Talking With Sofi Tukker About Success, Collaboration, And What Kind Of Dogs Are Cutest
You’re either a big or a small dog person in this world
Sophie Hawley-Weld, one-half of the duo Sofi Tukker, is explaining how much her education at Brown University influenced her music— “Oh my god, this guy is so fun!” her partner Tucker Halpern interrupts. He tucks his chin, widens his grin, and lowers his voice. Having never heard such raw happiness before, I follow his gaze.
A pug is walking less than three feet away from us, and Halpern’s entire world has frozen over. “Look at him!”
There are two types of people in this world: People who cross paths with a dog, and people who get overcome with emotion because a dog has chosen to cross paths with them. Forget his alma mater, forget the popcorn he’s eating, forget this interview he’s doing—the only thing that exists in Halpern’s mind right now is this most divine pup.
Hawley-Weld, though, is equipped to handle the situation. Sofi Tukker have been touring all over the world for the better part of three years and have, I assume, crossed paths with many dogs. “That’s your style of dog,” she says. She’s unfazed. This has clearly happened before.
After collecting himself, Tucker musters up a beautiful understatement: “I love little dogs.” And, to perhaps explain why she did not have a similar outburst, Hawley-Weld quickly adds, “I love huge dogs.”
In this last year, Sofi Tukker have played at Coachella, Panorama, Firefly, and Outside Lands. They’ve been nominated for a Grammy and will be joining ODESZA on their North American tour in the fall. But despite their meteoric success, Sofi Tukker continue to take their work very seriously all the while ensuring that they don’t take themselves as seriously—they’ll keep fawning over every dog they see, thank you very much.
Their most recent single, “Fuck They,” clearly shows the boisterous yet dedicated approach they have to their craft. The idea for the song first came up at a family wedding, when Halpern’s mother wasn’t too excited about the untraditional getup he chose to wear to the church ceremony. “I brought something that I thought was cool.” Needless to say, iIt was not the suit and tie his mother had in mind.
“She was like, ‘You have to wear a suit to church,’” Halpern recounts. “I was literally like, ‘Who said that?’” He got chastised again later on during the reception. “[Halpern was] doing [his] DJ bob thing and everyone was like, ‘They say you should sit down!’” Hawley-Weld says. “And I’m like, ‘Who’s they? Why?’ Because the bride and groom loved it!”
In questioning the unspoken rules of wedding etiquette, and as a result being unapologetic about rejecting social norms, Sofi Tukker have departed from their previous dance anthems. “There’s no Portuguese, and there’s so much profanity,” Hawley-Weld explains. But there’s still that eclectic and playful beat that makes it a recognizable Sofi Tukker song.
So “Fuck They” was a risk. And after a whirlwind year, the stakes were higher than ever. But those conditions played into the song itself. “We loved [the song], so we were like, "Fuck it." If people don’t like it, fuck they,” Halpern confesses.
And the risk paid off.
Fans have been responding positively to the track. The group’s Instagram Story at some point featured fans snapping pictures of what “they” means to them. And since then, the track has come full circle, beginning with Halpern’s mom and ending with Hawley-Weld informing her partner, “Tuck, did I tell you that my grandma likes the song?”
This single marks both a shift and a continuation of what’s to come. “The direction always has been, make what we like, make what we want to hear,” Halpern says. But as they are rising, it's not only what’s being heard that's changing, but also how it's being heard. Sofi Tukker first played at New York's Baby’s All Right where the maximum capacity is 240 people. Soon, they’ll be playing at Staples Center in front of 21,000 people.
“I do think, playing big shows, like the Coachella show or big festivals that we’ve been doing, definitely influences the music in a way,” Halpern admits. “It’s different when you’re creating music like we did our first EP, where we had never played shows before and we didn’t know we’d even be performing the songs.”
Throughout the interview, the duo is playful and creative. At one point, when Halpern can't remember a word that sounds like “shushed,” both artists play with its homonyms. “Shushed, wushed, wished?” Halpern suggests. “Shushed,” Hawley-Weld adds before pragmatically proposing, “moved—ushered!” My mind immediately goes to their track “Awoo,” with the sound-based syncopated rhythm in the words: “It came/ It went/ It conquered quick.” Had they just written their next hit right in front of me?
But the jokes subside when they discuss the next few months; Sofi Tukker’s humility and dedication is evident. They never shy away from discussing how much they have left to learn, how much they want to grow their live performances, and how seriously they’re taking this process.
Hawley-Weld is perfecting her pre-shows warm-up, detailing how she dwindled down what was once a two-hour ritual to a 22-minute one. And there’s a serious tone in her voice when she reflects on this preparation. “We know a little bit better what works for us and what doesn’t,” she says. “It’s nice to sort of hone it down to a very efficient science.”
Halpern is cutting down on sugar and, as the producer primarily for these tracks, focuses on mentally preparing himself for stadium-sized shows: “Just like get zoned in.” And as he is taking on more vocals on the tracks, he, too, will have to figure out a vocal prep, “but Sophie can teach me that stuff,” he says while glancing reassuringly at his partner.
The support system is there. Because even though they’ve got opposite tastes in dogs, they’ve developed a strong partnership—and a special one at that. (I mean, what's more special than a big dog lover working with a little dog lover?)
Interestingly, the two weren’t particularly close when they first came together. But after traveling and performing and creating over the last three years, the relationship has grown. “I think our dynamic has changed extraordinarily because we know each other better than most now,” Hawley-Weld says.
Halpern relates the bond that keeps Sofi Tukker together to a conversation he had with a fellow artist. “I was like, ‘Maybe you have all of it—maybe you have all of these strengths and skills.' But I don’t. And Sophie doesn’t,” he laughs. “But together, we have enough strengths to make it work, and have the belief and the excitement and the inspiration.”
This supportive dynamic becomes clear when Halpern gets side-tracked by a double whammy: A big dog and a little dog are strolling by—incidentally, right when I ask him whether he has dogs of his own. “He’s running so hard to keep up with the large one!” he beams. “Sorry, what was the question?” Thankfully, Hawley-Weld fills him in.