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If you’d been livestreaming a DJ set in quarantine every day for almost a year, you’d want to get out into nature like Sofi Tukker do, too. The desire to get out of the house in a safe and socially-distant way is part of the reason the dynamic EDM duo has teamed up with Venice Beach-based Solé Bicycles, on a limited-edition bicycle called “The Purple Cheetah,” inspired by Sofi Tukker’s music. The bicycle’s two-tone white and purple frame, yellow KMC chain, and cheetah print saddle are an extension of the vibrant and uplifting aesthetic that define Sofi Tukker as artists, and is available to pre-order now.
Grammy Award-nominees Sophie Hawley-Weld and Tucker Halpern, the two halves of the group, say they didn’t set out to make visual art, or define their aesthetic from the beginning. For them, it’s been a process of discovering what brings joy to their fans and what uplifts them as artists while they stay focused on the music. Designing a bike with Solé was the natural progression of bringing it all together, from their music and visuals, to their mutual love for cycling and the outdoor activities that have helped them cope during the pandemic.
As for why they decided to launch a bicycle during quarantine, Hawley-Weld says that especially now more than ever, they’ve both been “biking absolutely everywhere.” At the same time, their hit single “Purple Hat” took off on radio stations across the country, ending up serving as the inspiration of the aesthetic look and feel of the Solé bike. Halpern, who formerly studied architecture in college, had also developed an interest in crafting customized Sofi Tukker items. “Sophie says ‘we don’t have to put Sofi Tukker on everything,’” he says. “But it’s a vibe. It just kind of became part of our world.”
Sofi Tukker talked to Rolling Stone about their new collaboration, DJing through the pandemic, and how cycling has helped them get out of their heads and recharge for 2021.
Why launch a bike now during quarantine, and how were you a part of the design process?
Hawley-Weld: Well I don’t know how to drive, so I’m very much an avid biker. Especially in the pandemic, we’ve been biking around a lot, and it’s something we’ve always talked about.
Halpern: Yeah, I’m also pretty obsessed with making custom Sofi Tukker things. It’s one of my favorite things to do.
Hawley-Weld: We just came out with a song about a year ago called “Purple Hat,” where “purple hat cheetah print” is one of the lyrics, and I’m literally staring at a cheetah print license plate as we speak. [laughs]
Halpern: I have to put that one on my car. I have a custom car that says “ST” on it with cheetah print, wrapped. I love it, and I love bikes—I actually studied architecture in college and I really love the design of bicycles. I do have my license, so Sophie bikes out of necessity, while I just bike out of enjoyment. Our song “Purple Hat” was actually made after having this crazy party that we were inspired by. I was DJing in a purple hat and a cheetah print shirt, and the song was built around that moment.
Hawley-Weld: Purple became the color for us, at least since that song.
So then how would you define your visual aesthetic as artists?
Halpern: We’re always talking about this, because when we started this, we made music. We didn’t necessarily make visual art, or aesthetics, so we’ve always been sort of figuring that out as we go. It’s been an interesting balance as people who initially just tried to make songs.
Hawley-Weld: But the jungle is always a part of our aesthetic. It’s the landscape for us that feels the most natural, and the most enjoyable.
Halpern: We live in South Florida, so we live in the jungle, and Sophie has lived in Brazil. A lot of our songs are in Portuguese and inspired by Brazil, so that’s a big part of our aesthetic.
Hawley-Weld: And obviously the plants in the jungle are loud, and colorful, and bright, and vibrant.
Halpern: That’s why my favorite part of the bike is actually the yellow bike chain. That’s based on a yellow chain necklace—which I’m actually wearing right now. It’s one of those chains from the hardware store, that I think are meant for pulling boats. But I made it at the beginning of the pandemic and it’s very heavy. I wear it every time I DJ, I pretty much wear it all the time now. It sort of became a thing, and a lot of people who follow us started making their own.
Your “Freak Fam” has been amazingly supportive this past year. How important is finding community online versus solitary activities (like biking) during these times?
Hawley-Weld: I feel like both are extremely important. Especially for us—we’ve been in quarantine for months. I think there are a lot of people who’ve been extremely strict like that. Meaning they can’t hug, or kiss, or love, or be with their friends and families. That’s the case for us and the case for so many people around us. Obviously community is a big, essential human need, and the fact that we’re able to find it online, while it’s not everything and it doesn’t fill the entire void, does definitely do a lot. We, surprisingly, have been super well-connected to everyone in the Freak Fam. It’s kind of crazy what you can accomplish online.
Besides daily DJing sets on Twitch, how else have you been spending the pandemic?
Halpern: The daily DJ sets took up a lot of our time for a while. We started DJIng 335 days ago, so almost an entire year. We did it every single day for almost 200 of those days. Then, we started programming some other artists at the same time so the community could keep going, even when we were just doing 3-4 times a week. It’s really been life-saving, with the incredible hand-written message we get in the mail, and in DMs we receive, and the people we talk to. [Our fans] really created a whole community, and they have their own 24/7 Zoom room. For people who need that connection and need that sort of family, or friendship, it’s there for so many people from all parts of the world.
You’ve been hunkering down in the studio working on some new music lately, so has biking or getting out into nature been beneficial for your mental health?
Hawley-Weld: I honestly don’t think I would mentally survive without going out into nature and exercising. I go on really long bike rides once a week. We did a 67 mile bike ride the other day which was really difficult. But it feels really nice to be perfectly tired, when your whole body is tired, you know? I think that’s also a huge part of why we live where we live, because we love getting outside as much as we possibly can. The weather is so good here we can do that every day without bundling up.
Have you had any wild or strange experiences while out biking?
Halpern: Sophie has the most frightening biking story I’ve ever heard. [laughs]
Hawley-Weld: Right when we formed the band, we moved to New York and we lived there for a couple years. I was biking everywhere at the time, I wasn’t even taking the subway. This is a crazy reason, but I had a broken foot and was on a boot, so I figured, it’s a lot more stress on the foot to be taking the subway and walking on the boot than it is to just bike, because there’s no pressure on my foot. Then I would keep my boot in my backpack, and then when I arrived at my location I would put my boot on. So I’m meeting Tucker at the studio, I’m living in Brooklyn at the time, and the studio was in Chinatown. I opened up Google Maps, asked what the best way to get there was, and I started biking. At the time, I don’t know if Google Maps had the option or if I just didn’t notice at the time, but I chose the “car” [route] option and not the “bike” option. So the Google Maps car option told me to get on the bridge, and bike over the bridge to Chinatown. So I got on the bridge, only to realize I was not on the bike path at all. I was in the middle of the road, and there was no shoulder. I realized right as I got on, but I couldn’t turn around. For the entire ride, I was biking as fast as I possibly could, and there were trucks behind me and a giant traffic jam. Everyone was honking, but thankfully the truck right behind me gave me the thumbs up, like “I got you.” He basically stopped traffic for me. I got to Chinatown, put my boot on, and that was my first day going in to the studio in New York. It was terrifying. [laughs]
What’s something you’re optimistic about for 2021?
Hawley-Weld: The music that we’re making. When we went from DJing 200 days straight, to our new schedule, that gave us three days a week to work on it. It’s really opened up a lot for us [and] I think we’re making the best music we’ve ever made. We’re definitely going to be sharing that soon.