“Embarrassingly autobiographical, endearingly complacent.” They say no one can ever know you as well as you know yourself, and this four-word, evocative, yet midly self-deprecating description of Evan Arthur White’s solo project Howlie is further proof of that. That’s how Evan describes his music, as he molts the exoskeleton of adolescence and bares all with each vulnerability-inducing refrain
As a photographer, my instinct is to remind musicians to perform with their eyes open, so as to make for a more visually pleasing end product. However, when Evan performs, I sit quietly and watch him play with his eyes mostly pressed shut, visualizing every word, and ostensibly reenacting every heartache and bad hand he’s ever been dealt, all during a single acoustic set.
Q&A with Evan Arthur White
I took some Zoloft and spent some time with Evan Arthur White for an interview. He was pleased to oblige.
John: Let’s kick this off with a bang: so, what IS Howlie?
Howlie is a name I’ve had in my back-pocket since 2008. I was in a long term, long distance relationship with a girl from Hawaii, and in my many months spent there I picked up on the locals calling white people “haole.” It’s not necessarily derogatory, but it kind of is… either way, it just had this pop to it. I spelled it phonetically: “howlie.” It’s like the sadness of a howling animal, but a cute nickname because of that “ie” at the end. I held onto it for a number of years for whenever a new music group of mine needed a name, but ultimately kept it for myself. I’m very pleased I waited so long. “Howlie…” the way it sounds and looks on paper is just perfect for the stuff I’m doing.
When did you write your first song, what was it called, and why did you write it.
Evan: My first song EVER?? [laughs] Okay… The first song I ever wrote was called, no joke, “My Urinary Tract Infection” I wrote it when my first band Killstar broke up, and immediately formed a punk rock band called White Boy Can’t Jump. We needed our first song for our MySpace, and I wrote it in half an hour. We recorded it with a digital camera and turned the video into an audio track. It’s so, so, so bad. However, much like Howlie, the song was very personal and telling; I had been suffering from a UTI at the time of writing, and the song chronicles my lamentation.
When did you learn to play guitar and what was the first guitar you ever owned?
I actually learned how to play bass before the guitar, receiving my first bass for Christmas of 2005. I was absolutely floored. I joined my first band as the bassist, but when I was helping the guitarist write a new song on guitar, I loved the guitar work so much that I didn’t want anyone else to play it! We ended up switching roles in the band from that point forward and I’ve been the guitarist ever since.
Okay, awesome. So, 5 years from now, where do you hope to be in your life?
In the 5 years leading up to this conversation, I was in such a different place and I’ve done a lot of growing. I would have never guessed that everything that has happened would have happened, every week is a flash of surprises. All I really hope is that I’m happy, healthy, and still creating. Low expectations rule!
What music speaks to you the most and why?
After all these years, 90’s alternative rock and early 2000’s pop punk keeps me crawling back. There’s still so many undiscovered bands from that era for me. I seriously only got into Oasis last year, how did I miss this massive band my whole life? I can honestly say it isn’t nostalgia either, because I was so sheltered from then-modern popular music; my dad and I would cruise to Aerosmith and my mom would play David Bowie and New Order at home. Thankfully there is a wealth of this new old stuff that seems to keep growing. I only started critically listening to My Chemical Romance in 2014, and the Starting Line last year. There’s something very honest and earnest about these bands, they just put everything out there. They’re practically naked with these songs. I’ve incorporated a lot of the confessional nature of these genres into Howlie.
What was the first album that you added to your personal music library?
In the last breaths of the summer of 2004, I was flying down a back road in Gloucester with my dad. I can vividly remember the moment that the DJ of North Shore 104.9 introduced a new song called “American Idiot,” by Green Day. I was 14 at the time, and admittedly late to discovering music; up to this point, I only owned mix CD’s that friends would burn me. “American Idiot” had this intangible edge that spoke to the person I wanted to be back then. I bought the album from Walmart the day it was released, fell down the mainstream pop-punk rabbit hole, and started songwriting shortly thereafter.
What was the most recent addition to your personal music library?
Hot off of a remarkable comeback album that nobody expected nor asked for, I finally started giving the Monkees my ear’s well-deserved attention. I’ve been a fan of 1960’s pop since college, but somehow these guys flew under the radar for me! I just picked up their album Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd. and I really, really love it.
What was your first live music experience?
Green Day and My Chemical Romance at the Mullins Center in Amherst, Massachusetts! This was in the spring of 2005, following the release of American Idiot. Clearly American Idiot had left it’s mark on my psyche, and I feel so absolutely blessed that my first concert featured practically the whole track list of the first album I ever called mine. As a teen, it sealed the deal on pop-punk for me. My ears rang like they never had before.
If you could cover one album in your music library, which would it be?
This is such a cool question, and one I regularly think about when I’m practicing at home. I’m infatuated with the idea of taking a really heavy, loud, high-energy album and transposing it to my “man and his guitar,” bedroom style. So many heavy albums have amazing lyrical integrity and hold their own on structure alone and I’ve learned a heap of covers and transposed them accordingly. If I really had to pick just one, I would absolutely love to record a bedroom-style The Dream is Over, by PUP. I adore Stefan Babcock’s lyricism and his vocal melodies, though conveyed through shaky, raspy shouts, are so clever. I had so many “wow” moments listening to that album and I love singing it. Weezer’s Pinkerton is an extremely close second.
What artist do you wish more people had in their music library?
Without question, the Matches. Known primarily for their punk-rock debut record E. Von Dahl Killed the Locals, I describe the rest of their catalog as a genre melting pot. Their album Decomposer begins with a string quartet waltz, segues into a four-to-the-floor, Nine Inch Nails-esque rocker, leads to an 80’s ballad that wouldn’t be out of place on a Rick Springfield record… it’s all over the place, but it is so, so masterfully crafted. Covering all of these different genres after releasing a classic punk record is one thing, but doing so without a single dud on the album is a feat all it’s own. I have never heard anything like it before or since.
That’s awesome. No such thing as too late when it comes to discovering good music. Okay Evan, last question: simply describe your music.
Howlie is an unfiltered byproduct of growing up with 1960’s pop with my parents, discovering emo music in my teenage years, and rediscovering 1960’s pop in college. Howlie is the culmination of writing weekly letters to people with no intention of sending them, and transposing these letters into a song. It’s all the things I wish I could say with an emo lyrical sensibility and a 1960’s, lo-fi tenderness.
Well, there you have it, folks: uncensored, egalitarian depictions of a true virtuoso at work.
Visit https://howlie.bandcamp.com to listen to any of Evan’s masterpieces, including his brand new single Dead Dog, complete with tear-jerkingly clairvoyant insight into young adult psyche. Be forewarned: you will feel feelings.