The silky electronic-pop stylings on Evan Voytas’s Tomorrow Night We’ll Go Anywhere EP (Cascine Records) wasn’t a total mistake. It was more like a natural evolution, born from a hodgepodge of random and not so random experiences: studying with acid jazz legends, performing in sold-out arenas with pop stars like Teddy Geiger, playing live for Flying Lotus and Gonjasufi. The soft-spoken, young artist has filled the role of supporting cast member superbly, but a hunger and curiosity for creation has led him to the frontman spotlight — a path completely unknown. Voytas spoke with Prefix about his an unusual grab bag of musical experiences and influences, his life touring as part of a mainstream act, and his urgency to finally explore the unlimited possibilities of being an independent artist.
You’ve lived in Pennsylvania, New York, and now California. Can you fill us in on those moves?
I moved out to Los Angeles about two years ago. Before then I was living in Pennsylvania in a farmhouse that I was renting with a friend. That’s kind of where I started writing music. It got to a point where I felt like I needed to put together a band and start playing shows. I also probably had more friends out in L.A. than anywhere else. It’s been a nice change of pace.
What led you to Pennsylvania in the first place?
This farmhouse that I was renting was about 30 minutes from where I grew up, so the family was close by and I knew the area pretty well. A friend of mine who I grew up with wanted to get a spot in the middle of nowhere awhile. We were on a dirt road; it was very cool. You couldn’t see another house or light, the beautiful farmhouse sat in the middle of this enormous valley.
When you listen to Tomorrow Night We’ll Go Anywhere, you don’t really get the vibe that it was conceived in a rural place like that. What did you draw from that environment when it came to creating the EP?
Well, the time spent in the farmhouse was nearly two years ago. The music on this EP was mostly done and taken from my time in L.A. But I don’t know. I do write music alone generally, at least for my solo project. I think that the farmhouse gave me that space to really dive in and spend days just working on my own stuff and not having any distractions, which is a lot harder here in L.A. [laughs].
You dabble in a lot of different genres of music. I think it’s interesting how many different “Evans” exist. How do you cultivate those different influences and sounds in your music?
It’s not really something I consciously try to do. I don’t know. I’ve been thrown into a lot of situations that I wouldn’t have expected to be thrown into. And I kind of had to adapt and pick up whatever I liked in that scenario and carry it onto my own stuff.
Do you ever listen to your music today and kind of spot pieces or sounds of projects that you had done in the past?
Yeah, even when I go back and listen to the music that I had written for a jazz quartet, it’s not very different. The melodies are very similar, the sense of space, the amount of things happening at the same time, and the way the different pieces fit together and complement each other are all very similar. Even though all these different influences have come into play, the basic sound and structure were there even while I was working in a completely different genre.
What would you say is the inspiration or influence behind Tomorrow Night We’ll go Anywhere?
I think all the sounds on it kind of explore a feeling of expansiveness and an oceanic feeling of just going beyond. I think all the songs kind of reflect on that theme.
The EP title gives this feeling of freedom or a free spirit. The idea of unlimited possibilities, and I can see how that ties in with the expansiveness you just mentioned.
One reason I like making music is because it kind of feels like you’re stepping into a portal where you can transcend the world and daily life and those kinds of things. I feel like that feeling is very present when I’m writing music. I want that kind of transcendent feeling to come across in my music.
In a way, it could also reflect upon your own musical career. You’ve done different things, and yet in a way you’re sort of reinventing new chapters for your music, whether it’s the quartet, or the pop act. It’s many different cycles of Evan.
That’s so true. Definitely.
During those huge arena tours, did you see any parallels at all between that popstar path and the more independent path that you’re on at the moment with this solo EP? Or are they just two totally different beasts?
Let me think if there are any parallels. I’m sure there are some … but for the most part they are two completely different animals. When I was playing with the pop acts, things were just handed to you. You just get on the bus, go to the next town and don’t have to do anything or worry about anything. Everything’s taken care of. So when I started writing my own music and decided I wanted to put it out, there was like a pretty big learning curve for figuring out how that works. It was kind of a huge shock.
What have you learned from that experience as you move forward as an independent artist?
When I was playing with pop acts, it was like 2006-07, so it was kind of a pretty crazy time for major label acts, and I felt like a lot of them were very isolated and cut off from the industry because they had their handlers and whatever taking care of everything for them. I realized how risky that is, having everything invested in by one person or a few people. You can’t really isolate yourself like that because if that person disappears, or is no longer effective in some way, you have nothing all of a sudden. I definitely feel shell-shocked and very protective and wary of anyone who wants to get involved, just because I’ve seen people get kind of caught in limbo because they’re involved with someone who has them tied up and isn’t making any progress. I proceed pretty cautiously these days because of what I’ve seen…
Why did you decide to eventually forgo that path? It sounded pretty cushy.
It was very comfortable. I can say that! [laughs] It would be easy to remain there, but my role as a guitar player was sort of dispensable, and I could easily be replaced. It wasn’t a world that I wanted to stay in forever. I wanted to be making my own music, creating my own music.
Now you can focus on yourself now. That must be a great feeling. What is your favorite song on the EP and why?
My favorite song is probably “Tomorrow Night We’ll Go Anywhere.” I just like how spare it is and how necessary every element is. It’s a very simple and streamlined song. But then I like the first song, “Our Thing”; it’s the first song I ever wrote in this style. I had been kind of holding back, waiting for the right time to release it, and with this EP I felt like it was a perfect fit. I worked on it and redid it and everything, but that song definitely holds a special place with me.