With summer starting to show its earliest signs here in Tulsa, my season connection with Tristan Whitehill’s work as Euglossine always gets deeper. Based in Gainesville, Florida, Euglossine is a bizarre and beguiling mirror of the environment where Whitehill composes and records. It’s sunkissed through-and-through with a prismatic diffusion that spreads the sound across various vistas, but it always reminds me of warmth, thick humid air, and the gnarly underbelly that twists us into shapes and places we least expect. Whitehill recently spread his practice into the world of VSTs and continues to push into new directions.
So first off, how have you been holding up the last couple of years?
Ups and downs of course, but currently feeling really good and fresh! Thankful for this! I live in Gainesville in a tiny house and play music for my cats and partner. There are lots of creative beautiful people here so I am blessed to be in good company!
Okay, let’s go back a lot further than that and talk about how your interest in sound and music first started developing when you were a kid. What are some of your earliest memories of music and of sound that have stuck with you?
I thought I was inept at music as a child because I had no interest or patience for being a classical musician as my father was pushing for. The old man was always playing classical music around the house and I think it programmed me even though my aspirations were exclusively rock music oriented. I remember the intro to “Pulp Fiction” with Dick Dale wrecked me as a 10-year-old. Dad also got me a Man or Astroman album and I believe I made that my whole personality.
At what point did you become interested in creating your own music? Did you learn an instrument or how did you kind of start down this path to creating music as Euglossine?
Believe it or not, I always was tapping on stuff as a child and trying to speak rhythmically. Everyone was always asking me to stop shaking and be quiet. I think the week or so after I decided to play guitar I wanted to tell little rhythm stories and riffs. Soon after I was a full-fledged band member, tapping, cussing, and making up chords that sounded cool. After being in jazz band in college did I start to piece together what I was actually doing but by that time I was already recording ambient music, beats, jazz metal, and noise with my friends like Kane Pour in Gainesville.
You’re in Florida and this may just be my mind playing tricks on me, but I always feel like I can hear that in your music. How does your environment and where you live influence and impact your music?
This is intentional. My subconscious ruminates on spatial memory often while I’m making music. Street corners in town often come to mind with memories of driving around and listening to breeze-like music in the heat. I love sweet positive fusion music and it’s ridiculous fantasy it evokes and it feels on-brand in Florida. Another symbol of Florida that’s very influential is the swamp. I spent my teenage years hanging out in the swamps and creeks. They are beautiful places closely accessible for locals if you wear bug spray.
I’ve mentioned this before, but I first heard your work either through Rotifer or Housecraft – I can’t remember which release it was exactly, but I’ve always kind of associated those two with each other. Back in that period, those labels and the artists and music around them were such fertile ground for incredible, innovative sound. How did you first get involved with them and what was it like working with those artists and being part of that ‘scene’ (for lack of a better word)?
Kane Pour has been my best friend for like 20 years. I’ve been through so much with that man, he’s brilliant and has some records coming out soon on his label Hatchery. I think also Housecraft is about to start up again soon! These were all close friends in town. I’ve known Rotifers head since elementary school. They were all very influential and prolific. Nice times in small rooms full of art and relics and deeply trippy music.
Let’s talk about the new record a little, Some Kind of Forever. I love the title. It sounds timeless just like the music does. What made you want to call it that?
It’s a joke about the pandemic and also that time isn’t real and observation makes the moment some kind of forever. The title track is this ostinato that gets ornamented differently each cycle, I thought this was fitting for the spirit.
You mention the early ECM catalog as an influence for the album, which makes a lot of sense to me based on some of the different cadences and instrumentation. What is it about that early ECM stuff that you love so much and what are some favorites of yours in the catalog?
The spirit of that label is fusion for listeners who appreciated modern classical as much as golden era jazz. It was ok to be moody and weird as much as charming and sweet. Synths were allowed but the vibes were always sound stories with drama and intrigue. I love Azimuth’s first two records, Terje Rypdal’s Descendre, and Adelhard Roidinger’s Schattseite.
This also feels like your most organic record in a while and really leans heavier into the more jazz-influenced side of your sound and it all is light as air. I love it. What made you want to lean heavier into those aspects with your approach?
I had been writing these piano songs and they really were going to disappear unless I tracked them and that’s what became a few of the tunes. I got infatuated with the idea that I could finally track drums which was the real impetus behind this record as I finally had a place to do so.
What was the biggest challenge with making Some Kind of Forever?
I’d say the biggest challenge was recording good takes on the drums and then giving them a proper mix. Acoustic drums are bizarre because they will literally sound different each day, the heads and shells are constantly moving with the humidity. On top of that, playing with good time and being melodic simultaneously is a challenge but it is so fruitful to have just laid down all the parts and there’s no reason to call a friend in to do it better. Being vertically integrated has revolutionized my production and I feel like I can make the music I’ve always wanted to.
I also want to mention the cover art because it’s absolutely beautiful and every aspect of it is a perfect fit for the sound of the album. Did you all specifically commission that for the cover? Are there any stories behind the art and how it came about?
Jeanine was my roommate at the time and she is constantly producing all of this amazing art so I thought it was very fitting to commission her. Her and her partner Julian are super good friends and their inspiration is all over this record. The positivity that house provided was amazing. Me and my partner have this beloved fat orange cat Sacha who is my pride and joy. I wanted Jeanine to be able to document my love for the fluff ball.
You’ve been developing various VSTs recently. Can you tell me a little bit about them and how you got involved in building those?
I have been studying programming for a while as an extension of my creative practice and I have gotten very engrossed in learning about digital signal processing. I learned a bit of Pure Data first then a sampling of C++ via Openframeworks and Juce, and now I have been enjoying learning Csound ( the oldest open source dsp framework). Very thankful to my mentors Dr. Thomas Royal and Don Miller who are also close friends as well as the huge amount of public resources for learning and programming audio. I’ve released a plugin bundle created by my close friend and collaborator Raphdidit who came up with the concept of these plugins where you press one button and it randomizes all of the settings to generate new patches on the fly. You can score them over here at my audio company Gumroad. I’ve been working on some freelance products that I am excited about and this reverb / feedbacking pitchshifter titled Green I’ve been working on. Hope you like them!
What’s next for you and Euglossine in the next year or so?
I am so excited to share more music! I have another album’s worth of material I’m crafting and also I am so excited to perform some of Some Kind of Forever live when I get a chance and hopefully wrangle some talented friends to assist. Thanks so much Brad for the support and chance to share about my work! <3