When you think of dance electronic music things such as day parties, neon lights, and maybe even a few fist pumps comes to mind but you’re probably not imagining a girl playing guitar till she climaxes in a lush field in Hawaii with a persimmon nestled between her legs. That’s the beauty of Sofi Tukker, the genre-defying duo of Sophie Hawley-Weld and Tucker Halpern who continue to bring their unique and inclusive perspective to music and exuberant visuals like the aforementioned “Kakee” video. They don’t shy away from bold colors, playful eroticism, or unexpected instrumentation, and once you dive deeper, like their self-titled Freak Fam fans have, you’ll find there’s more than meets the eye because nothing is mid in the world of Sofi Tukker.
With their forthcoming album WET TENNIS on the way (April 29th to be exact) I dived headfirst into their universe chatting with Sophie and Tucker about deconstructing the traditional elements of tennis and creating something that’s fun, uplifting, and definitely wet—in a sexy way. The title, which comes from the acronym “When Everyone Tries To Evolve, Nothing Negative Is Safe”, is a clever wordplay that touches on the genesis of their friendship and the metaphoric way they bounce ideas off each other until victory is achieved resulting in the music they release. Below, we chat about the cultural references in their music, how the new album contributes to the sonic journey of their live shows, and why turning a negative into a positive led to the evolution of their careers. Plus, a bonus question for Euphoria fans at the end to get to know the duo’s personalities a little bit better.
The music videos for “Original Sin” and “Kakee” are full of bold colors and vibrant settings. Are the visual aesthetics of ‘WET TENNIS’ consistent with your usual Sofi Tukker aesthetic?
Sophie: I would say it’s similar to our usual aesthetic in that it’s super colorful, bright, and definitely takes place in the tropics. It’s somewhat different just in the specifics of which color palette and gradients we’re playing with and obviously, the tennis element—the tennis green, tennis court aesthetic, and tennis fashion—but it’s consistent with the world we’ve been building.
Were there any visual inspirations?
Tucker: We were definitely inspired by the place, we chose Hawaii to do those videos in and the landscape of Kauai park—where they shot Jurassic Park and Jumanji—for the “Kakee” video. It was inspiring being there and making decisions based on the place we were in, location is always important to us [and] we really think in colors. Being in such a lush, beautiful, and natural environment with oceans, mountains, and greenery even informed some of the fashion decisions and decisions we made in the video [at] the moment. Also, we were inspired by the history and fashion of tennis and intentionally [tried] to take the traditional exclusive aspect of it and flip it and make it more colorful and inclusive.
“Kakee” is steeped in Portuguese influences and “Forgive Me” is a collaboration with Turkish producer Mahmut Orhan. What is it about those two cultures that inspired you? And are there any other cultural references on the album?
Sophie: There are a bunch of cultural references on the album. We’ve been really into Mahmut’s music for a long time and he remixed our first ever track “Drinkee” and then he did a remix for our song “Swing”. So at first, we were listening to his music through the remixes of our music and we were like wow the way he does orchestration in electronic music is super next-level and he’s got that Turkish violin sound that we really love. So we knew we wanted to do a track with him and incorporate that sound because we were so inspired by it and we were listening to a lot of his music.
The Portuguese, I lived in Brazil, I speak Portuguese and we collaborated with this Brazilian poet called Chacal and we’ve collaborated with him on many of our tracks. Basically, I hit him up and was like hey Chacal, I’m really obsessed with this fruit persimmon I think we have to write a song about it and he wrote the most absurd poem ever so that’s where that comes from. Then we’ve got Amadou & Mariam from Mali on the album so we’ve got some West African cultural elements.
Tucker: We’ve got some Boston cultural references, [from] my dad and Larry Bird.
You created ‘WET TENNIS’ during the pandemic when live music wasn’t happening. Now that the album is about to come out and you’re going on tour, how did it differ to conceptualize your live sets post-production?
Tucker: Because our live show is our whole catalog of work, we have so many bangers and high-energy songs that it was sort of perfect to add the songs from the new album because we love the songs and they [are] still high energy but some of them don’t smack you in the face as much in a live setting. But that’s okay because as we grow and as the venues have gotten bigger and our sets have gotten longer it gives us more of an opportunity to take a journey in the live show. Rather than smack you in the face for 45 minutes straight like at a festival we can take the down moments and really have people lean in and then that’ll make the big moments even more ecstatic. So there’s more of an arc to the show and some of the songs from this album will help with that a lot.
Your Freak Fam started off as a small online community of fans and quickly grew into much more. Do you have anything special planned for them surrounding the release of ‘WET TENNIS’ or your upcoming tour?
Sophie: One thing we are going to do is go back to livestreaming, not every day but while we’re on tour we’re going to set up a livestream area on the tour bus so that we make sure even though we’re doing live shows and interacting with people in that way we also continue to go back and kind of feed the freak fam [laughs].
