Let’s preface this by saying that SOFI TUKKER wants to make you wet. The Florida based duo are ready to celebrate empowerment, sexuality, and the right to self-pleasure with the release of their colourful sophomore album ‘WET TENNIS’ (out now). While they’re no strangers to fun and electronic house music with quirky pop hooks like their smash hits ‘Purple Hat’, ‘Drinkee’ and ‘House Arrest’, they really wanted to show listeners the versatility behind their artistry with this new record.
The diverse 12 track collection is an exploration of who they truly want to be as musicians. Without the distraction of touring, they were able to focus on creating music that made them happy and discover what sounds and imagery excited them most. Using daily livestreams to showcase new music to their fans, they found a new form of collaboration that allowed them to get instant feedback from listeners which treated them as an exclusive soundboard for this new project. From there the songs were able to transform into their vibrant and expansive versions, and usher in this exciting new chapter for the Grammy nominated duo.
I recently chatted to Sophie Hawley-Weld and Tucker Halpern from SOFI TUKKER about the creative impact the pandemic had on their sophomore studio album ‘WET TENNIS’, explored the creative processes behind songs like ‘Summer In New York’ and ‘Larry Bird’, and discussed the visuals inspiring their upcoming world tour. Check out the full chat BELOW;
THOMAS BLEACH: Your sophomore studio album ‘WET TENNIS’ is a chaotically fun and freeing collection of tracks. Looking back on the creative process of your 2018 debut ‘Treehouse’ and touring it, what did that teach you about where you wanted this next record to go sonically and aesthetically?
SOPHIE HAWLEY-WELD: Well, we made ‘Treehouse’ when we were touring every single day, so a lot of the songs on that album were made specifically for the live show. It was like; “oh, it would be really cool to have a guitar solo here because it would work really well on stage”. There were certain moments that were definitely made on purpose for the recording with the live show in mind. Whereas this one was obviously very different as we were in a global pandemic, and we were in our house in quarantine. A lot of the decisions we were making had to do with what we liked listening to while we were in our living room, and while we were djing and live streaming in our living room every single day. So the use-case of the music was extremely different, and I think that informed a lot of the writing process
TB: Yeah, I guess playing live on live streams would’ve been quite liberating, as I know you tested out some of the new material out in those streams and got to see how people reacted straight away, which is something you wouldn’t have done in the past.
TUCKER HALPERN: Yeah, that was definitely a different part of the process. We felt very collaborative. We felt so connected to so many people every day that it really felt like we were making an album together with thousands of people. It was definitely an experience that will hopefully not be replicated though *laughs*.
SHW: We’d get demoitis and take something out of the song, and then people would be like “no, where did that thing go?”.
TH: Yeah, it wasn’t the smartest thing showing people early versions of music *laughs*.
SHW: People always got attached to the first one.
TB: ‘KAKEE’ opens the album perfectly with a track that embodies the power of this record with you Sophie taking control of your femininity and embracing that we are all connected to women. Why was this for you the important messaging you wanted listeners to first hear on this album?
SHW: I mean, sonically and content wise it feels like a punch of energy, and a big “welcome”. It’s a very short track at a length of 1 min 45 seconds, and it just feels like a big bang.
TH: It was initially just a techno song I was working on, and then Sophie came into the studio and put the guitar part on it and started rapping Portuguese over it, and it became whatever it is now. I don’t think that song has any genre *laughs*. But it is very us. It’s one of the songs that we feel like no one else could have made. It’s definitely only a SOFI TUKKER song, which is another reason why I think it’s really cool to open the album with it.
SHW: It’s also definitely the “WET” part of ‘WET TENNIS’. It’s obviously a poem of persimmons and how juicy and sexy it is. And the video is very much about persimmons, pussy, and womanhood. It just very much feels like the origin on so many different fronts.
TB: ‘Summer In New York’ is a song that immediately stands out to me on this record with its dominating dance beat and the perfect use of the ‘Tom’s Diner’ sample. Can you explain the creative process behind this track?
TH: I’m so hyped you said that! That is such a fun song for so many different reasons. The whole idea began as we were missing New York. We started the band in New York, we lived there for 4 years, and then we moved away as we started touring all the time and moved to LA and then to Florida where we live now. So we were just missing New York and the energy. There is something so special about being in the city and going from one place to the other, and picking up new friends along the way.
SHW: Mind you, we were also on day 300 of being stuck in our house.
TH: We literally hadn’t talked to or seen anyone besides each other. We basically wanted to make a song about the day we wish we had. So we wrote about a day in New York. Sophie put together this amazing lyrical journey of our favourite places where we actually go and hang out in New York. It felt so good that we decided to move back to New York, and we actually bought a place in New York. So the song means so much to us.
SHW: We are living the song!
TH: It’s as authentic as it gets! On the musical side, we added in ‘Tom’s Diner’ when we realised that was a song about a diner in New York in the 80’s.
