Finding a logical conclusion to settle on a moniker by merging their first names, SOFI TUKKER (Sophie Hawley-Weld and Tucker Halpern) found a logical means to keep their global fanbase fortified throughout the pandemic. Rather than shying away from the spotlight and retiring their output temporarily, the Florida-based duo continued to crate-dig and perform regular DJ sets from numerous locations, be it their bedrooms or even a moving truck.
Now, they’re properly taking their show on the road and reconnecting with their ‘Freak Fam’ in the flesh at festivals like Tomorrowland and Ultra Europe in support of their latest album WET TENNIS.
A typically varied palette of sounds and influences, SOFI TUKKER’s newest full-length doubles down on their truly global approach to music-making. Be it drawing inspiration from their respective geographical backgrounds, their friend Nicolas Jaar - who attended the same college as them and continued to DJ campus parties even after he achieved enormous success - or the conveyor belt of collaborators from all corners of the Earth, the globe-trotting tropical house duo are primed to build upon their GRAMMY-nominated success.
Bringing feverish enthusiasm each and every time they step foot on stage, SOFI TUKKER’s performances radiate positivity, and it’s infectious - just ask anyone that caught their set at Miami’s Ultra Music Festival recently. As they’re preparing to unleash positive energy by the bucket to audiences across North America, Europe, and Australia this year, we caught up with Sophie and Tucker to chat about new album WET TENNIS and getting to showcase it, in real life.
Your live shows are super energetic and expressive, which Miami’s Ultra Music Festival crowd can attest to. How important is it for you to inject as much joy and vibrancy into your performances as possible, and create an environment where your audiences can feel like they’re at a gig as much as a rave?
Sophie: It's definitely our goal to inject as much joy and vibrancy as possible - on stage, and in life. For the show, even though it is a performance and there's choreography and production etc, we also want people to feel like they're participants, and not spectators.
How did it feel to finally let the lighting out of the bottle, so to speak, after an enforced absence from live performance throughout the past couple of years?
Sophie: God it felt good.
Tucker: We got so used to performing in front of a camera and actually really enjoyed doing it. But being on stage with people - in real life - is such another level of ecstatic joy.
That brings me on to the aesthetics for your new album WET TENNIS, which are sumptuously fluorescent, playful, and provocative. Did you have particular visuals in mind or did you retroactively style it out once you had written the album?
Tucker: We wrote most of the songs first and then figured out what story the songs were trying to tell.
Sophie: After we came up with the name and the concept of WET TENNIS, we wrote the title track and the interlude and really worked on a track listing that would feel as optimistic, playful and provocative as we thought the album deserved. It was an iterative process for sure.
You’ve said that WET TENNIS is an acronym for ‘When Everyone Tries to Evolve, Nothing Negative Is Safe’. Can you shed some light on what this means and where it came from?
Tucker: It really came about from the 'Freak Fam', which is the community that formed around our DJ sets during quarantine. We were so inspired by this group of people who decided to make the most of a shitty situation, who got together to dress up and dance every day, instead of sinking into hopelessness or despair.
Sophie: We wanted the album to nod to the fact that we always have that choice, no matter how negative things get, to evolve through it.
As expected your lead singles draw from very different palettes - ‘Original Sin’ has a sweaty-drenched, tropical house vibe, ‘Kakee’ is more blunt and based around the Dick Dale-esque guitar line, and ‘Sun Came Up’ has an old school Ibiza anthem feel. For artists that have typically absorbed a colourful range of genres with your music, was there a particular direction you wanted to take with the new album?
Tucker: We just wrote what inspired us! There are a lot of different influences and genres on the album, and we love how it all works together. It takes you up and down, smacks you in the face, lulls you, holds you, but mostly makes you dance. Hopefully!
You’ve collaborated with the likes of Amadou & Mariam, Gorgon City, Icona Pop, and more recently John Summit and Mahmut Orhan throughout your career. Do you specifically pinpoint artists from all corners of the music spectrum to work with, and what effect have these diverse array of musicians had on your creative process?
Sophie: It’s organic and also intentional that we frequently collaborate globally. We definitely don't see the world with North America as the centrepiece. The world, and music, has such rich and exciting sounds, languages, and rhythms to explore.
From the get-go, it seems you’ve always taken a global approach to creating music. Was it always your intention to create dance music that could be embraced universally, and if so, how much is that owed to your differences in backgrounds and beginnings?
Sophie: I was born in Germany and grew up moving around the world to different international schools, so I've always lived in super globally-minded communities. Manu Chao was the most popular artist at my high school. He's a perfect example of someone who really takes a global approach to creating music and I just always did that naturally. I fell in love with Portuguese and Brazil and just ran with it. It's been so cool to then see Brazilian Portuguese embraced in Turkey, Italy for instance.
After receiving Grammy nominations for ‘Drinkee’ and your debut album Treehouse, you ended the past few years on a major high. But did the pandemic ever stunt your creativity, or did you use it as an opportunity to start crate-digging for new sounds again?
Tucker: In many ways, it fuelled our creativity. We were constantly DJing new music and crate-digging to keep it fresh, since we DJed every day for hundreds of days in a row.
What do you see as the next stage of your evolution as a creative partnership, and what are your future plans for (your label) Animal Talk?
Sophie: It's hard to write it before it happens but our plan is to just continue writing, creating, and enjoying the process!
Tucker: We're always keeping an ear out for emerging artists who we really believe in for Animal Talk too, but it tends to be really organic. We stumble upon someone and just feel like ‘wow we have to support them’, and the world has to experience them. Like we did with LP Giobbi, who we're so happy the world really is experiencing now.
Lastly, after your US tour concludes you’re playing a number of festivals in Europe, namely Tomorrowland. Obviously it’ll be your first time back since 2019, so can you describe how it’ll feel to be back performing at arguably the world’s most sought after dance music festival?
Sophie: We are so excited. We also really leaned into our DJing side during the pandemic so it's fun to emerge with a whole new act than we had pre-pandemic, in terms of our DJ set.
SOFI TUKKER will play at Tomorrowland, Ultra Europe, Festival Cruïlla and more festivals this summer. Click here for the full list of their upcoming festivals.