Musicians often have a love/hate relationship with social media but amazing things can come from it like your Freak Fam community. How would you describe your relationship with social media?
Sophie: I actually think it’s really fun, I think we have a good relationship with social media in that we love engaging [with fans]. Also, when we’re not together we speak through Instagram instead of FaceTiming each other because we’re two people and we have the same login, so we use it in a pretty playful way. We really enjoy sharing our adventures and experiences on it and feel connected to people because of it. There are so many different social media platforms, we’re having a lot of fun with TikTok, we love Twitch for livestreaming, and we don’t use Twitter that much but in general, it’s fun.
The acronym of WET TENNIS means “when everyone tries to evolve, nothing negative is safe”, in your opinion does evolution comes from turning a negative into a positive?
Tucker: Evolution comes from all sorts of things I don’t think it has to come from that but for me and Sophie, a big part of the genesis of our friendship and the band is because of that. I didn’t even make music until I got really sick and had to stop playing basketball in college and that’s when I was in bed for 7 months and taught myself how to make music [by] watching YouTube tutorials and stuff. If I hadn’t been knocked down and had to go through that and sort of figure out who I was—my personal identity and what I wanted to do—I wouldn’t have started making music and we wouldn’t have Sofi Tukker at all.
In the first few months after we graduated, Sophie was in a wheelchair because she had stress fractures in both her feet and she had to leave New York and go home because she lived in a six-story walk-up and she couldn’t do that with her [injury]. We really bonded over that because I knew what it was like to be bed-ridden, plucked out of life, and the emotional toll that that takes brought us together a lot. So evolving for us as Sofi Tukker came from turning a negative into a positive.
You have a few features on the album (John Summit, BOII, Amadou & Mariam), how do you pick your collaborators?
Sophie: It’s either who we’re friends with and naturally hanging out with and then accidentally [making] a song with. [For example] the one with BOII, [who is] our friend, we were on the tour bus and Josh, who’s half of BOII, was on tour with us in our crew and we made a song together randomly on the bus and that’s where that comes from. A lot of things that we do happen that way where it’s just we’re hanging out anyways.
Amadou & Mariam we got an email from Red Hot the organization and they were like who would you really love to collaborate with? and we were like if we could choose anyone it would be Amadou & Mariam and it happened. We’d never met them before and now we’ve kind of met them on FaceTime, it ranges.
Tell me about the Venn diagram of Sofi Tukker, what lives in the overlap, and what doesn’t make the cut but is important to each of you?
Sophie: Our Venn diagram is the two overlapping tennis rackets in our WET TENNIS logo, so what lives in the [overlap] is the album and all of the music we’ve ever put out. The stuff outside of the Venn diagram you can oversimplify it by saying I tend to like a lot slower music with less drums and more acoustic and then Tucker likes anything that I don’t, [such as] super fast [music] [laughs] that’s a really simplified way.
Tucker: Also, Sophie likes sadder music and I don’t.
Sophie, do you prefer slower tempos and sad music because you connect with it emotionally?
Yeah, I’m a masochist, I love watching the [saddest] movie you could possibly imagine just so I can sit here and get out of my own world and tune into that really raw…it almost feels like I get to move through some challenging things that would lead to evolution without actually having to go through them in my life. I think the best way for me to move through sadness is to feel it fully and sometimes movies and music can help me do that.
Tucker, would you say you lean away from that?
Tucker: Total generalization but probably, I’m not going to go watch a movie that makes me sad because I don’t want to be sad.
Sophie: I’m like bring it on.
Your music often takes themes that are traditional and turns them on their head. For the new album, it’s tennis but your “Spa” video is really playful and untraditional. Where does that intention come from?
Tucker: I think [it’s] natural, as we were figuring out who we were when we were starting Sofi Tukker and over the years, we’ve realized how important it is not to take yourself too seriously and have fun with life. Especially because we’re artists and we feel the freedom, at least I feel the freedom, to be very colorful. It’s different than if I had another type of job where I didn’t feel as much societal affirmation to be wild and crazy [and] I want everyone to feel that way because it feels really good. Promoting that idea [of] expressing yourself in every way you want to and being yourself is such a huge part of what we do and [how] we want to make people feel and a good way of visualizing that is breaking down traditional things.
Which character would you be from Euphoria?
Sophie: How about we do this for each other?
Tucker: Sophie would be Lexi because she would not be doing the drugs and stuff and she would probably be writing a story about it.
Sophie: Hmm who would Tucker be.
Tucker: Give me Fezco.
Sophie: I was literally thinking Fez!
Tucker: Lets gooo
Sophie: The reason I was thinking Fez is because in the way that Fez could have a hard exterior or you could imagine that [he’s] intimidating because he’s a drug dealer [but] he’s truly the kindest person on the show. I’m not saying Tuck has an intimidating exterior but when I met him, he was only wearing black and he’s 6’7”. Maybe it’s different now in the way that he dresses and holds himself but he’s truly the sweetest person.
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