“I got a Facebook notification today that two years ago we played at Baby’s All Right for Soft Animals,” Sophie Hawley-Weld says, referring to a venue in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and to the 2016 EP she made with bandmate Tucker Halpern. “So it was two-and-a-half-years ago that we did our first show.”
A lot has happened to Sofi Tukker in that two-and-a-half years. Touring straight and constantly jetting to the Southern Hemisphere for inspiration is a good way to make an #EndlessSummer feel genuinely perpetual. For Hawley-Weld and Halpern, whose highly infectious jungle-pop splices Portuguese poetry and genuine lyricism into commercial-ready party tunes and achier love songs alike, the itinerant life has been marked by the indisputable proof of success. Beyond the sold-out shows, the branded leggings, and having the most-streamed song in this or that country, they’ve managed to record enough songs to put out an entire album in addition to this year’s full-length, Treehouse.
If Sofi Tukker’s music feels calibrated to take itself only just seriously enough, the work ethic proves otherwise. Halpern was a college basketball star who abandoned the court for DJing, while Hawley-Weld taught yoga in Brazil for a number of years. The met at Brown University earlier this decade, and haven’t really stopped since. SF Weekly caught up with them again at Lightning in a Bottle over Memorial Day weekend, by which point they’d been on the road for a month with only two days off and didn’t quite know where they were, geographically speaking. (Answer: interior Monterey County, a little north of Paso Robles.)
“Every day, there’s some crazy metric like ‘No. 1 downloaded song in Russia’ where we just look at each other like, ‘What? Never been there,’ ” Hawley-Weld says. “From this side, we’re just showing up and doing our jobs every day. It’s only with the press that we confront this question — like, what is the trajectory?”
A remix of the new album isn’t specifically in the works, although Sofi Tukker will play a DJ set at Audio on Friday, Aug. 31. In the meantime, the pace has not and will not let up. Their set on the main stage at Lightning in a Bottle opened with them standing atop pillars on opposite sides of the stage, with self-consciously minimalist choreography and drumming. (They shed that quickly: she for a white, asymmetrical, retro guitar and matching pants, and he for black-and-white checkered leggings.) Tearing through well-known songs like “Awoo” and “Drinkee” — whose appearance in an Apple Watch ad vaulted Sofi Tukker to prominence — they landed on “Batshit,” which elicited a high level of audience call-and-response. And in true rock-star fashion, they couldn’t even stay long enough to see The Glitch Mob go on a few hours later, having to whisk themselves away to the next destination.
Having two days off a month feels right, Hawley-Weld says, even though she’d been forced to watch movies in bed for a couple of days earlier in May due to an illness. As Joan Rivers once counseled: Don’t even take a vacation, because they forget about you.
“We struggle with that,” she said. “I think we took a week for Christmas to see our families and it was kind of hard because we had withdrawals.
“It’s a really virtuous cycle in terms of how replenishing it is,” she added. “Our souls and our spirits are lifted every time we play a show, and I think there’s something really healthy about that.”
By their own admission, Hawley-Weld and Halpern are rather rootless. They don’t even keep apartments anymore, which means the need to remain grounded is paramount. Informed that L.I.B. had yoga pretty much everywhere, Hawley-Weld mulled over slipping into one of the tents where dozens of people could be found stretching at any point during the day.
“I thought about doing my practice backstage” she said, “but what if I just do it on stage, and people just came early to the shows?”
“Batshit” remains their favorite video, but this week saw the release of “Benadryl,” which involves motifs of Southeastern Asia and the duo climbing into a large fish tank. If only obliquely, the chorus echoes the perils of staying healthy on the road: “Oh, how you make me laugh, / Benadryl in the bath. / We gotta put this to bed / ‘Cause I got some things to do.”
Hawley-Weld had just gotten ahold of a cache of songs she’d written as a child, and she was in the process of combing through them to see what could be transmuted into something. That find felt like it came from ages ago, but one of the nicest things about Sofi Tukker’s music is how the sense of childlike wonder remains intact.
“I get pretty hyped when the commercials come on,” Halpern said. “Recently, the one that had my voice on it with ‘Batshit’ — I’d never heard my voice on the TV before and that was wild.”
“I remember this one time when I was in an American Apparel and ‘Awoo’ came on, probably two years ago,” Hawley-Weld said of the chain that was to liquidate shortly thereafter. “I took my phone out and I was like, ‘This is my song!’ and the woman at the desk was like, ‘Me too!’ I was going to be like, ‘No, it’s mine!’ but I left it at that. I got so hyped.”