ABOVE: SOFI TUKKER. PHOTO COURTESY OF DANA LAUREN GOLDSTEIN.
For the New York-based duo Sofi Tukker, the creation of world music for a wider audience (including the dance and techno scenes) is essential. After meeting at an art gallery while attending Brown University, Sophie Hawley-Weld and Tucker Halpern quickly began making music, only later becoming friends. Upon graduation in 2014, the pair moved to New York, and over the course of the past year, have been compiling their self-titled debut EP. Here we are pleased to premiere their first-ever release, “Drinkee.”
Inspired by Brazilian poet Chacal, the track’s lyrics are directly adapted from one of his poems, sung in the original language: Portuguese. However, according to Hawley-Weld, “It doesn’t matter whether or not you can understand Portuguese. The point of ‘Drinkee’ isn’t the meaning; the point is the nonsense.”
In the song, Hawley-Weld’s voice fuses together with infectious and layered underlying sounds that include distorted electric guitar, a strong bass line, bongos, and even cowbells. This diverse range of sound reflects the overall aesthetic of Sofi Tucker, which also includes “Moon Tattoo,” “Hey Lion,” and “Mina”—the first two of which are sung in English, the latter another blend of English and Portuguese. Now signed to The Knocks’ label, HeavyRoc Music, we took some time to learn about the band.
WHO: Sophie Hawley-Weld, 23, and Tucker Halpern, 25
BASED: New York
FROM: Tucker Halpern: Boston native.
Sophie Hawley-Weld: I was born in Germany and grew up immersed in international school communities. I was in the German bilingual track, spent a few years in rural Canada, and then went to the United World College of the Adriatic in Italy. My parents now live in the Netherlands. So I am never quite sure what to say when people ask me where I’m from. Plus, at heart, I feel Brazilian. I only studied there for six months but I am yearning to go back—music pulses everywhere and I love it.
THE BEGINNING: Hawley-Weld: Tucker and I started making music together before we became friends. We met at an art gallery, where I was performing an acoustic set with a jazz combo—I used to mostly write bossa nova music—and Tucker was DJing. He jumped on and remixed the song on the spot. After the show, he asked me if he could [more officially] remix the song. We met up the next day and redid the song entirely. We haven’t stopped working together since.
LANGUAGE BARRIER: Hawley-Weld: Making dance music is a spiritual thing. It’s about being completely absorbed by rhythm and vibration, so much so that the petty stuff of life stops mattering. I’ve been teaching various forms of yoga for four years and “Drinkee,” in particular, is informed by my experience with Kundalini yoga chants. By repeating sounds over and over again, I lose sense of time, space, and ego, and I get to just vibrate.
CHANGE OF PLANS: Halpern: During our last semester at Brown, we designed an independent course and my favorite professor sponsored us making music. I was DJing a lot and Sophie was busy working on her thesis, so we didn’t consider [music] a career option until I met The Knocks, when I opened for them in Providence. I showed B-Roc [Ben Ruttner] and JPatt [James Patterson, of The Knocks] the music that Sophie and I had made and they said we should move to New York and do this. That was all the convincing I needed.
Hawley-Weld: I was planning to move to Brazil to teach dance-yoga. Then Tucker called me and asked if I would be willing to move to New York. I think I said, “But I hate winter,” and Tucker said, “Stop being a pussy.” Then I said, “But I am a pussy,” but, I did it, which is crazy.
WEST AFRICAN INFLUENCES: Hawley-Weld: At Brown, I trained in West African dance and drumming. Something I’ll never forget is my professor saying, “Free your pelvis, free your mind.” It definitely still informs the way I make and feel music.
BUT ALSO ATHLETICS: Halpern: I grew up drumming but had to put it on the back burner because of basketball. I was always expecting to eventually play basketball professionally, but I had some health issues that made me bedridden for eight months and I had to leave school and basketball. In those months, I taught myself to produce music.
Soph and I both have athletic backgrounds. It really helps in the creative process. When we are putting ourselves out there, it helps that I’ve had men up in my face “mother-fucking” me at basketball practices since I was young. Criticism doesn’t affect me much now.
Don’t get me wrong, though. Basketball is my first love. If my health had permitted me, I would still be playing, but I am glad in retrospect that everything happened the way it did. I get the same rush being on stage DJing that I did on the court.