Sofi Tukker Gives Us an Intimate Glimpse Into Their Debut Album ‘Treehouse’
New York-based duo Sofi Tukker makes cheery, effervescent, cosmopolitan music that captures the zeitgeist in the best possible way. The two met at Brown University, with an interesting backstory. Tucker Halpern was an aspiring basketball player, but found himself bedridden from an injury, and wanted to do something productive. He chose to make music on his computer, and Sofi Tukker was born, a testament to the value of happy accidents.
The duo’s other half, Sophie Hawley-Weld, spent some of her formative years attending an international school, and her music shows it. She often sings in Portuguese, yet she’s not Portuguese or Brazilian. She simply thinks it’s a beautiful language, and anyone with an ear should realize that’s reason enough. Sofi Tukker’s music has a strikingly international feel, with all types of exotic percussion, that it’s no surprise they have charted in every continent except Antarctica.
They just released their debut album, “Treehouse,” aptly titled, as it’s meant to evoke the free, childlike spirit, and it certainly captures that feeling. The duo is also embarking on their biggest U.S. tour so far. They’ve discussed that the idea of what a Sofi Tukker show is supposed to be like is a concept that was realized over time, upon interacting with the audience and responding to the vibes. Sophie and Tucker recently took the time to open up to Entertainment Voice about the stories behind their songs, and gave us a sneak peak into the new album and upcoming tour.
You’ve said you want your new album “Treehouse” to feel “like that magical, welcoming place from childhood, where you go to escape with your friends and make your own rules together.” Did either of you have a tree house or a special place when your were young?
Sophie: I actually had a physical treehouse where I used to escape to to draw and sing. It was in the middle of the forest. It was more a plank of woods between trees. But it was so much fun to hang out there and I sometimes brought a sleeping bag to sleep there too! It was magic.
Tucker: I made forts wherever I would go! We did have a treehouse in our backyard but my dad was over protective (in a nice way), but he wouldn’t let the treehouse be more than a couple feet off the ground because he thought we would fall off! So no one really used it cuz it wasn’t cool haha.
On the album’s first track, “Fuck They,” you opt for “they” instead of the more conventional us of “them.” Tell us why you chose “Fuck They?”
Tucker: “They” really comes from the saying “They say…” Most sentences that start that way end by saying some kind of a rule that is totally made up and, more often than not, nobody has any idea who actually says it — why should we listen to this nebulous “they”? It’s not about “other people” it’s just about people or things or ideas that hold you back from being yourself. Fuck They.
On the chorus of “Energia” you sing these lyrics in Portuguese — written by Brazilian poet Chacal — “Da-da-da da minha energia, da-da minha energia,” which roughly translates to “Give it my energy, give it my energy.” Energy has various meanings; spiritual, physical, scientific, etc. What does the word “energy” mean to you in this song?
Tucker: This song has a ton of energy and it’s a really bright and exuberant kind of energy — spiritual, physical, and scientific!
Sophie, how did you develop your fascination with the Portuguese language?
Sophie: I first developed a fascination for the language when I heard Brazilian music. I thought the sounds were so sexy. The language feels like it was made to be sung.
You infuse poems from various poets into several of your songs. Tell us why the use of poetry is such an important medium for you in your music.
Sophie: I collaborate with Brazilian poets because the poems lend themselves so well to music. And because Portuguese isn’t my native language, I have a kind of different relationship with the words — it’s harder for me to come up with the poetry myself and easy for me to relate to the words on a musical level. It’s really fun to create with and support artists in Brazil!
What are the stories behind the following songs?
Tucker: Being in a relationship that you shouldn’t really be in anymore is a lot like taking a Benadryl: it puts you in a kind of distracted, dreamlike stupor in which it’s hard to focus. This song is about getting out of that Benadryl-like trance; it’s a cryptic break-up song.
Good Time Girl:
Sophie: This song is a tongue-in-cheek critique of the trope of the nice, uncomplicated, easy girl. The girl who doesn’t complain, doesn’t stand up for herself, and does everything to stay “nice”, cool, and casual. She is the girl that you can call when you just want to have a good time. She does not require respect or good communication. She is an imaginary alter-ego. She is not me. Whenever I fall into the habits of trying to be the good time girl, no matter how nice I may try to appear, I find myself teeming with thought and unease. You can call me the good time girl, but I will never be her. And in fact, I’m having way more fun when I’m not trying to be her. This song also features one of our best friends, Charlie Barker, who owns herself and is one of the most authentically cool people we know.
Baby I’m a Queen:
Sophie: “Baby I’m a Queen” is about embracing tumultuousness and vulnerability. Just because you are vulnerable, doesn’t mean you have to let yourself be belittled or infantilized (Why is “baby” the default nickname?) We are strong and empowered because we cry, because we desire, and because of what is chaotic about us. This song is about standing up as strong and powerful, because of that courage to share ourselves. It’s about being both a baby and a queen at the same time.
One component that makes many of your new songs especially infectious and enjoyable is all of the exotic percussion. Will you name some of the instruments that are featured, so that captivated listeners might further explore those sounds?
Tucker: Cuica is the high pitched monkey-like sound. It’s a Brazilian instrument we use in a lot of our songs, agogô or cowbell.
You’ve charted in every continent except Antarctica, quite a remarkable feat. Which continent surprised you the most, and why?
Tucker: first of all, c’mon Antarctica! Second of all, we have been pretty blown away everywhere! Honestly, really have loved everywhere! Brazil is always one up-ing itself!
You’ve said that the more you toured, the more you realized what a Sofi Tukker show should be. Please expand on this — and on what can fans expect from your upcoming tour.
Sophie: The more we tour, the more we realize that what is most special about doing what we do is the connections that we get to make. So more and more, we focus ur shows around connection and everything we can do to amplify that. We have so much fun playing. It’s really our favorite thing ever. We go wild and so does everyone else.
Apple’s use of your song, “Best Friend,” as a commercial for iPhone X introduced you to a lot of people, but out of all of your songs, which is your favorite right now, or of all time?
Tucker: That’s like asking us to choose a favorite child! They are all our babies. It just depends on what mood we are in.
“Treehouse” is available April 13 on Apple Music.