Clayton Mills and Harrison Knight of Odesza and Tom Stell of Golden Features met like many artists do — while sharing a few drinks backstage at a festival.
“It became loose and friendly really fast,” Mills recalls of the encounter.
After meeting at this 2013 show in Perth, the two acts kept in touch, hanging out whenever Odesza played Australia and in time, playing around with music together. Files passed back and forth via Dropbox in time bloomed into two extended producing sessions in Berry, Australia and Joshua Tree, Calif., where the guys locked themselves away in a pair of Airbnbs and fused their two sounds into a third style.
The project eventually became known as Bronson, with the new sound incorporating the grandiosity and technical prowess that makes Odesza one of electronic music’s biggest live draws, and the more spare, club-oriented sounds that are Golden Features’ calling card.
Out today (August 7) via Ninja Tune and Odesza’s Foreign Family Collective label, the group’s eponymous debut album’s ten tracks oscillate in mood between celestial chill and apocalyptic ferocity. And while Bronson’s intention had been to tour the project at summer festivals — a plan that may be picked up again next year, if touring resumes — for now, the guys are just pleased to put this long gestating collection of music into the world.
Here, in his own words, Mills lists eight essential facts about Bronson.
The three guys found a balance between their two production styles.
The Odesza sound has a lot of layers and different combinations of stuff. That was kind of new to Tom; he takes a simpler approach where there’s not a lot of instrumentation — so that’s a really nice balance we found throughout writing together. We’d add layers, and he’d take us back, and we’d push him. It was nice, because he really showed us how simple things can really breathe well, and that you don’t need to pile on all these things. It was a nice learning experience, working with someone who has a very different approach.
Odesza were the masterminds of collaboration.
In terms of production stuff, Harrison and I are so used to collaboration. We’ve been doing it since the beginning. For Golden Features, collaborating is a newer process — so I think we brought a level of understanding in terms of communication in a collaborative setting, which is really important. You want to be constructive without taking anyone down, so that’s one of the things we helped with. The level of communication Harrison and I have created over the years, the workflow and those little details were brought from us, as well as some of the production stuff.
With Bronson, Odesza didn’t stop working, but they did get a break.
Once we got off the road from the A Moment Apart Tour, we were definitely burnt, but you’re living in that one world for so long, so it was actually really exciting to do other music. This new music kind of sits on a different realm than the Odesza and Golden Features platforms. Getting out of that headspace was one of the drivers [of this project.] We had been living in the A Moment Apart album for two or three years, so it was really nice and refreshing to step out of that zone and do something very different.
The trio unplugged completely for their in-person writing sessions.
We were in an Airbnb in Berry, which is in the middle of nowhere Australia, three hours south of Sydney. There was no Internet, so we disconnected. Harrison and I have done that quite a bit — we’ll take a week, sit down, keep it really loose and see what happens. Those are usually the best experiences, where you’re sitting next to each other and you get the initial feedback fast — as opposed to working over email where you have to wait for these back and forths, which can kind of ruin the buzz if you have a good flow going.
Despite being in an Australian beach town, there were minimal leisure activities while working on the music.
You step outside and get a little sun, but we kind of like the nonstop work mode. You lock yourself in a room, because the good stuff doesn’t happen for awhile. It takes a lot of time and a lot of not liking stuff at first before you get anything really substantial. You can work for a week straight, and then finally on the last day you start to figure it out. Until we really hit a stride and are like, “This is really great,” we kind of just keep working. It can be long hours, but we love making music and it’s easy to get lost in. Eight hours will go by fast.
They did, however, watch — and take inspiration from — one movie.
We watched [the 2008 Tom Hardy film] Bronson in Berry on one of the first nights, and just started keeping files with that name on it, because it was on our minds. Then we never really switched from it.
The album has pretty heavy themes.
The whole album is based around these internal struggles everyone has. Whatever you’e dealing with, the perseverance and push people have to get through stuff is one of the themes we were trying to capture — just the hard work and energy it takes to supersede these things and move forward.
It’s something we felt close to, because each of us have various mental things, and everyone has their own struggles to deal with. Especially the Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs collaboration “Dawn.” We told TEED about some of these themes, and he did a really good job of capturing the energy of perseverance and strife.
The project was completed during quarantine.
The last 10 percent [of a project] can be the hardest part, just fine tuning stuff — and we were in different places while we did it, with Tom in Australia and us in Seattle. At that point, you’ve heard the music so much that you don’t even know what it sounds like anymore. It was good to finally get it done, but it’s hard, because you’re going back and forth and you’re not as close to the music as you want to be, because at that point you’re just a little overexposed. But it did come together, and we’re very happy with it.