Now in its 20th year, MoPOP’s Sound Off! is the premier 21-and-under music showcase in the Pacific Northwest. This year, we’re celebrating a milestone anniversary of the program, which has built upon an incredible legacy in the local music scene. Celebrate with us at 7 p.m. PT on Saturday, May 15 with a virtual music showcase featuring performances and interviews with eight artists from across our region.
Trevor Eulau is a composer and guitarist based in Seattle, Washington. He is equally at home in the classical, jazz and pop realms, writing music for string quartets, voice, jazz combos and rock/pop bands. Above all else, Trevor makes music that is visceral and that freely combines ideas from his disparate musical backgrounds.
Trevor Eulau: I'm Trevor, I'm a composer and electric guitarist from Seattle. I got started playing guitar in rock and pop bands, sort of filtering through a bunch of those groups, and late into high school I got into classical music and into jazz from there. I'm just really interested in exploring the intersection of all those genres. A friend invited me to last year's Sound Off! show. I saw that and I had just moved back to Seattle, I was living in LA for a while. It just seemed like a really cool way to connect with the musical community here and just a cool opportunity. So I decided to apply.
What was your reaction when you found out you were going to be part of Sound Off! 2021?
Trevor Eulau: I was pretty excited. The thing that strikes me is how many resources, how many people know, and how much time goes into this production. I was just really excited to see this final product and see myself in this professional setting. That's just very cool for me.
What was it like for you as an artist this past year navigating COVID-19?
Trevor Eulau: Well, it was especially hard for me because the first six months of quarantine I had a big playing injury and I wasn't able to play music. So that was tough. But I think it was cool because on one hand I wasn't able to play with musicians and be in the same room, and then obviously I wasn't able to play at all on my own, but that sort of led me into focusing more on production and focusing more on writing music. I tried to be productive with it, but it's been weird for sure. It's definitely made me more introspective and thinking about why I want to make art and thinking about all these things that maybe are harder to concentrate on when life is going at full speed.
Who are some of your musical influences?
Trevor Eulau: They're kind of all over the place. Lately I've been really into the guitarist Jim Hall and how sensitively he plays and how deep of a listener he is and how much he actively responds to the other people in his band. I really love the composer, Steve Wright. That was sort of my first introduction to classical music was I heard different trains by him. And that kind of blew my mind because before that I'd always pictured classical music being something that was performed by or was written by a lot of dead people. You know, I hadn't had much involvement or interaction with that music and hearing that for the first time, like something that was using samples and had all these crazy tempo changes and these weird rhythmic patterns, something that sounded so modern, but you know, it was written in the '60s and still sounds modern to this day. That really inspired me, that inspired me to get into classical music.
How would you describe your sound?
Trevor Eulau: I try to live between musical worlds and musical communities. So my music is performed by this string quartet, but I'm playing electric guitar with them. Or like I'm playing a song where I sing and I'm trying to infuse my music with these elements, from all these things I've learned from studying composition and studying jazz and trying to make something that is not one of any of those, but is a cool combination.
xxxxXXSpeaker 2: (02:16) My reaction, when I found out that this was the year we were going to do sound off, I was kind of surprised and excited that it was still happening. And so I was just very excited and it felt a little bit validating to have my songs get a chance to kind of stand alone. Um, and it was very vulnerable submitting them because they were kind of just rough demos and I'm excited to see how far they've come in this performance and with some new instrumentation and everything. So, yeah, very excited.
Why do you make music?
Trevor Eulau: Really into this idea of music being one of the only things in society that serves not just for a utility value, but as something that is just kind of inherently beautiful. So like, if you look at a tree, a lot of people might look at it for its utility and how you can cut it down and use it for wood and build houses out of it. And that's cool, but also something amazing happens when you look at that tree and you realize that this is just something that is inherently beautiful without serving any kind of purpose, or without having any sort of utility to us. And I guess that's sort of why I think I make music is I want to make something beautiful that people can pause and look at and see some of that beauty in their own lives. It might make them reflect on that.
What are you hoping to achieve with your music?
Trevor Eulau: I really want to make music that brings different communities of artists together. A lot of my music focuses on how you can have musicians from a certain tradition, like a jazz tradition or a popular music tradition, how you can have them functioning in this sort of different musical language. How you can have these musicians from different communities involved in the music and the way that they've learned how to create it. So in my music, I've had pop artists who are improvising or jazz musicians who are improvising alongside classical musicians who are reading. And I really want to embed that respect for these different communities of music into my music, like build it into the structure of it so that each person can really shine.
How do you bring artists from different music communities and genres into your music?
Trevor Eulau: One thing is trying to leave a space in my music, and what I mean by space is when I was going to music school and studying with composers, all of my professors would tell me to be as specific as possible and to notate everything. Like every single dynamic, every single articulation, all of that. But it doesn't really work when you try to have pop musicians play or jazz musicians play within that music because it's so improvisational and they're coming up with so much content themselves, whether it's just how they're phrasing it or the notes themselves. So that's been one thing that's helped me trying to reconcile that is just purposefully leaving my music open so that the performers can fill in with whatever they do best.
What draws you to that dynamic of bringing artists from different music communities and genres together?
Trevor Eulau: I feel like when you take music that you're used to seeing it in a certain space, in a certain scenario, and you put it somewhere else, it makes you realize how much that scenario and those spaces and these institutions inform the music. For instance, when I take classical music and I put it in a venue like a club as opposed to a concert hall, I think people's reaction might be that they're not used to seeing those instruments outside of this space that is so formal and this place that people kind of think of as being high art. There are all these social connotations along with that. I think a lot of people are kind of scared off from classical music because of how formerly it's presented. When you take that classical music out of the concert hall and when you put it into different spots, you might start to see the music more for what it is rather than for what the social connotations of that music might be. So seeing classical music as something that can really co-exist with other types of music, rather than it being this separate entity that lives in the castle or the concert hall.
What excites you most about being part of Sound Off! 2021?
Trevor Eulau: I've been a performer in a lot of groups and I've played with a lot of people, but in terms of my own classical music I haven't had all that many opportunities to present it, especially on this scale, with this production value and all of that. That just makes me really excited to think about seeing my music performed in this space.
This program takes a village to build, and we are grateful to The Looking Out Foundation and Mackie for their generous support of Sound Off! 2021.
We’d like to thank our community partners in helping to amplify the work of these young artists and for their support of Sound Off! 2021: KEXP, London Bridge, and The Recording Academy Pacific Northwest Chapter.