Interview With Future Trees
A Busy 2020 Becomes A Busier 2021 For Peyton Spencer
Peyton Spencer, A.K.A., Future Trees, has had a busy 2020 that’s still spilling over into 2021. Just the other week the musician found himself playing his first in-person performance at Auburn University. He has since parlayed that performance into a fantastic release. The release itself is entitled Worlds Within (Live & Remix). It is a collection of both remixed works as well as Peyton’s unique perspective on releasing what a “live” track is.
Else-wise you can find Future trees donating his time frequently to environmental efforts. Get it? Future trees, he’s like thinking about the future, but trees? Nevermind.
When he’s not busy with remixes, live performances and public safety, Future Trees squeezed in the time to present us a new studio single entitled, ‘Starflower.’ It is set for release on June, 4, 2021.
Join Peyton and I as we dive into his schedule, admission to Ivy League Master’s programs, building synthesizers and the launch of his own premium subscription service!
It’s a shame we haven’t had you in the hot seat earlier. But, I am super glad we are here today! Thanks for taking the time to field some questions. Before I get into anything, would there be anything you’d like to start with?
Happy to be here! For anyone with dichotomous passions, I encourage you to hold on to each one even if it seems they take away from each other. Besides your intrinsic human value, The unique combination of everything you do gives you value.
I Rather Like That! Heck Of An Entrance! – To The Q&A!
In your own words, what is Future Trees? A musician, person, pianist, activist, pick one! No, don’t, it’s awesome. Keep going.
Future Trees is my music project, and a movement. I made it plural because I consider it a collective. Even though I do almost everything, my best songs have friends involved. I love getting people involved in the whole thing. I love bringing people together.
The movement I focused on in 2021- DeTrash – is just the start. I like to call my fans Future Trees because I feel it brings us closer together. Encourages everyone to get involved.
You’re just an ambitious guy, so where do you see Future Trees headed in the next three months, as well as the next 3 years?
Hopefully I launch my subscription, FT Roots! Money guilt is one of the things holding me back there, but I know how I can provide value. Artwork is valid work too! I’ll begin reaching out to people in the music industry, sharing my music more often. I’ll drop a flowery single and Modest Mouse cover songs.
My music placed in video games and film. Selling synthesizers with my company Omni Aura Synths. A few thousand monthly listeners. About 80 songs released and making $5k a year from music alone. 100 trash bags per month DeTrashed, and a huge Future Trees Library (15+ artists) for the volunteers.
the questions with Worlds Within (Remix & Live). Was your goal always to align a record such as this with your first public performance? It’s a rather ballsy move, honestly. I don’t know if I’ve have had the bravado for that post-first-show. Thoughts?
I did create the album in 2020 aiming to perform it, and some songs turned out toooo difficult to perform. It was a great challenge- for “Final Boss” I had to upgrade my piano skills because I quantized a bit, and there’s some fast piano parts. Then my DAW, Studio One, got a huge upgrade in 2020 allowing me to set up live shows. So, I live-streamed about 24 shows leading up to an in-person show. And I’m very grateful for this, because I was so prepared at my first show! I blew away expectations.
This Live & Remix album – I automatically got recordings from my livestream shows, I just had to decide to cut recordings into songs and release it. The audio quality is sub-par so I had to accept that. I figure my fans would rather have a release than not have a release.
Any Special Shout-Outs
regarding remixes, either those who did yours or vice versa? What made their touch so special as an addition to the original work?
No one has remixed my tracks just yet but that seems very fun! I admire what Agent Johnny Red did with his first album! [[ I am currently remixing Celsius by Exochromatic! ]] And, developing a track with Sam Schebre.
Whose intelligence I do genuinely respect and admire, this gives me an interesting opportunity to gain perspective I’m just not familiar with. I’ve been in bands, playing shows forever. Can you explain to me the feeling you experienced performing live for the first time at what old fogeys like me might say is late in the game? Like, cogently, haha. The serendipity of it, because it was too long ago for me to truly remember that first stage performance.
Euphoric for sure. Validation. Seeing my friends show up and enjoy my show. Validated that I could really nail a solo show and that Future Trees is entertaining. There was an afterglow for hours after the show of great vibes. Also, I have the confidence now to reach out and get more gigs!
I Really, Really Enjoyed Starflower.
It’s worth explaining to anyone reading that we met thanks to an online community. There, Peyton was never shy and always aiming to learn. We found out we’re both complete whackadoos when it comes to our music. It’s been an honor shooting the shit with him and seeing him absorb and implement what he observes. Peyton and I both subscribe to a notion I like to call ‘The Weird’.
