Clayton Knight of Odesza on Film, Copyright Law and Resisting the "Build-Drop Format"

Odesza will perform at this year's Decadence.EXPAND
Odesza will perform at this year's Decadence.
Tonje Thileson

Odesza, the Washington-based duo of Clayton Knight and Harrison Mills, doesn't seem to be concerned with state of EDM. Instead, Knight and Mills seem to be focused on their music — and then they just work. Work at producing new sounds. Work at incorporating new musicians. Work at their craft. And Odesza's craft has brought them success: multiple chart-topping releases, commercial licensing, headlining shows and the opportunity to work alongside some of the biggest names in the industry. It's not luck and it's not happenstance; It's dedication to being true to oneself, something often seems to be lacking in modern music. We spoke with Clayton Knight while he was taking some time to play video games and relax before the end of the year.

Westword: To start, who was the most important person of the year?

Clayton Knight: I think, man, that's a good question. Musically, I would say Adele doing her thing with her album and crushing all those records. Those records have been around for a while, and she demolished them. That's cool. Who else? I don't know. The president is doing his thing.

Are you interested in any visual artists in particular?

I try to get lost in the musical world, so not as much as I'd like. I am a fan of films. I have seen some good ones this year. You know, I really liked Imitation Game. I really liked that one. I have to think back to the beginning of the year...Mad Max was really good.

Because it's that time of the year, what was last year's New Year resolution?

My New Year's resolution was I don't make them. Maybe drink less?

Without revealing too much, 2016 seems like it will be a banner year for you guys. Can you elaborate on that?

A lot is about going overseas to Europe and doing festivals over there. We are going to South America and doing some stuff there, and festivals, and Australia. We concentrated so much in the U.S. in the last couple years, it's time to give the rest of the world a shot and see what happens.

What about in between shows?

A lot of it is just writing and getting in the studio and getting some tracks together. We'll see how far we get into it. We have some song ideas— now it's choosing.

What stories or ideas are you playing with now?

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A lot [of what we're working on] has an almost European vibe, but not really. Maybe a darker, more cinematic vibe mixed with hip-hop, hopefully. We'll see how it turns out. We have another single that's more the opposite, and it's a summer dance track. It all depends on what we're listening to and what is influencing us at the moment. Our production style changes depending on the day: start one way and end up another way. A cinematic vibe is what we are going with.

Would you be interested in scoring films?

Very much so. That's always been a big goal: Score a film at some point, especially a good film. We love cinematic music, we love soundtracks. Being a part of that world would be cool. That would be a cool next step in our careers. Those parts on In Return was our dabble in the pop realm. Our next step is to dabble in the cinematic realm. Kind of the dark pop sound with some electronic elements.

If you could pick, who would direct the film you want to score?

You know what movie I like how they shot it and scored it? The Social Network. That was my favorite soundtrack — Trent Reznor and David Fincher. I'm a big fan. I love that kind of feel. He did Fight Club, Gone Girl...anything like that, I would love to try. Just not sure how I would do at it.

Your music definitely presents a cinematic, more emotive side of dance music. What are your thoughts on how that affects events like Decadence, which are packed with more of the big-room-banger-drop artists?

I'm not sure we were totally aware of it when we made it. You don't know how anyone is going to react. When you are going against heavy hitters, kids are hearing that build-drop format, big banger tracks, and you try to come out and do something more laid-back and melodic. You think kids will be like, “What is that?” [But] it's a welcomed change of pace that I've discovered. You entice something out of the crowd.

You wake up tomorrow and you're the president of the United States. What is the first thing you change?

Personally, what do I change first? That's a tough one, man. I would try to get cars driving themselves up and running at the fastest peak possible. Traffic runs my life, and it's the worst. People are the worst drivers ever. That's the one that hits closest to home. Just have Uber be a car service and they pick you up. Anything that makes travel easier hits home with us. I think making music more accessible...this streaming thing is going to be a big thing.... I would address new laws for music and ad space. There are all these lawsuits occurring nowadays over song sampling — Sam Smith getting sued for obscene amounts of money because some of his songs sound like a Tom Petty track. I don't know if labels deserve that kind of revenue. I would rewrite those intellectual-property laws.

Odesza will play at Decadence at the Colorado Convention Center on Friday, December 31.

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