Excerpt from Issue 7
Interview by Olivia Whittick
Photo by Rebecca Storm
Illustration by Pierce McGarry

Edwin Mathis White used to live in Montreal for a while and sometimes I would sleep over at the house he lived at and wake up to his melodious voice improvising motown hits from his adjacent bedroom. Coming out of sleep to his jangly, experimental interpretations made for some of the most pleasant mornings I have in memory. A multi-talented, ever-curious man with a lot on the go, Edwin is simply a cool guy! Eola is his most recent solo project, which he began after returning to New York from Montreal in 2010. Here is a real casual chat with Edwin, conducted via email, in which he offers up a little intimate information and some straightforward life-wisdom.

Whittick: Hi Ed! What does “Eola” mean?

White: It’s the name of a lake in the center of downtown Orlando, Florida. I grew up a few blocks away from it.

Whittick: Could you briefly describe your music for us?

White: Choral-bluesy.

Whittick: When did you start making music?

White: I first tried writing original music as a young teen, maybe 13 or 14, started making the kinda solo “pop” songs you know today when I was 20. I had a lot of weird improv-noise bands in high school: Buttsavage, Step Out Of Your Window You Can Fly, Dubsdread, Blank Check feat. Juice, Great Feelings, Wall of Blood. I played in a band called Totally Dad when I moved to New York, 3 piece kinda noise-rock weirdo stuff. Currently playing in Run DMT, High Rise II, Tonstartssbandht, and as Eola.

Whittick: You grew up in Florida, son of Ed White Sr, also a musical man. You and brother Andy would later go on to form Tonstartssbandht. Does family play a big part in your musical inclination? Can you talk a little bit about what it was like growing up in Florida?

White: Florida is chill. No winters ever, and lots of sunlight. I had a happy life down there. There are lots of good people. My family is supportive, but not a direct part of my creative process. I make stuff, they dig it. My dad has spent most of his working life as a musician, playing every night at bars or places around Orlando. I’m influenced by his courage in that regard, to just follow your heart. Doing what you love or feels right.

Whittick: You studied linguistics at NYU and a lot of your songs are written in gibberish or non-words. What’s your fascination?

White: I don’t know why i’m into goopy word shit. I love making up words, visualizing sick unused vowel pairings, trying to learn different writing systems. I’m just really inspired and fascinated by languages and writing. It’s just my jam.

Whittick: At a recent live secret house show in Montreal you sang a song that was a sort-of advertising jingle for a hairdryer. Whats up with this? Is writing jingles your dream job? You’d be good at it. What is your dream job?

White: Ha well that song isn’t really a jingle, it’s some nonsensical improvised lyric I wrote along with the melody as that was also improvised, and I didn’t change it: “I keep the plastic blow dryin…and you should try it”. anti-jingle maybe. Eat melted plastic y’all. My dream job is no job bro. Just steady living.

Whittick: You also made a bunch of short ads for made-up
products. Can you talk a little about this project?

White: I made some fake jingles for [brother] Andy’s radio show on CKUT a year ago. He wanted to skip the required ad spots you have to play and do some fake-out special edition ads for nothing. So I wrote like 2 or 3 jingles/ads. They’re sloppy cause I did it in like 30 minutes right before the show. But if you like them then, #yo #peace #respect #thanks.

Whittick: More recently you’ve covered The Beatles and the Beach Boys. Why do you like covers? Do you align yourself in some way with these particular artists?

White: Doing covers is fun as shit. Sometimes you get a song stuck in your head and over a few days you start to sing it back a bit tweaked, and then you realize you need to be able to hear that song in this new way. So DIY, go record it. I listen to my shit, it’s for everybody, even me. Totally enjoyable shit right there. Covers are good projects also for when you’re uninspired by your own creation.

Whittick: Your website describes Eola as “the new american men’s choir”. Were you in choir when you were a kid? Eola seems like a project which is one man acting as many vocalists covering different voice types and vocal ranges, like a one-man choir.

White: I was in a choir for like 4 years when I was a youngin. We were really sick, we sang in some churches in England when I was 12. Andy was there. We sang at some famous spots. I guess I got some vocal training early on, I don’t really use it though. I think all choir did for me was to give me enough years under my belt of singing in public, so I don’t give a fuck about it. I’ll get loud, i’ll get operatic, i’ll get emotional. I love to sing. Let the public hear my sound, it doesn’t phase me. It’s so fun to sing. Homemade instrument right there.

Whittick: There is a TONSTARTSSBANDHT song called “Hymn Eola” and another called “Walken With Jesus”. Were you raised religious? Is music a spiritual or religious process for you?

White: I guess the music is sometimes spiritual because emotions and music can be transcendent and uplifting, inspiring lives as religion is expected to. Music and ceremony are deeply spiritual, historically. I’m just doing what feels normal to me. My parents aren’t religious, they didn’t take us to church. I went to a catholic school until I was 13, and that choir I was in was affiliated with the Episcopalian church. I don’t care about either church tho. I’m not religious but i am a fucking miracle. I am god, just as you.

Whittick: What is “Doesare” and what does that name mean to you?

White: Does Are is the name of my petite tape label. I put out all the early Tonstartssbandht albums. The name is just good wordplay: to do and to be, doing and being, that’s all we need. Do what you want, do what you must, be and become who you are and should be. Create, do, be. go — go be, go do. Now I am become.

Whittick: What does the future hold for Edwin Mathis White?

White: No plans for the future! Just keep reacting to my experiences and life and make art. Gotta do something right? I like to travel and tour, I like to hear my own new jams, so I’ll focus on those things. Excited to hang with y’all again. See you soooon.

Check out Eola’s music here: