Playing ‘WET TENNIS’ with Sofi Tukker [Interview]


Playing ‘WET TENNIS’ with Sofi Tukker [Interview]SOFI TUKKER 2022 Horizontal Photo Credit Elizabeth Miranda 1

“White tennis clothing is required at all times.”

At most country clubs, the tennis court dress code is likely to include some variation of the above. In the official press shot for “Original Sin,” not a stitch of white is to be found on Sophie Hawley-Weld and Tucker Halpern, clad in orange, red, pink, and purple ombré athletic wear. As with all aspects of Sofi Tukker, the aesthetic choice is no oversight; it’s intentional.

“We’re building WET TENNIS around this concept of flipping tennis on its head and turning it from something that’s of a very exclusive, country club-like vibe into something super bright and colorful. Usually, you aren’t even allowed on the tennis court if you’re wearing colorful clothes,” Sophie Hawley-Weld told Dancing Astronaut on a Zoom call taken from a friend’s house in California.

The “sports essence” of their forthcoming sophomore LP, announced on February 4, pervades everything from their outfits in promotional imagery surrounding WET TENNIS to the project’s title, to the production of its supporting tour. And it’s no wonder why—in many ways, tennis mimics Hawley-Weld and Halpern’s daily creative interplay as Sofi Tukker.

“We’re hitting ideas back and forth all day for every song we write, except we’re not playing against each other; we rally,” Halpern said.

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They’re a doubles team that’s taken the dance scene by storm in recent years, racking up gold and platinum records in every continent other than Antarctica, hundreds of livestream appearances, and, notably, a Grammy nomination for their debut album, Treehouse (2018). To run so rampantly around electronic circles is an exercise of its own, but Hawley-Weld and Halpern have an athleticism about them—both literally and figuratively—and that’s a part of WET TENNIS‘ concept, too.

“We didn’t want it to just be about tennis because that’s only a part of it, we both come from athletic backgrounds. I was a college basketball player, Sophie was a great soccer player, and now she plays a lot of tennis,” Halpern said. His mom is also a skillful tennis player, as is the creative director with whom Sofi Tukker worked to bring WET TENNIS to life.

At an earlier point in WET TENNIS‘ development, the team sat listening to the cluster of cuts that Hawley-Weld and Halpern wanted to include on the LP. An errant conversation about sports led them to the serendipitous realization that they all shared a background in tennis. Pair that with their casual overuse of “wet”—”we started using that adjective a bunch,” Hawley-Weld said. “Like, ‘that’s so wet,’” Halpern chimed in.—and they’d have the album’s name.

“We were like, ‘woah, wet tennis,’ and then we were like, wet just feels a little too surface-level. It doesn’t encapsulate the depth of a lot of the music,” Hawley-Weld added.

They “loved the athletic, exciting, playful side of it,” Halpern explained, but they also wanted to “say something intentional to the world,” something that would match the deliberate nature of the music.

“A lot of the music comes from a place where we were really introspective and going through some stuff, so we really wanted the album title to also reflect that.”

—Tucker Halpern

They’d keep WET TENNIS, but would make it an acronym: “When Everyone Tries to Evolve, Nothing Negative Is Safe.”

To understand the acronym’s significance is to understand that WET TENNIS is something of a positive catchall. It’s about “forward movement, optimism and positive growth, no matter the challenge.” It’s also a “lifestyle” that says, “everything’s better when wet,” attests Hawley-Weld. “Wetness is excitement,” she says. “It’s the pussy, and there’s so much power in the pussy, it’s enthusiasm and excitement—it’s kind of a euphemism for that. But it’s also sweat and movement and flow and mother nature. And it’s sexy, you know? We don’t want just any tennis, we want it to be wet.”

Though the name “WET TENNIS” came out of what Hawley-Weld calls a “silly mood,” there’s nothing frivolous about its ethos. In fact, the sanguine, whimsical character of the album’s title takes on a greater meaning when Sofi Tukker share that they made the whole album during the pandemic:

“It was made during a tough time and we were really inspired and influenced by the community that built around our daily livestreams. They call themselves the ‘freak fam’ and they’ve got a 24-hour Zoom room. That community just developed organically when everyone was going through the tough time. And it was so important that we continued to evolve and rolled with the punches and just figured out how to keep going when everything kind of got stopped. And I think there was a sense of just trying to keep evolving and keep the positivity going even through the obstacles, and that was sort of what we were going through when we made this album. But, we wanted WET TENNIS to feel good—not like we were sad and depressed because we wrote it all in a pandemic.”

—Tucker Halpern

Amid the unprecedented scale of the COVID-19 pandemic, many creatives translated feelings of uncertainty, sadness, and aimlessness to song. Sofi Tukker were among them. From their home in Florida, they wrote some “super downer” tracks, at least 10 of which didn’t make the album. Hawley-Weld calls the productions that didn’t make the WET TENNIS cut “amazing,” and contentedly says that, eventually, they’ll “come out in their own form, when they’re ready.” The choice to shelve them stemmed from Sofi Tukker’s desire to craft an LP that maintained a consciousness of the climate in which it was written, but was still uplifting.

