Dance on the People All Weekend with Sofi Tukker

The indie dance duo's eclectic sound, featuring Portuguese lyrics and jungle vibes, has reached another level of dance-ready energy with their new EP.
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Photo credit: Ekaterina Belinskaya

Whether or not you know Sofi Tukker, it's likely you have heard their music bumping through a club or accentuating a movie's party scene. The duo, comprising Sophie Hawley-Weld and Tucker Halpern, met while performing at a party at Brown University, and their unconventional combination of backgrounds crafted a unique sound that has helped to cement their place in the indie dance world. Hawley-Weld, who specializes in most of the vocals and lyrics, brings elements of Brazilian culture and bossa nova jazz to the table, while Halpern, who has a DJ background, gives each original single a remix feel that's ready to pump up any crowd. 

Today, they released Dancing on the People, a new EP that plays right into their penchant for live sound and blend of aesthetics. From "Swing," which melds dramatic instrumentals with Portuguese lyrics, to "Purple Hat," which takes inspiration from past hits like "Best Friend" and "Batshit" (which both got significant exposure when Apple featured them in its commercials), each song is made to sound best in concert, and their eclectic nature makes them ready to fill a nightlife venue even without a remix. For anyone going dancing this weekend, perhaps Sofi Tukker is the perfect duo to request. After all, that's the exact experience they intended.

"We like to create moments of people feeling like they are together or calling back and forth," Hawley-Weld said of how the duo has developed their ever-evolving sound. "We like to create songs specifically for how people might experience it live."

With a tour on the horizon to share the new EP with audiences across North America and Europe, Sofi Tukker has an exciting agenda for the rest of 2019. They opened up to L'Officiel USA about their different backgrounds, why Portuguese is such a motif in their music, and who they hope to collaborate with in the future.

What first sparked each of your interests in music? 

Sophie Hawley-Weld: I have always been interested in it but I started writing songs in middle school just for fun. At first, it was a way to write in my diary but via songs instead. I was just writing for therapy and I really enjoyed playing guitar and I had a little band where we would make up dances. It always has been something I really enjoy doing. Never knew whether or not I could make that a career but it's just how I like to live in the world.

Tucker Halpern: I just always loved it. I was in a garage band but I was a drummer in middle school, and put music on the back burner because of basketball. I was a basketball player, played in college and was planning to be a pro, so I didn't really focus on music for a while. And then I got sick my junior year in college had some time on my hands, so I got into producing music on my computer because I wanted to be productive, and I just got obsessed with it again. And I never stopped.


How did the two of you come together?

TH: We met at Brown. We both were going to school there and it was our senior year. I had gotten into music with DJing and Sophie was a bossa nova jazz musician. There was an art gallery that we were both at to play music. I was asked to do the DJ at the end of it and she was doing a little jazz performance. I saw her and thought what she was doing was really beautiful. It was all in Portuguese with her acoustic guitar and I thought to myself, “That'd be really cool if it was integrated into dance music.” I asked her to do a remix and we’ve worked together ever since.


What is your process like when you are working together to create new music?

SHW: It's always a bit different, but we really like to collaborate the entire way. So we are always in the same room together and Tucker is usually at the computer producing and I'm with the guitar writing lyrics and melodies. We kind of bounce off each other the whole time about every aspect of the song from start to finish.


How would you describe your songs?

SHW: We try not to describe it because we want to be able to expand and grow and change. But it's definitely dance music. If it could be a world or an environment it would probably be the jungle.


Where do you get your inspiration? 

SHW: Everywhere. We are traveling the world all the time, so we are constantly inspired by the places we go and the people that we meet. Also, we perform at parties almost every night, so we get a lot of inspiration from watching people move and how they interact with different songs and sounds.


Can you discuss some of the concepts you've been exploring with your new EP?

TH: The overall concept for us is our growth and if I was speaking musically (Sophie is more of the lyric person), it's very dancey. It's very fun. It experiments with new sounds and new inspirations. I also think that with our new song "Purple Hat," it's a really good representation of all of what we've done, sort of wrapped into one song. "Purple Hat," in particular, really feels like it takes aspects from "Drinkee," which is our first song, and "Best Friend" and "Batshit" and all these songs that have become mainstays in our live shows. This one song feels like a summary and like a rebirth of all those put together in one. 


