By Cassidy Leverett
Rare Candy spoke with the founder of Squiggle Dot who told us about his work as creator and curator of some of the most intelligent, jazzy, and endearingly fun tunes floating about Soundcloud. So, get out your crayons and doodle along as we learn about how Euglossine creates and discovers the sounds of a perfect squiggle.
Rare Candy : To start us off, what is your musical background?
Squiggle Dot: I'm 27 now, and I've been playing music for 12 years. I just started Euglossine 4 years ago; the name comes from the Greek word “euglossa” which means true tongue. It’s a type of orchid pollinating bee. My father is an entomologist and a musician as well. I’m definitely a naturalist, so I wanted to carry that on. I studied a little bit in college but nothing too serious. I didn’t get a music degree or anything. I studied music production, and I’ve been involved with a bunch of record labels since then. I’ve released albums on MJMJ records, Beer on the Rug, Phinery, Orange Milk and Apothecary Compositions.
RC: What can we expect from the album?
Squiggle Dot: I hired my buddy Ten who is a digital artist and animator. He’s originally from Taiwan, and he’s living in Berlin now. We met because he used some of my music for a project, and I saw his stuff and was like, “Oh my God this is the best!” He did a lot of the art, layout, and a music video for “Puzzle Gallery.” I think it’s my best sounding record. It’s very tangible. The sounds are not as digital; they are a lot hotter and more present because I used a lot of gear not a computer.
RC: What kind of gear are we talkin’?
Squiggle Dot: I actually had a problem buying late 80’s synthesizers for a while because they are a little bit cheaper than the fancy ones. I also inherited some synthesizers from my father, so I have a bunch of late 80’s gear, like a Roland Rack Drum machine, that takes cartridges. You can buy the cartridges on EBay. It’s very Gameboy-esque. Now, I use a defunct synthesizer company called Ensoniq. I use one of their synthesizers a lot: The Ensoniq BFXSD. That company is dead. I’m in this Ensoniq-user Facebook group, and there are definitely people much my senior in that group still coveting [Ensoniq products].
RC: Is there anything non-music related that influenced your approach to Euglossine?
Squiggle Dot: My wife is a sculpture major, and I’ve been living, working, and involved in art studios for a long time. I draw a lot of influence from the art world. When I was on tour in New York with my wife, we were both playing some shows together, and on our off days we'd go to a bunch of galleries and shows. We’re both pretty into that.
RC: So how did you get into digital art?
Squiggle Dot: I got into digital art because a lot of my friends were into paintings and sculpture. I wanted to be an animator, so I ended up taking some classes on animation. I’ve since gotten into video art from the video synthesis side. I’m interested in the academic history of video synthesis and animation, stuff like Bell Laboratories. I think the internet and Facebook influence me too because I am pretty open with my Facebook. I like to post my art, and I like to repost other people’s art very actively. To an extent, that’s how Squiggle Dot happened. It was a nurturing. I found all of this art that I really loved, and I thought it was criminally underrepresented. I became a curator so I could curate the experience that was influencing me. It’s fun. There are certain communities on the internet that will actually challenge you and encourage you to get better and help others. There are actually people out there, and I don’t know who they are, but I end up meeting a lot of these people in real life. When we were in New York, I met up with a lot of people I had just released music for and was planning on releasing music for. It was such a wonderful experience, really lovely.
RC: Where do you find music?
Squiggle Dot: I get a lot of album submissions from people, but originally it was all coming from Soundcloud. I went deep into Soundcloud. I actually met my wife on Soundcloud.
RC: You’ll have to elaborate on that.
Squiggle Dot: Her picture was just this rainbow sphere. I didn’t know if she was a person let alone who she was. I thought she was a woman, but it was just a picture of a marble with a rainbow gradient on it. I listened to her music and said, “Hey this is really cool” because in Gainesville I had a group of friends who were making ambient music at the time, and she was primarily an ambient musician. Her name is Sunmoonstar. We ended up meeting and talking when she came to the states from Australia where she's from. We hit it off and decided to get married so we could stay together. She’s organizing an all female and non-binary identifying music compilation with 40 composers right now. It's a huge but incredible project, and she’s bringing more internet people to Florida.
