Q&A: Sofi Tukker follows initial success by going even “harder”

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Sofi Tukker, Sophie Hawley-Weld, Tucker Halpern, Fuck They, Drinkee

Courtesy: Shervin Lainez

Their biggest song may be sung in Portuguese, with more on the way in that language, but Sophie Hawley-Weld and Tucker Halpern of New York dance pop duo Sofi Tukker pull inspiration from whatever city or country they happen to be in.

Odesza, Sofi Tukker

6 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 26
Greek Theatre, Berkeley
Tickets: Sold out.

7 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 27
Greek Theatre, Berkeley
Tickets: Sold out.

7 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 28
Greek Theatre, Berkeley
Tickets: $53.50.

The process works like this, Halpern explains: The energy of any given locale affects the duo’s live shows. For example, when Sofi Tukker performed to a sea of moshing youths at Outside Lands in August, it inspired to Halpern to “go harder.” The electricity from the live show is the transferred into the band’s recording sessions. Following the festival and just prior to a trip to Germany, the two made a studio pit stop.

“You know what, I want to go even harder than those guys in San Francisco,” Halpern said. And that is how the energy of one San Francisco show might make it onto a future Sofi Tukker track.

Hawley-Weld and Halpern are now on the road with electronica powerhouse Odesza, and will find themselves back in the Bay Area for three shows at the Greek Theatre. We chatted with them about their new aggressive songs and the follow-up to 2016 crossover smash Soft Animals, which is coming, though maybe not in the form of an LP.

The past year has been a whirlwind for the two. Their single “Drinkee,” with lyrics adapted from Hawley-Weld’s favorite Brazilian poet, Chacal, was nominated for a Grammy. The song blended electronica with breezy bossa nova and samba. The Portuguese language and Brazilian literature is still at the forefront of her mind, she said.

Sofi Tukker has released two new songs so far this year, both in English. On President’s Day, the duo dropped the trancelike “Greed” as a message to Donald Trump. “Your haircut/ Keeping you up all night/ Your ego/ Your crashing/ Your greed/ Keeping you up all night,” Hawley-Weld screams on the track. Second track “Fuck They,” about pushing the negative influences out of your way, is equally aggressive.

Stay tuned to see what the duo has coming next.

“There’s some vibey songs,” Halpern said. “It’s not all hard-hitting.”

RIFF: What is influencing you artistically right now? Do you work off of current events?

Sophie Hawley-Weld: It’s so hard to identify the things that are influencing us ‘cause we work off of everything. I’m always influenced by what I’m reading; we’re always influenced by what’s going on in the world, and I think our music has gotten more aggressive recently, and more outspoken and bold, because it’s our reaction to what’s going on in the world. I certainly feel the frustration growing, so I don’t really see the aggression ceasing at any point soon. But also, I think our sense of love and appreciation is also growing, and we’re getting to connect with more and more people, and everything influences us.

Tucker Halpern: I agree.

“Greed” and “Fuck They” are considerably more aggressive than the previous material. Before it was more joyous. Now there’s an edge to it. Is that the new direction?

Hawley-Weld: We definitely wrote some more aggressive pieces, but we’ve written a lot of songs in the last … half year, and there’s definitely some joyous stuff in there. There’s more Portuguese; there’s more sort of escape, tropical vibes, because that’s something we’re still really inspired by and really love.

Is an LP on the way?

Hawley-Weld: We can’t say at this point what it is.

Halpern: Yeah, we have a lot of music, and we’re going to be putting out singles.

Hawley-Weld: We’ve got some songs that are more nostalgic, some songs that are more poetic, some songs that are more vulnerable.

Sophie, is there a reason you keep coming back to write in Portuguese or using the words of Brazilian poets in your songs?

Hawley-Weld: We write what’s inspiring us. I’m still really obsessed with Portuguese. I think it’s the most beautiful language to sing in. We were just in Brazil, which sort of reinvigorated my love for the language. I’ve actually been working with a friend who’s been writing lyrics, and he sends them back to me, and I work on them and then send them back to him. We’ve been working with new poets. I’ve been finding a lot of poets like from the same era of poetry that we were working on before. I just feel really inspired by it, and I feel like the more I learn, the more I want to learn.

Has being nominated for a Grammy changed any of your opinions on the Recording Academy, mainstream music or being recognized for your work? I saw you walking down the red carpet at the ceremony. You looked like you were having fun.

Halpern: I didn’t really have a strong opinion about it. It was a huge honor to be a part of it. There’s also a lot of artists and genres that we respect, look up to and appreciate that are probably not recognized by the Academy, so as much of an honor as it was to be there and be recognized, I don’t think it changed how we think about things too much. [To Hawley-Weld:] Do you?

Hawley-Weld: It was a really surreal thing that happened. It felt random, and it felt like we got really lucky.

Are you able to find time for hobbies or passions outside of music?

Hawley-Weld: There’s really not much time to do anything else, but I like to do yoga as much as I can. I like to hang out with friends and read and write, but I guess it’s all really a part of [Sofi Tukker]. Even our hobbies feel like a part of this thing that we’re creating.

Halpern: I mean, it’s nice that it never feels like work because we love doing this so much. So it’s not like, ‘Oh, we gotta get our hobbies in or else we’ll be unhappy working all the time.’ We love it.

Hawley-Weld: We get to include our families and friends within the work that we do, so it really feels whole, like our hobbies and our work are really one thing.

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