The Weird is just embracing atonality and the possibility of any arrangement of noises to be music. With this new single we get slammed with styles, genres and tech. First, I heard Beck, then I heard an undeniable amount of Bowie, with a nice backbeat even. Thoughts on what I think is your weirdest release yet and this interpretation?
Wow, weirder than 2020 SOUP? Love to hear Beck and Bowie both! Starflower also makes me think of The 1975. Well recently I had some great ideas to top this song off, like adding synth flourishes that compliment my lyrics. This track started off with just 5 layers (made for the netvio 5-layers-only August challenge). And I wanted to take it further, and lately I had the courage to “refactor” the drums and some bass.
I have a tendency to not want to change what’s written into the DAW (especially when my songwriting happens in the DAW) but I’m so glad I changed the drums up! All those synth and vocal layers are making this track BIG. I applied advice from Dan Fur and Omar Barazanji to fine tune Starflower. I’m so with you on ‘The Weird’ – so often I’m like, “Fuck a chorus, THIS is what happens next in my song. I won’t repeat shit!”
Starflower is about striving for a more perfect love. “Don’t want to hurt you, but I love you too much” is my favorite line. You can interpret it from many perspectives. Sometimes you have to hurt someone because you love them. And I believe with God it’s the same way.
This Was Left Out Of The Introduction For This Future Trees Interview
But you are also working towards releasing your longest composition to date. It stands at almost 8 minutes. Immediately, I get a strong Flaming Lips vibe. The crooning vocal entrance is Wayne Coyne all the way, up through the lunacy sounding like a megaphone. The song is about fun. Then progresses into a rap. How in …. Lord’s name do you spread across these genres with such ease?
Probably because I listen to so many genres. Progressive anything, Hip-hop, electronic are my top three. I would also attribute Spotify to my genre breadth. No way I would have heard so so so many bands without Spotify. It’s not great for us artists and amazing for us at the same time. All the genres are melting together! That’s the 2020’s wave.
To The Above Question, Future Trees –
I’m very interested as to your approach. With so much going on, how do you START writing a song? Do you draft lyrics, think of a piano run?
It’s pretty dang organic like a tree growing, except I don’t grow ‘em every day. Very often I start with drum kits on Maschine mk3. So the kit that inspires me directs the song. Or some start as piano/minilogue riffs. I have about 5 riffs I’m practicing now- It will be interesting to get them in the DAW after continued practice. But, if the idea started in the DAW, it’s easier for me to finish.
Lyrics are asynchronous for me- I used to write poetry without any music, when I listened to tons of hip-hop. Nowadays, it’s make the instrumental and if I’m inspired with lyrics, great, I track them. But I love making instrumentals more than lyrics. I do also love vocal harmony.
One key element is I put songs away for a long time then work on them periodically. This means I have to re-learn my music regularly to actually add parts. There’s moments of bravery, trying something I don’t know will work, or deleting something, and that makes the good stuff.
Future Trees, Take Me Through
The ‘body’ and ‘outro’ creation process of a song for you. I struggle sometimes with transitions and changing parts. This is not an issue you have. Would you attribute this to your history with piano? Are you thinking in key signatures?
Piano definitely makes the difference, because when you are playing the piano you only have one timbre so your melodies really need to slap. Then I’m inspired by jazz & blues, allowing me to create tons of variation on the spot. When I first started producing, my stuff was very loopy. The more I practice keys, the less loopy my music gets.
I think in terms of, “What happens next,” and, “Am I bored?” If a section bores me, it needs more change. Maybe the next section needs to be abrupt 180. I love to play with expectations and surprise people.
Who can we thank for the additional vocals on Life Support Failing?
- BGV (intro) and end singing: Alex Patrick
- Party rap: Hunter Nickolson
- BGV: Elena Chang
- Crew member rapper: Jabir
- Lead rapper: Andrew Kober
Gun to your head, and you have to make a choice. Let’s say you’re making a submission to a contest and there’s only 5 options for genre. You can’t make your own amalgamation of one. What corner, when pressed, would YOU place Future Trees into regarding genre?
Alternative. That’s like the anti-pop-culture genre. Or I’d say electronic, that’s very catch-all.
Tell Me More About Your Subscription Service!
That’s really exciting. I understand you’ll be working intimately with/teaching patching on the Korg Minilogue. Care to fill in and elaborate from there?
