Photo © 2017 by: Dennis M. Kelly
For New York duo SOFI TUKKER, comprised of Sophie Hawley-Weld and Tucker Halpern, these words are not just a guiding life principle, but how they measure the music they create. SOFI TUKKER’s “holy trinity,” as they describe it, is movement, community, and joy. Despite their yin-and-yang dynamic and coming from different worlds, the pair shares a deep-rooted spiritual connection around their music.
Halpern was on track to become a professional basketball player, focusing on NCAA stardom and training, before health problems put his athletic dreams on hold and caused his plans to take a serendipitous turn. While recuperating and on bed rest for nine months, Halpern taught himself how to produce electronic music and DJ, adding to the musical skills he had developed in numerous bands during his grade school years.
Hawley-Weld is something of a renaissance woman. Born in Germany, spending her youth in rural Canada and Italy, her international background sparked studies in International development, Brazilian poetry, yoga, and even West African drums and music. As soon as Tucker and Sophie first met, when Halpern stumbled upon Hawley-Weld singing bossa nova in a warehouse, they instantly jumped at the chance to collaborate.
Around this time, Tucker earned a gig supporting NY dance outfit The Knocks, who eventually helped nurture their early demos. “They became instant family, and encouraged us to pursue the collaboration for real,” Tucker recalls. Sophie and Tucker immediately made the jump to New York City and began working on their debut EP at the Knocks’ HeavyRoc Studios. That first week, they penned their debut single “Drinkee,” an instant viral smash that features Portuguese lyrics by Brazilian poet Chacal, now a friend of the group. After putting the track up on Soundcloud, “Drinkee” quickly topped the Spotify viral charts in South America and Europe, popped up on radio stations in countries the band had never visited, and perhaps most prominently featured as the soundtrack to the latest Apple Watch campaign.
Sophie and Tucker also set their sights on putting together a live show, which combines their unique personalities, instrumental skills, and need to get a room full of people dancing. In between Sophie’s sensual guitar licks and Tucker’s dynamic bass moves, the duo adds an unforgettable element of physicality to their performance with their own unique instrument, known as the “Book Tree.” Dressed in foliage and standing at over 6′ tall, Tucker and Sophie take turns drumming on actual hardcover books that have been fabricated to trigger sounds in the show. In their short live career they have headlined shows in a dozen countries, toured supporting M83 and St. Lucia, and graced festival stages in Europe and North America.
Earlier this year, the band released their debut EP. The title, “Soft Animals,” is a nod to poet Mary Oliver. The record has truly been embraced globally, charting in over 20 countries, with the EP’s tracks doing the same. It holds a number of surprises, and shows Sophie and Tucker have created one of the most unique sounds the music community has heard in years – a heady cocktail that blends global instrumentation with modern technology, while sounding anything but machine-made. People have tried to categorize them, but nobody can seem to agree what box to put them in. That suits them just fine.