Ego death can come from an array of brutal experiences. From a bad break-up to that first time you hear your voice on an answering machine and think, “if that’s what I sound like, kill me now.” Evenson was served his in a much more literal sense. Upon being stranded on the Flatiron mountains with no foreseeable escape, hours of that ‘life flashing before your eyes’ feeling were accompanied with subsisting epiphanies.
So, a near death experience that led to liberation? Yes. But not in the entitled to the world and all that’s in it kind. More a pragmatic sensibility that one has every right to pursue their dreams if they are willing to assume the adversity that comes along with it.
“Can I really pursue my dreams after graduating college? Yes. Does life ever stop and start for anyone or any action? No.”
While a lover of pop music and the application of nostalgia, it is clear from “SOS” that Evenson is still guided by the moment. And in this case, the moment called for a capsizing of convention, with sounds as harrowing as, well, Nature, and lyrics that dissect the forces that seek to dampen his artistic proclivities.
We caught up with Evenson for more insight on where he cultivates his strength as an artist refusing to be bound by expectations or comfortability.
You describe “SOS” as an auditory form of ego death. Was there a singular event that led to this ego death or more a culmination of experiences that led to an ultimate decision to kill your ego?
Well to get straight to the point, me and my two friends almost died rock climbing last summer. We were stuck on the Flatirons for 17.5 hours. Up to that very point in life, I wasn’t really confident in pursuing my artistic endeavors and I think I have a slight problem with authority haha. I excelled in school and whatever job environment I was in but I always craved a little more control I guess. You know when they say your life flashes before your eyes right before it’s your time, I experienced a bit of that in the moment. The crazy part is, it didn’t push me away, it liberated me. I started to see things more for what they really were and less of the projections that result from the chemical imbalances in our brains. Can I really pursue my dreams after graduating college? Yes. If it’s meant to be will me and her make our way back to each other? No. Does life ever stop and start for anyone or any action? No. We’re all just cruising haha.
Do you feel like there is a line in the sand between artists that pursue their craft with ego and those that do so without and does it seem like it’s an easy thing to spot?
Hmmm, that’s a very interesting question. It’s tough to say because in part it’s almost necessary to have some form of ego to make art to this degree. We hold our life stories dearly and we want them to be told in a way only we can tell them. I think when an artist doesn’t necessarily stick to a particular ‘sound’ throughout their career they are operating on a lower scale of ego. Take for example the band ‘MGMT’, we had to wait five years for their next album ‘Little Dark Age’, and it was nothing any of us expected, yet it was great! The Neighbohood is a another good example, they’re expressing the same dark themes that they did earlier on in but just doing it in a different world this time around. I think we should just make the music within us given at any moment with whatever energy you’re feeling, explore I guess haha.
The song is alluring in its unpredictability. Is there ever a voice in your ear that is warning you to head back to more conventional formulas/sounds?
I love pop music! As humans we love hearing familiar things because they remind of us something we’ve heard before, we love nostalgia because the past always appears better with time. At the same time, we love hearing the same thing in a different form with a different take because we don’t understand what’s going on but we can feel it, it feels familiar if that makes sense haha. The voice in my head is usually asking myself how I feel in the moment, and if that feeling is something I can’t describe, I’ll usually make something I can’t describe. Some days it’s conventional other days experimental, I usually just go with the energy.
Are there any artists, whether it be music, film, visual, etc, that embodied this unpredictable style and motivated you to find comfort in that realm?
I think the artists that inspired me the most would be Lorde, Kanye, Kid Cudi, The Neighborhood and Phoebe Bridgers. You always knew that their music would be loathed in emotion and obscurity it was just always exciting to hear what form they’d express it in. Very recently I’ve been listening to a lot of Augustine and Jean Dawson, they’re great! Other forms of inspiration for me would be Quentin Tarantino and Elon Musk! i need that Tesla Model S, Elon call me.
Love the confluence of production in SOS. The drums turn from electronic to very live. There are big synth/string sounds and also smooth guitar textures. How does the production unfold for you? Do you produce everything yourself or do you collaborate with a live band to get that frenetic energy?
Thanks for those very kind words! Yea I kind’ve wanted to exhibit a dark orchestra, I love strings and this was the first time I’ve ever used horns in my music really. I really wanted the song to live in three different worlds at the same time (Indie Pop / Alternative / Hip Hop) so the mixing/mastering was key. I was feeling very frenetic at the time and was going through a lot in my life so I just wanted to express that in the production. The three releases under my name I collaborated with a producer, we make everything in the studio together, I’d say we’ve been a great tandem so far.
The lyrics are poignant in your music… like crystal daggers disguised in the vociferous delivery of the music. What usually comes first for you… lyrics or music?
I’d probably say this is the first song of mine that I’ve released where the lyrics have come first. Depending on the song my focus would either be on leaning more on lyrics or produciton because sometimes the production can convey an emotion you’re trying to portray and the lyrics can act as an assist. Melodies and hooks usually come first for me but as of late it’s been more so lyrics. It feels great to get what you need to say out of the way first because good lyrics need little to no production to get the message across.
Verse 1 deals a lot with strained relationships, at times with doubtful parents, envious friends and a dubious industry. For the sake of manifestation, are there any notable people or institutions that have been surprisingly encouraging to your pursuit of music and the way you want to make it?
Hmmm I think the very same variables that contribute to my doubt as an artist are the very same variables that I find encouraging. That probably seems a bit toxic doesn’t it haha? But honestly I think I’m driven more by negative energy than positive energy. I like to prove people wrong I suppose. Kanye is someone I’ve looked up to my entire life and there were so many times in his life where he could’ve stopped. What if he decided to quit right after the car crash, we wouldn’t have gotten MBDTF. I don’t know I think about that kind of stuff a lot.
I love the satirical nature of the chorus. Using money, cars, girls as the obligatory theme because ‘it sells’ but also pointing out the absurdity of feeling like you have to sing about that to be successful. There is an interesting debate about satire where some say it doesn’t help progress because the people with the uncomfortable beliefs take it seriously, feeding the beast, if you will. While others see it as an ingenious, at times comedic way to point a finger at what is really going wrong. What is your take on this argument?
I think you should express whatever you want to feel to be honest, there’s no right or wrong way to do it. I have no problem with artists expressing their emotions in that nature if they’re living that kind of truth, it’s just not my truth. It’s easy to see through those doing it for the sake of an image and those doing it for the sake of expressing how they feel as a way to push their art forward. I think Thug and Future do a great job of doing so, idk their music motivates me in a way.
Has there been one song or artist that has kept you sane during the quarantine? If you happened to be quarantined with that artist, what would you ask them?
Power Freaks by Jean Dawson has been on constant repeat, it’s immaculate. I would ask him, what the fuck is a chinchilla?
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photos / courtesy of artist
story / Chris Hess