I really want to give more to my fans. And I want to give back by commissioning more art- from visual artists, videographers, photographers! But Future Trees loses money every year, so I do as much as I can myself. So, I am asking my fans to become my roots. If you are willing to support me with $, that means a ton to me, and I want to give you so much more than the stuff on all platforms. So I made my own platform, https://futuretreesmusic.com/.
FT Roots subscribers will be the first to hear full versions of my unreleased music. This stuff is up to a year away from dropping- and you can give feedback and vote which songs I should prioritize finishing! Plus listen to exclusive recordings of piano jams monthly!
Music makers, feel free to use that piano, plus download & remix stems of my releases! And taste my sound design – download my Korg Minilogue patches!
Also, your shop will be heavily geared towards, and correct me if wrong here, your most loyal of fans. When most cast a wide net when starting out, where do you find the faith that folks will subscribe to such a service?
If you love my art, this is how you support me sustainably. You ensure I’ll make great art for you until I die. And since I’m not shipping you a physical product, we are minimizing our carbon footprint. Beyond that, you will hear the bleeding edge of my sound experiments and shape the future of Future Trees.
Regarding Your Green Initiatives, Future Trees;
What initially made you interested in environmental activism?
I am a Boy Scout, so I have respect for nature. See God in nature, and psychedelics unlocked that view. I notice the intelligent design of life. So litter definitely upsets me and summer 2020, I was unemployed living at home. I saw so much litter on the main road, and I had nothing but time and not much purpose. So I went out by myself to collect litter. Out there, I feel like I’m doing God’s will. I enjoy the feeling of purpose so I just want to spread that. I want to spark some people to action that they will continue by themselves because they love it.
How do you think we can feasibly combat climate change in 2021, both as people and a larger whole of society?
Society gotta focus more on implementing the innovations we already have. Yes, green is usually more expensive, but it’s time to evaluate the negative externalities of single use plastic and fossil fuels. And be more generous to each other- spending more to take care of the planet. It’s like when China stopped taking our worthless recycling. They realized the negative externalities were far more costly than the measly profit the recyclers were making.
We can already make more sustainable choices, and you’ll find they are more convenient than our wasteful norms. Example: reusable bags- you don’t have tons of plastic bags filling your home. I want to find more sustainable products and inform the Future Trees! Consumer choice is IMPORTANT – everyone vote with your dollars! We have to tell companies we care. I want to spend more for sustainable.
Tell Me More
About the synthesizer you’re … Building? Man, my fingers are getting tired from listing your achievements. It honestly enters the realm of where computer science hits music that I am fairly lost, while knowing what I’m talking about – If that makes sense. So, since I cannot convey at all what this is, please take over for me!
We’re trying to make an open source omni-synthesizer! That means combining analog and digital synthesis, and MIDI reactive RGB LED lights (ws2812b) perfect for shows and live-streams. The input is standard MIDI from any device – keyboard, sequencer, DAW. But, our goal is a portable DAWless device that could orchestrate 4 people jamming!
It will be a Nintendo Switch synth. Since our prototype is modular, there’s 3 outputs from one MIDI input. I want to split what we’ve designed into multiple products. One will create a lightshow from modular synth output. Another will be a tiny MIDI-to-lightshow controller. Another will be a digital-only Omnisynth with access to all the open source percs. Meaning you can tweak your Omnisynths to your heart’s delight! There’s only a handful of open source portable synths out there.
PRESENT….. GEAR …. RUNDOWN … DOWN …. DOWN …. O – – -o — own.
With all the years of classical piano training, coupled with just being a Dude growing up around pop culture, hip hop and pop music, where do you point your finger at your biggest influences? Who inspires you most?
Currently Tigran Hamasyan. At other times, Yes, Coldplay, Pinback, Phantogram, Kendrick Lamar, FKA Twigs, Aphex Twin, Battles, AWOLNATION, Aesop Rock, Shlohmo. Non musicians: Andrew Yang inspires me! And both my parents and my little sister. I’m happy my family takes my music seriously.
If you were sent to a remote island because you were being punished by the Courts into a forced labor camp, which of these jobs would you take over the other and why? Lounge singer to the despotic warden who only likes ‘80’s Joel’, Chief Officer of their own Division of what we know as the E.P.A., or IT tech to the town drunk/Mayor?
I would take the E.P.A position. It sounds fun, better than the other options too.
Folks, That Has Been Future Trees!
I’d like to thank Peyton for stopping by, encourage you all to click the 472 links I left scattered above to keep track of this guy and stop in and say hi sometime. Fairly certain Future Trees won’t mind. Keep your eyes on what this Gent is doing, and if you forget, it appears you won’t be able to miss him. Fortunate! Keep on rocking and rollin’!