How did your style evolve since you began working together?

SHW: We started performing live since we started the band and since our first EP. We actually make music more for the live experience, and in that way, the music has a big sound and we like to create moments of people feeling like they are together or calling back and forth. We like to create songs specifically for how people might experience it live. That's probably the biggest difference. But beyond that, we've experimented in so many different directions. It's really hard to say exactly one thing.


Photo via Instagram / @sofitukker

Your music often uses Portuguese lyrics, including in several songs on the new EP. Can you talk about what inspired you to start exploring this and what effect you hope it has?

SHW: I became obsessed with Portuguese in college. I studied Portuguese, and then I lived in Brazil and just really fell in love with the musical culture and with the language. I collaborate with contemporary Brazilian poets, mostly with Chacal, who's a good friend of mine. For me, it's about following my inspiration, and I really have a love for Brazil and the Portuguese language and the culture of music there. Beyond that, as an American, it's really exciting to be speaking not just English, because I think a lot of international artists will speak English, as a way [to reach] beyond their own first language. For me, it's important to be like, "You know what? English isn't the center of the world. The U.S. isn't the center of the world.” I'm interested in and curious about other languages and cultures.


With all of your collaborations with Brazilian poets and artists, what are some of your favorite moments that have come out of it?

SHW: Two come to the top of my head. At Coachella this year, we brought out two of our favorite artists, Pabllo Vittar and Bomba Estereo, and getting to be with both of them on stage was really special. Bomba Estereo is a band from Colombia, and we actually spent a week with them there. We really vibed on our ethos of the world and music and what we are here to do. With Pabllo, it's the same. She is such force and we are really inspired when we are around her with how herself she is and how exuberant and kind she is. We had some amazing connections.


What do you want to bring into the world of dance music?

SHW: One of the things we want to bring is positivity, so people can feel like they can go crazy but in a positive way, just loving life and themselves and other people. Having that ecstatic experience is something that's really important to us, as well as me personally. Sometimes dance music is more about the sounds than the meaning, which I think is fun, but also I like putting some messages into the lyrics that you might not usually hear in dance music. That's pretty fun for me.


You always have really fascinating looks in your videos. How do you hope to enhance your music through the visual elements?

SHW: It really all has to go together. The music really comes first but our visual identity is just there to support the world that we want our music to live in. For us that's a pretty colorful, fun, happy, kinda weird place.


How would you describe your signature style?

SHW: We are both very different. Tucker is in the other room right now but he likes lots of different loud colors and prints mixed and matched all together. The "nothing-is-too-much" kind of vibe. I really like monochromatic looks. I like clothes that feel really sensual, kind of athletic but in a flowy way. I love feeling like I'm really in my body when I'm in my clothes, nothing too constrictive and something that makes me feel alive and in my skin.


Apple has used a lot of your songs in commercials. How did that layer of visibility change your career? 

SHW: It definitely changed our career a lot. We’re still independent artists, so for us to have that kind of visibility is huge. They have a marketing budget that’s far beyond what we could ever have. It really helps in terms of people being able to hear our songs all over the world and in all sorts of scenarios. 


Where do you hope to see your career go? 

SHW: We want to have a really long career. We want to be able to make music and live in this state of creation forever, and we want to do it to our fullest potential. We want to become the best that we could possibly be at performing, writing, and connecting with people. We believe in what we’re doing. It’s something that is positive for the world, and we want to be able to scale it. 


Do you have any dream future collaborations? 

SHW: Stromae is a big one. We really want to work with him. It would be really cool to collaborate with Die Antwoord. For us, most of our collaborations just come from friendships. It happens pretty naturally; it’s not like a label reaches out to anybody. We connect with people on a friend level and the creation happens pretty naturally from there. 


Other than your new EP, what’s next for you? 

SHW: We’re starting a world tour in October. So we’re going to be touring all of North America and all of Europe until the end of the year. 


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