Guest Post: Tiff Randol
It’s time for another guest post!
Today we’re delighted to talk to composer/producer Tiff Randol, of multimedia artist IAMEVE about her new song “Ocean Deep” featuring a number of NE modules. You may remember Tiff from her dreamy, luscious Noiseblast performance in Nov 2020.
Tiff is a storyteller, songwriter/composer, vocalist, producer, and performer with a background in jazz, classical, and theater. As we discussed in our interview back on the show, you can find her performing as two distinct identities: her work as Tiff Randol has been largely inspired by songwriting/Americana legends like Dolly Parton, Patsy Cline, The HighwayMen, and Carole King. Her other project, IAMEVE is a completely different world of sound, visuals and performance style. When she performed with the show we felt like the show’s production had reached new heights. But then, IAMEVE’s M.O. is to create evocative, immersive worlds of surreal and sometimes spacey sounds combined with her hypnotic vocals. Indeed, Tiff’s IAMEVE project has won several awards for her short music film “Starman” and is currently in production on a 360 Fulldome show.
Tiff wrote her song “Ocean Deep” for that Noiseblast performance, and it’s just been released. To celebrate, we caught up and chatted about her background, how IAMEVE came to be, and then Tiff broke down the making of the song for us. Read on!
Kris Kaiser: How did you get into music? Did you always want to get into film composition?
Tiff Randol: I moved to NYC to sing classical lieder and opera without knowing a thing about songwriting, until I started exploring the scene there. I was completely obsessed with mixing soundscapes, electronics, strings and fusing genres, til I shifted gears to start a band. There was such a vibrant underground scene and I just wanted to be part of it all. So I dove into building my song catalog, learning to produce, and perform. From there I started a number of projects, including IAMEVE.
[Film work didn’t come] until much later. At the time I was so consumed with writing and performing, on top of juggling six different jobs. I was running myself into the ground and didn’t even realize I could make money off my music with licensing until someone approached me about it, which led to commercial work and a lot of sync opportunities. I did compose a short, but I was so busy trying to survive that I put all my focus on song licensing. It wasn’t until recently that I felt myself circling back to that initial passion of film scoring. Sometimes I joke around that my baby took all the words out of my head aka mombrain :) But seriously, I don’t know… I’ve been way more inspired lately to compose instrumental pieces. I think my eurorack in combination with vocal sampling, orchestra and sound design has really opened a whole new world to me. It has been a really beautiful place for me to musically breathe new life.
KK: Wow, I had no idea you had an operatic background. I have always been envious of the vocal control that goes in that (I have none). So given your training with so many classical traditions, what made you want to get into modular synths?
TR: Noise Engineering did an amazing presentation for the Alliance For Women Film Composers, which I’m a member of, and it left me so inspired! I had previously worked with modular synths in studios, and was always floored at the surprising musical ideas they would open up in me. But I was incredibly intimidated at the idea of working with them on my own. The workshop made it seem really easy and doable, so I made the jump.
KK: You release albums as both you, Tiff Randol, and as IAMEVE. IAMEVE is quite the departure from your Tiff Randol stuff. What caused you to create this alternate identity/project?
TR: I started IAMEVE a while back after a life-changing accident that forced me to be bedridden for quite a while throughout recovery. During this time I had a big perspective and spiritual shift. A lot changed because of my injury, including the way I approached making and producing music. Throughout recovery I embraced the opportunity to dive into myself, and began learning more about the spiritual archetypes I saw within myself. Unwinding these archetypes has been a continuous journey for me, and I’ve used IAMEVE to explore what these archetypes mean, and how we all interact with them on a daily basis. IAMEVE allows me to take a closer look at myself and my own journey through recovery, motherhood, and everyday life. In many ways it has helped me heal a number of layers within myself. I focus on translating the voices and images that appear within me, and do my best to bring them to life.
[My recent EP] Archetype is an extension of my overarching goal of the project. IAMEVE will always be a deep dive into myself and these archetypes. There’s so much to explore within ourselves and within those around us, and Archetype is a culmination of all of this. I hope that it inspires a journey within listeners to look inwards, and help them understand their own archetypes they interact with every day. I think looking inwards and recognizing these roles helps us better understand the power we have.
KK: Archetype was also the first album released through a distribution partnership you set up as co-founder of Mamas in Music. What is the organization and what is it working toward?
Mamas in Music is a community support system for mothers in the music industry. Being a mother is a challenge in itself, and the strain can be exacerbated in creative fields such as music which have traditionally not been family friendly. The organization is not only working to shift the paradigm for working parents in the industry but is looking to create resources and support for members through strategic partnerships. The first is this partnership with Burnside Distribution/Orchard, providing select members with a worldwide distribution channel and access to marketing resources. We are developing writers camps and other key events for 2022 and beyond.
KK: It’s been a productive time for you, with the recent release of Archetype and now your January release of the single Ocean Deep. We are excited that this track had its world debut here on the Noiseblast as “Oceans” and it’s a really gorgeous piece based on the modular rack you designed and incorporated into your workflow for this piece. And now it’s going out into the world. What was the process of composing your first piece with modular like?
TR: It was a really inspiring process to experiment for the first time with my eurorack and your glorious beta plug-ins. That main keyboard pad is a giant stack of layered samples from the Loquelic Iteritas through Ableton’s sampler and the Desmodus. I also use the beta Desmodus plug-in excessively on everything: I’m obsessed. Something about the thick layer of sound made me feel as though I was dropping deep down into a modular ocean. I felt totally enveloped and it immediately connected with this overwhelming feeling of being in an “ocean of baby love” as a new mama. My two year old was obsessed with whale and ocean sounds, so sonically everything was inspired in a way by that. I loved that the complexity of the sound in the main pad and drum patterns I created with the Basimilus Iteritas Alter allowed for the rest of the track to be really simple. Everything just kind of came together quite naturally with this piece.
KK: I love this. Most people think of the LI as such an aggressive sound, and you made a wall of dreamy out of it. It’s amazing to me that this is your first piece using it. The percussion on this sound gorgeous too -- people say that the BIA tends to have a sound to it but I am not sure I would have picked it out as BIA. But surely it wasn’t all smooth sailing. Did you run into any challenges?
I did layer a few other drum samples in with the BIA and used some of my favorite UAD plugins to bring a bit of vintage and also make them more gritty. A big challenge in the process was that when I wrote the keyboard part, it was a quarter tone sharp. I tried to tune it so that it would be in the key, but it just didn’t have the same sound and feeling, so I kept it that way - which made it more challenging to record everything else. We had to tune anything by ear and mostly I just got lazy and decided to live with some of the imperfections. In a way I feel like the little parts that are slightly off are part of what makes it special.
I was so thrilled to be an early beta tester of the BIA and Desmodus plug-ins [ed. Note: Tiff was among the first to try these plugins when we gave them to a handful of friends early on for proof-of-concept testing]. I used the Desmodus on pretty much every single track. It’s got such a vibe and I love to use it for transitions combined with a filter. It just brings everything together so beautifully for me.
Ocean Deep released in January. Let’s break down the song and talk about how it was made.
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