In this interview series, I speak with other comic creators to learn about their work! Here, I have a discussion with Mat Washburn of Evan Yeti. Bonus: listen to the included music embedded throughout for an enhanced interview!
Travis Blair: Mat! Glad to speak with you. I would like to first talk about the site design of Evan Yeti. It certainly makes for a fun experience! How did the idea come about to create a webcomic layout like this?
Mat Washburn: Thanks! It’s very video game inspired with interactive menus, character profiles and concept art that unlock as the story progresses. I tried to make the site an outlet for all my interests cartooning, animation, and composing music. My wife built and maintains the site. Without her it would still be just an idea in a sketchbook.
Travis: Well, tell her she did a stellar job! I showed it to my bride, who was also impressed. Did you create the music? Your about page says that you’ve written music for short films. Where has this interest taken you?
Mat: Thank you both we appreciate it I wrote the music on the site and the story of Evan Yeti was actually inspired by another song I wrote titled “Little Yeti”. Composing for short films took me to France! I helped score this Mirepoix Pictures short film Held In Sway for the 48 hour film contest which won best film and best score and eventually was screened at the Cannes film festival. I liked helping other artists accomplish their creative goals but would sometimes feel immense guilt for not putting the same amount of time and energy into my own projects. That’s one reason I started Evan Yeti. I still find opportunities for music like this score The Beast Legion Webcomic Series Opening 02 I did for my buddy Jazyl Homavazir’s animation for his award winning webcomic Beast Legion. (name dropping I know but I have to spread the love)
Travis: I watched these two videos with my wife – we like both of the scores! I like how fitting each were with the material, and the videos themselves were also entertaining. Creative collaborations like these bring about a synergy. So Evan Yeti was inspired by a song? That’s wonderful! How did such a thing occur?
Mat: I always write little jams on my keyboard to serve no purpose other than therapy and practice. I had written one with lots of light wintery sounds and big thundering bass so I named the jam “little yeti” as it was easy to picture a small yeti running around to the music doing…something. The more I listened to the jam the more I could see what that something was. I was already desperate to make a comic that captured the energy of the zany comics I had made as a kid. So I ran with the idea.
Travis: This reminds me of how distinctive the music is to Peanuts, and how because of it I hear that music even when I read the comics. Have you ever considered adding music to the strips? It might be easier said than done, but I’d like to hear accompaniment when reading them.
What is it that makes some sounds, ditties, and jingles sound comical?
Mat: I wanted to write character theme songs for each main character in Evan Yeti that would play when they made an appearance in the comic. When we tested the site I was really annoyed by music playing as I tried to read. So I scrapped that idea and that’s why the music cuts off when you view the comic pages. Also the time it would take to compose and apply music to the site would cut into the time my wife and I use to freelance or work on other projects.
I’m a huge fan of comedy, music and cartoons so I believe it’s the way they interact with each other that creates a memorable experience. Like if you have a silly character narrowly avoiding death in a dangerous situation, having seriously dangerous tense music will amplify to the suspense and therefore the comedy. In my opinion, not many cartoons married with music can live up to the perfect storm that Peanuts makes look so easy. But I’m a sucker for any story that can be told with a song.
Travis: I could see how that might be distracting. Maybe the music could be heard at the choice of the reader, by touching/clicking a button?
I spoke with a music teacher recently about how music can make the listener feel emotions. What about music do you think works well for comedy? Is there a tried and true approach, or are there no boundaries?
Mat: I think it just depends on what kind of laugh you’re going for. When Harold Lloyd hangs off the hands of a clock in “Safety Last” , the tense music and ridiculous character create a situation where you have to laugh just to keep from being stressed out. If you are making a parody of a popular song, you want to stay as close to the source material as possible. With any subject I feel the music should be tailored for the content. If the composer just threw in some music that was silly sounding without identifying the brand of comedy, they could be taking the audiences emotions in the wrong direction to achieve the best response. I suppose the only boundary is pinning down the exact feeling the film/game/comic is trying to evoke. The way you choose to express that feeling is what makes you unique.
Travis: I never thought there would be so much to consider when using music to convey humor, even though it’s always been there for me to hear. Thanks, Mat, for letting me in on an entertaining talent of yours! I appreciate learning about your musical background, especially knowing now that it led to the creation of Evan Yeti.
Mat: Thanks for taking the time to talk with me Travis it was fun. A big congratulations on your marriage and recent successes. From my family to yours wishing you continued success!
Visit Evan Yeti by clicking here!
Image and music credit: Mat Washburn