Brian Squillace hits the spacebar on his keyboard and sits back in his chair as a thin red line begins to move left to right across his computer screen toward a seemingly disorganized array of blue and green rectangles of varying lengths. A clattering, percussive flourish begins and ends as the line moves over the first of a series of short rectangles. The sound—one of a cache of tree branch samples that Squillace downloaded off of Reddit—repeats several times before a clean keyboard melody joins it. As the red line continues to move the stacks of rectangles grow taller, and more sounds are introduced; a droning subaqueous-seeming noise (Squillace’s own voice, pitched down), single woodblock strikes, and a main, distinctly affected vocal melody.
Collectively, these blue and green rectangles are Squillace’s second release under the pseudonym Odd Relics, a song called “Black Holes.” In August, he released “Matrimony”; a moody, ambient track about overcoming self doubt. “The funeral of my thirty years alive / what a modern life, what a waste of time,” he sings, his voice echoing over a unique collection of synths and samples, before concluding the verse with: “Morally correct, safe and content / never said what I meant, and I died paying rent.”
“I didn’t like it for a long time. I talked myself out of releasing it,” he tells me of the song. “But then, how am I going to write a song about how I want to be a certain type of person and let go of things, but then I can’t actually let go and release it?”
Sonically, the tune is multiplex, but approachable. And talking to Squillace in his home studio as we watch another track play out on Logic Pro—his digital audio workstation—the mystique of an accomplished 33-year-old producer of experimental, electronic music is washing away, if only a little bit.
If his name is not well known, Squillace’s sonic fingerprints are all over the music scene in Northeast Florida. From the haunting, bedroom pop of electronic artist LANNDS, to the space-y atmospheric noises and whirring synths of the electronic outfit Sea Cycles, he’s one of the region’s most sought after collaborators. Last year, when fellow Jax electronic artist Yuno signed a contract with the unimpeachably cool Seattle indie label Sub Pop, he asked Squillace not just to join his band, but actually create one for him.
“Uh, yeah, you got it. I’ve got everything you need,” Squillace says he remembers replying to Yuno’s Facebook plea. He recruited friends Jordan White and Colin Adkins to fill out Yuno’s live sound. He provided the van, the trailer, most of the musical equipment. “I didn’t realize how set up I was just to provide that whole package for somebody.”
The three tours with Yuno (two in the US, one in Europe) were a departure of sorts for Squillace, who, even as a constant collaborator, is used to a more active, if not curatorial, approach to making music.
Squillace started Sea Cycles in 2011, a time when Northeast Florida was flush with experimental music. With bands like Rice, Opiate Eyes, and Wavefunction coalescing around the Burro Bags/Burro Bar scene, a synergistic energy brought Squillace together with a rotating cast of musicians.
“Sea Cycles was super collaborative. People would come and go and throw ideas in there and I was just there to kind of put everything together or guide them through ideas,” he says humbly. “I was just the guy hitting the buttons.”
A good portion of the tracks he hit the buttons on ended up on Sea Cycles well-received 2015 full-length, Ground & Air. Though the band built a strong local following and toured regionally, the momentum stalled due to a dispute with the band’s label. There are currently 11 finished Sea Cycles tracks living on Squillace’s computer, he tells me. But, aside from releasing the song “Quota” in 2019, Sea Cycles is in a bit of a holding pattern. “It’s a bummer,” Squillace admits—one he’s not keen on discussing at length.
He does light up when I ask him about his relationship with Rania Woodard, with whom he makes music under the name LANNDS. In their roughly three years together, the duo, who initially met via the music streaming platform SoundCloud, have produced a handful of EPs, toured the country, and garnered critical acclaim—also, millions of streams on Spotify. As two producers—each used to having a fair amount of creative control—Squillace says their process is fairly seamless.
“There are no roles really,” he says. “She makes little snippets of beats or melodic ideas—maybe a couple loops or lyrics. Usually I can listen to it and it’s already really good and easy to understand. So I’ll take it and we’ll sit down together and add things and hammer it out.”
“What’s great about working with Brian is he just goes with the flow of our creative process,” Woodard says. “Brian is one of the most open minded, creative human beings I’ve ever met and it not only shows in his art and music only but in our waking life as well,” Woodard says of Squillace. “I love collaborating with Brian because he’s always so open to listening and learning.”
While Squillace and Woodard have lots of new LANNDS music in the works, it’s Odd Relics that’s at the top of Squillace’s mind. After more than a decade producing, collaborating with, filling in behind other artists, he says he’s finally gained the confidence to release his solo efforts.
“I have my own artistic identity. I have things that I want to express that are different than what I’ve done in collaboration with others,” Squillace says, cuing up another Odd Relics tune in Logic. There’s more music coming; some of it in partnership with others, some solo. All of it will bear Squillace’s unique digital fingerprints. “At some point, after you watch so much music leave your computer, you’re like, ‘Why can’t I just do that for myself?’”
Other tracks we loved in ’19:
Trella – “Happy to Be Here”
LANNDS – “2093”
Sea Cycles – “Quota”
LPT – “Aquella Mujer” (Live from Void HQ)
The Black Toilet – “What What”
Hurricane Party – “Hurricane Party!!!”
The Young Step – “Ghost Town”
Cory Driscoll – “Vacation Artist”
rickoLus – “Over U”
Folk is People – “Ghost Birdie”
Mercy Mercy – The Usual (Baby)
The Noctambulant – “Unholy Benediction”
This profile originally appeared as part of our feature “The Music We Needed: 19 Songs we loved in 2019” in Void Magazine, Vol. 10, Issue 6.