SHW: So this is kind of the 2022 version of Tom’s Diner.
TB: Well ‘Tom’s Diner’ is obviously a very famous sample, and it has been used a lot in the past. So is there a lot of over-thinking that happens to make sure you do find a new perspective to make the sample make sense in the SOFI TUKKER world?
SHW: Yeah! We wrote the song first, and for a while there was a little guitar solo in the places where the ‘Tom’s Diner’ interpolation is now, and I think we just all of a sudden were like “woah, why don’t we sing that thing here, it feels so natural”.
TH: We definitely had the conversation about how it’s been done a dozen times, and whether or not it still feels authentic, and it did. It really did feel like a revamp of the real essence of what that song is actually about. We didn’t want people to think we just used the song for streams, as that is not what it was about for us.
The one interesting conversation we have had recently is that ‘Tom’s Diner’ has been going viral on TikTok recently, and we really wanted to make sure it didn’t look like we were trying to jump on a TikTok trend because we’ve actually had this song finished for a year. You can’t control some of these things, so you just have to make your favourite music.
TB: It’s honestly such a fun track to listen to! And another fun song to listen to is ‘Larry Bird’ as it’s one of the album’s most tropical and playful offering’s. How many different versions did this song go through?
TH: Interestingly, that is one of the songs that came together the quickest.
SHW: It’s also one of the songs we changed the lyrics to and people got attached to the first version of it. I personally think it’s better now.
TH: I like the original, and you wanted to change it, but I didn’t care.
SHW: We changed the arrangement and the lyrics of Tukker’s dad’s part.
TH: Which is so fun that my dad is on the album! But the track itself came together quite quickly and stayed like that.
TB: Your production throughout this record is very colourful, bright and versatile. Every time you listen you will find something different. What is the most surprising sample or instrument that people may hear on this album?
SHW: Okay so the first thing I thought of is that we have this incredible Organ player on ‘WET TENNIS’ and ‘Summer In New York’. Our jaws were on the floor when he was playing the organ on these songs. Like, my favourite thing about this album is the organs on these two tracks. He was so talented. It was also the warmest sounding organ. I have a new favourite instrument *laughs*.
TB: The ‘Forgive Me’ video was filmed in Istanbul and is absolutely stunning from start to finish. What was one of the most impactful moments for you from your time spent in Istanbul creatively?
SHW: There was this moment I was in this box on the beach with Tanem Işık who is the other girl in the video. We were trying to figure out how to tell the story that Tanem was like my dark side. We tried a ton of choreography to try to figure out how to communicate that, and it wasn’t really translating on film. It just didn’t fully make sense, even though everyone on set knew what we wanted to do. And then Tukker and our stylist Johnny Wujek were planning choreography in the corner and they figured out this straight-jacket hug thing, and came running into the box and were screaming “we figured it out”. So basically we open the video with this one long cut of this choreography that Tukker and Johnny were doing. It was just a really cool moment creatively for us, as it really is a collaboration with everyone involved.
TB: You are heading back down under this July for Splendour In The Grass as well as some big sideshows. When you think of the ‘WET TENNIS TOUR’, what are the immediate visuals that come to mind and what you want this tour to embody?
TH: We’ve been thinking a lot about that as we’ve been designing it at the moment, and it’s going to be a totally new production. It’s going to embody exactly what it sounds like it’s going to embody; it’s going to be tennis themed, a little theatrical, very colourful, very fashionable, and it’s going to be very fun and wet.
SHW: The whole thing is basically going to be a game between me and Tukker. And Tukker might win a lot of the time, and I’m okay with that as I’m in it to play *laughs*.
TH: I don’t know why she is already disclaiming that she is going to lose.
SHW: Because almost every game we’ve ever played together I’ve lost. I’m the sort of person who is either really competitive, or I just opt out *laughs*.
TB: Let’s play a rapid fire of questions about the album. Are you ready?
TB: The emoji that best describes our new album ‘WET TENNIS’ is…
SHW: There’s two; the tennis ball and the splashing water.
TH: But in reverse order.
TB: The song that nearly didn’t make the album was…
SHW: ‘Mon Cheri’
TB: The song we’re looking most forward to performing live would be…
TH: ‘Summer In New York’
TB: If your friend hadn’t heard any of our new music yet, the first track we would play them off the album would be…
SHW: ‘Summer In New York’!
TH: Agreed! And then ‘Original Sin’ and then ‘Kakee’.
‘WET TENNIS’ is out now!
SOFI TUKKER AUSTRALIAN TOUR
Friday 22 July – Splendour In The Grass, Byron Bay
Saturday 23 July – The Forum, Melbourne
Sunday 24 July – Roundhouse, Sydney
Thursday 28 July – Lion Arts Factory, Adelaide
Friday 29 July – Astor Theatre, Perth