RC: On Squiggle Dot’s Bandcamp page you say, “All objects in space are just a couple squiggles and a dot or something . . .” Do you have any other philosophies that give us a better understanding of you or Squiggle Dot?
Squiggle Dot: I would recommend the graphic novel Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud, and I would also recommend people look into Fourier Analysis. (Google: the analysis of a complex waveform expressed as a series of sinusoidal functions, the frequencies of which form a harmonic series.) Basically, it’s the understanding that any pattern can be expressed through sine waves. I think that’s really interesting. A sine wave is the perfect squiggle. That’s why I think Squiggle Dot, at its core essence, is just an appreciation of graphic music.
RC: Speaking of sine waves . . . What does it mean for you to sign people to Squiggle Dot?
Squiggle Dot: If I like their aesthetic or music I will reach out. I’ll say, "I'll put out your album digitally.” The artists keep all the profits from their record, and I try to do as much as I can through press and video and graphics. It’s basically a long curating project for me, and people are very happy to jump on board. A lot of people are excited because I’m starting a Squiggle Dot TV show on YouTube. All of my favorite animators and musicians will be contributing. It’s going to be 20 minute episodes of really creative, crazy animation from all over the world. My roommate and I are doing some stuff for it, and my wife will probably contribute something. Everyone is going to try to contribute something. Originally, a couple years ago, there was something called "The Wrong New Digital Art Biennale." Some curator named David Kilo is signed on to organize this massive art Biennale, like how they do in Venice. It was a website with a couple live installations, and I got into all of these visual artists, most of them far more savvy and established than me, through this event. I wasn’t a part of it, but I was a spectator, and the kind of work that was being produced was really influential, good contemporary work.
RC: Does the faceless aspect of Squiggle Dot affect the way the artist’s music is presented?
There are a lot of signifiers to me when I experience someone's art. I’m not sure if I’m truly good at this, but when I think something is original (i.e. when an artist's true self comes through and they risk not being cool) it is good. They’re just doing their thing, and that’s their everyday. It’s their identity. I love that. I don’t think showing your face versus making sure your originality is clear are totally synonymous. People can be themselves and work. There’s this Japanese musician named Kazyasuwa. I basically started this record label because his music was so cool to me. I thought, "there is this thing online that exists, and I have to share it." He’s the seminal squiggle dot guy. He was truly making the most squiggly dot music I had ever heard before in my life, and I was just floored. The music has some issues from a technical standpoint, but he’s just literally doing what he wants to do and working on it. I feel like there are a lot of musicians on Squiggle Dot who are like that, but these are things you work through. The issues you provide to the listener can become more of an ID.
RC: Has your music under Euglossine changed because of Squiggle Dot?
I haven’t released on Squiggle Dot, my own label, because I feel like my music doesn't completely fit the aesthetic. It’s this other side that influences me, but maybe isn’t me. I definitely would release on Squiggle Dot, and I have released songs on our compilations. I think it’s changed my music. A lot more generative randomness: arbitrary notes and sounds existing in an environment as opposed to a structured song. It’s like environmental sound. I was always into the BBC radiophonic workshop, but I think Squiggle Dot has got me to be more playful with randomness and chaos. Not on this album but after it there’s going to be a lot more controlled chaos in a fun way.
RC: Does Squiggle Dot develop different styles collectively? Does everyone on Squiggle Dot influence and push each other?
It definitely does. There are people whom I've linked up to their own artistic path. I’m not going to take credit, but people are going to pick up what they like and work with that. There has been some real love with people getting stoked on each other’s collaborations. This TV thing is really going to take it to the next level. A lot of people I really respect in the animation world are going to be a part of it. Everything I curate for Squiggle Dot puts the artist first. There are going to be no uncredited works. It is going to be a platform to grow. It’s just a loud speaker. That’s truly what I want. I just want artists to feel empowered to share their own personal identities, whatever they may be.
And with that, Euglossine was off to work leaving Sunmoonstar and I to scheme up a little something of our own . . . Stay tuned for an interview with Sunmoonstar on the release of a new compilation, A Thousand Tones! Rare Candy’s got you covered.