Athleisure Mag|November 2020
This month's cover story features 2X GRAMMY nominated musical duo that we have been a fan of for awhile now.
SOFI TUKKER's music can be heard in some of your favorite Apple commercials, TV shows and even when you're hopping on your Peleton. This group is known for their jungle pop vibes and continuing to expand their footprint in the world through their creativity. We talked with them about how they began working with one another, how they got into the industry, their body of work and what they have been doing as they have navigated this time of quarantine.

ATHLEISURE MAG: Prior to becoming the powerhouse duo that you are, when did you fall in love with just music in general?

TUCKER HALPERN: I have always been in love with music. I played the drums and I was in garage bands growing up. But it always took a backseat to basketball. That was my whole life for such a long time until I was like 20 – 22. For me, I didn’t really fall in love until the way that I am today until I got sick in college. That’s when I started turning my attention to something else. I really just fell in love with dance music and house music and stuff.

SOPHIE HAWLEY-WELD: I can’t really point to a specific period in time where I fell in love with music. It’s always been something that I have enjoyed listening to and I have always been dancing. I would always dance and be in musical theater as a kid. I started writing as a means of music therapy actually in middle school. I would play the guitar and I would write about my feelings. I found it so therapeutic to honestly just write about my experiences as opposed to thinking about it. It was my primary way of getting through my angst.

I was really into jazz and I took jazz singing lessons. I started to realize that I liked Brazilian jazz more than any other kind of jazz. I started taking Portuguese and I said, “hey, if I love this music so much, I should probably start taking lessons in it. So I really started loving the music and I moved to Brazil for a bit and I just kept it going. I think it’s a long story but music is just such an experience in the way that you fall in love with it.

AM: We’re big fans of jazz music in our team and our co-founder’s great uncle was Joe Henderson, tenor saxophonist.

SHW: Cool!

AM: We love bossa nova as a form as well, what is it about this genre of music that pulls you in?

SHW: I just find it so intimate and sexy and soothing. I think that the language is perfect for jazz and singing. I think that it’s very vowel-y. I think it’s perfect and when you’re listening to it, the singers are whispering into the microphone.

AM: Pretty much.

SHW: Yeah and I just really enjoy that whole vibe.

AM: How did you guys meet one another and was the moment when you realized that you wanted to work together and that you had those traits that would be really beneficial together?

TH: Well, I think that I had to convince Sophie to do that – that I had traits to add to her repertoire. But the story goes, I was DJing after my basketball life in college during my senior year. I was DJing tons of house parties – like college stuff, but it was cool underground stuff. One of my friends asked me to DJ after this art show. We went to Brown and it was at this show in Providence in downtown like at a warehouse thing. I went early to set up and Sophie was the acoustical performer at the art show and I think that there was only 10 people there. But I was sort of setting up and watching her perform with a couple of friends that I knew from my music classes at school. She was amazing and she was only singing in Portuguese and it was really beautiful bossa nova music which I had never really heard much of before. I thought that it was really cool but it was really slow. Like REALLY slow – like 4 BPMs – I swear! I was like, man this would be so much cooler if it was more upbeat and had a house beat behind it. When she sort of finished and it was supposed to be my turn to play, I actually said casually, “hey keep playing and I’m going to bring in a beat with it.” So like, looping the intro with a house music track and I put it really slow at the tempo that they were playing at and then I started speeding it up and I said, “just follow the tempo.” She started singing the song at a faster beat that was behind it. So I said, “ok this is going to work.”

After that, I think she stayed for my set – did she?

SHW: I did.

TH: You must have – you had to. She was probably hitting on a guy that was there ha.

SHW: Of course haha.

TH: So the role reversed. I had to introduce myself to her after I played and I was like, what were you singing. She told me that they were original songs that she made. I asked her if I could do a remix of the last one that she was singing. She agreed but told me that there was no real recording of it. I said, “cool, come over to my apartment tomorrow – a dorm apartment and let’s rerecord it and I’ll make an electronic version of the song. She did come over and we did start making a different version of the song and –

SHW: We just started working every day and making new projects. It was so easy to work together. Were we even friends? We started working with each other for a long time but we weren’t hanging out socially. We just had a great work friendship.

AM: That’s mind boggling! You’d think that the two of you started this as being best friends or at least really good acquaintances.

SHW: Yeah we didn’t even hang out with one another outside of making our music. We were just making music. Eventually, Tucker convinced me that I should come to NY. Then I thought, “wait, who is this guy?” I talked to people that I knew that we had in common and I was like, “do you vouch for him and should I move to NY with him to create a band with him?” They were like, “oh yeah, he’s a great guy – you should go with him.”

AM: What is your process like when you do sit down and create music together? Do you guys have designated roles?

SHW: Yeah. Every song is very different. But for the most part, Tucker is at the computer and I’m on the guitar and writing most of the lyrics. Now he’s singing a lot more which is cool. It’s also because as the band has evolved we have done the same as well.

AM: You guys have worked with so many artists over the past few years, what are you guys looking for when you are deciding on collaborating with people outside of yourselves?

TH: Honestly, I think that we’re just looking at people with good vibes. We love working with friends and people that we admire and look up to. That actually has a lot to do with the vibe that they are put ting out into the world. We enjoy working together. One of the coolest things about collaboration is about putting out like a baby into the world that you created together and then being able to celebrate that together. Then being able to perform it together. You’re sort of bonded with that group forever. It will sort of always be a part of who you are. It’s just fun and it also gets you to have that opportunity for that music to have a little more freedom.Because you’re able to work with another artist who has their musical sound, we don’t have to worry about whether that music has the SOFI TUKKER sound and if it is really in our world, having that aesthetic and that palette because it’s a collaboration. So it can also live in Icona Pop’s world or someone else’s world. So it can have a little more risk and it can be a little more out there. Maybe not more out there as I think SOFI TUKKER songs are out there.

AM: Oh yes in the best possible way.

TH: Right I love out there. In a way – the collaboration has a way of being able to be out there – you know what I mean?

AM: Yeah. It’s about blending. When you have two collaborators that you know their work separately, come together it’s a hybrid that’s undefined and gives you the space to create. That’s so exciting when you see that come together.

TH: You get me.

AM: Yes! Our team has done fun projects outside of Athleisure Mag. Our Style Director had the opportunity to style Nile Rodgers a few years ago and her style has its signature and Nile is known for his. So the two coming together to create a look really took the pressure offof her as they both had a united vision without her wondering how it would go against her aesthetic. She could just sit back and enjoy the work and embrace his vibes and interests while adding in her touches.

TH: Exactly, it’s fun to have the other create fingerprints on it as well.

AM: Prior to COVID-19, you guys had a number of tours that you were on and creating a number of amazing shows. In prep for this interview, when we have told people that you guys are the cover, everyone would tell us about their show experience when jamming out with you guys and how it was the best night of their lives. So many people have painted a picture for us about your shows, but for those that have yet to go, what is it like for one of your in person shows?

TH: I don’t remember.

AM: It feels like so long ago!

SHW: It’s like a electric orgasm!

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