 4 - Vancouver, BC - PNE Forum*^
Mon, Nov 6 - Calgary, AB - BMO Centre*^
Wed, Nov 8 - Minneapolis, MN - Myth*^ (SOLD OUT)
Thu, Nov 9 - Minneapolis, MN - Myth*^
Fri, Nov 10 - Madison, WI - Alliant Energy Center*^
Sat, Nov 11 - Chicago, IL - UIC Pavilion*%
Mon, Nov 13 - Grand Rapids, MI - 20 Monroe Live*%
Tue, Nov 14 - Detroit, MI - Masonic Temple*%
Fri, Nov 17 - Montreal, QC - Metropolis*% (SOLD OUT)
Sat, Nov 18 - Montreal, QC - Metropolis*%
Mon, Nov 20 - Philadelphia, PA - Electric Factory*^
Tue, Nov 21 - Philadelphia, PA - Electric Factory*% (SOLD OUT)
Wed, Nov 22 - Philadelphia, PA - Electric Factory*% (SOLD OUT)
Fri, Nov 24 - Washington, DC - The Anthem*%
Mon, Dec 11 - Boston, MA - House Of Blues* (SOLD OUT)
Tue, Dec 12 - Boston, MA - House Of Blues*
Fri, Dec 15 - Brooklyn, NY - Barclays Center*

#with Hayden James and MUTO
@with The Kite String Tangle and Running Touch
%with Louis Futon
+with Chet Porter
^with Kasbo