“Once we got to deciding what songs were going to be on the album, we were like, ‘what do we really want to put out into the world right now?’ And we decided that we really wanted to put something out that felt like it was acknowledging that it [the pandemic] was a hard time, but we wanted it to sound really bright and optimistic and hopeful, because we always have a choice to look at things that are negative and decide to learn something from them and decide to keep that bright and optimistic spirit,” Hawley-Weld explained. “We narrowed down the music that we decided to put on the album to songs that really made us feel that way. And there are definitely some songs where you can feel and hear that we were going through it.”

WET TENNIS‘ tracklist has yet to be announced, but has been arranged such that a song that’s more introspective or doleful is followed by one that’s “more of a spirit lift,” Hawley-Weld said. Sofi Tukker’s attention to the lyrical focus and tonality of WET TENNIS‘ inclusions serves to keep the album from leaning too consecutively in one direction, and by doing so, emulates the fluctuating nature of emotions felt during the pandemic’s evolution.

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Although COVID-19-related circumstances caused WET TENNIS to take “much longer” than either Hawley-Weld or Halpern expected, much of its intentional character is owed to the pandemic. When Sofi Tukker were fashioning their debut album, Treehouse, the LP’s production and track selection was catered to the live show. The making of Treehouse orbited around the question, what feels really good to do in a live show?, say Sofi Tukker. As such, some of the songs on Treehouse are more of a “screamy, shouty” brand that would be out of place on WET TENNIS. Of course, the contrast between the time that Treehouse was being made and the time that WET TENNIS was being made couldn’t be sharper. During the former, Sofi Tukker were “performing almost every day while making it.” Needless to say, this wasn’t the case during the latter period.

In the absence of in-person music programming, they turned to livestreams and detail orientation, drilling down into aspects of WET TENNIS that they otherwise wouldn’t have. “We had a lot of time to think about exactly what we want to say and how we want to present it that we wouldn’t have had if the world hadn’t stopped. We wouldn’t have been so intentional because we just wouldn’t have had the time to really go in on every little detail, like the clothes we’re wearing in the shoots,” Halpern said. He doesn’t feel that this type of world-building happens frequently in dance music, and that’s not only fuel for their joint excitement about the WET TENNIS project, but also what makes it so special.

This influx of time afforded Sofi Tukker the unusual ability to get granular with just about everything WET TENNIS. There’s a long list of examples to pull from, but the one that’s the most synchronous with who Sofi Tukker are is the tennis-fied logo that they designed. Featuring two intersecting tennis rackets, one emblazoned with an “S” and one with an “F,” the logo sits at the center of Halpern’s green-strung racket, suspended atop the words WET TENNIS.

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Hawley-Weld and Halpern have always likened Sofi Tukker to a Venn diagram, according to Halpern. In the logo, the two interlocking tennis rackets overlap by design to resemble a Venn diagram.

“We’ve always said Sofi Tukker is such a Venn diagram because there’s me and there’s Sophie, and we’re so different; we have so many different interests. And that sliver where we overlap is where Sofi Tukker lives,” Halpern said. “We’ve always wanted to incorporate that into a logo or something art[-related] to represent what Sofi Tukker is, and it was so exciting to be able to use tennis rackets to show that.”

This precision will also be apparent in other aspects of WET TENNIS. “We were so particular and took our time and made sure the execution was right with the vision,” Halpern attested, noting that this will be especially apparent in the merchandise and tour production to come.

They’re still defining the details of their supporting tour, the news of which was announced in tandem with “Original Sin,” WET TENNIS‘ lead single and music video. The initiative will first take them through a slew of North American cities, such as Philadelphia, Brooklyn, Boston, Toronto, Portland, and Berkeley, with Australian cities earning visits in late July. A full list of tour stops and tickets to the WET TENNIS tour, which are currently available for purchase, can be found on Sofi Tukker’s website.

Notably, the WET TENNIS tour will be a series of live shows rather than DJ sets. Per Hawley-Weld, they’ll be “creating a whole world” and, yes, there will be a tennis court on stage. It’s going to be a different type of show, they say, but it’ll “still be a Sofi Tukker show.” As such, it should come as no surprise that they’re considering inviting someone up on stage at each show to be spanked with a tennis racket by either Hawley-Weld or Halpern—attendee’s choice. The idea was proposed by one of Sofi Tukker’s “freak fam” during a livestream that took place on February 10, just before Sofi Tukker connected with Dancing Astronaut for this WET TENNIS interview. Maybe it’ll happen, maybe it won’t; either way, it’s an idea that earns a laugh from both Hawley-Weld and Halpern.

In the months leading up to WET TENNIS‘ April 29 release, Sofi Tukker will shower streamers in pre-album singles, as well as other LP-related news. Between additional WET TENNIS tracklistings, remixes of said tracklistings, music videos, and other announcements, there’s something coming out “virtually every week” until they start touring. It’s worth noting that WET TENNIS will play host to some of what Halpern feels to be their “biggest singles.” And, of course, there are also some collaborations to come.

“One of the things that has always been important to us is that our collaborations are global, and that definitely remains true for this album,” Hawley-Weld said.

At this point in the rollout, Hawley-Weld and Halpern must remain tight-lipped about the rest of WET TENNIS‘ details, but assuredly, the interim between now and the LP’s late-April arrival via Ultra/Sony Music will be, well, wet.

Featured image: Elizabeth Miranda

The post Playing ‘WET TENNIS’ with Sofi Tukker [Interview] appeared first on Dancing Astronaut.

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