Growing up in White Rock, B.C., Evan White was passionate about music: He wrote songs on the piano, played drums in high school bands, taught himself to play a right-handed guitar left-handed, and learned to mix and scratch on a sound system he built from old speakers and amps. Still, he figured he could never make it as a musician. This is why he found himself in Luxembourg in 2013, setting up an office for a Bermuda-based asset management company, five years after earning a degree in finance and business law. “I was enjoying work,” he now recalls, “but I also realized I had no friends in the middle of Luxembourg, and I had time on my hands. It forced me to start picking up hobbies again.”
He was inspired by the music he heard in clubs in his new home – even though its electronic scene was, he concedes, five or 10 years behind the rest of Europe – and started recording his own tracks with a simple looping app on his phone. As he graduated to the digital audio workstation Ableton Live, he sent MP3s to blogs that were aggregated by the taste-making website Hype Machine; in 2015, his spacey, synth-fueled remix of Notorious B.I.G.’s “Big Poppa” briefly topped its popular-vote chart. “It was really exciting,” he says. “If you hit No. 1 on Hype Machine, you were getting 30 or 40 thousand plays a day through your SoundCloud, which was huge for someone like me, who had 20 followers and, like, three plays a day.”
White carried on producing under the artist name “Vandelux,” which he derived from three cities where he’d lived: Vancouver, Deland (in Florida, during college), and Luxembourg. At the same time, he was climbing the finance ladder. In 2016, he moved to San Francisco to be an investment counsellor – and also released his first all-original tracks, driven by breakbeats and ominous spoken-word samples. In 2018, he became manager of operations for an AI-driven hedge fund – and put out the collaborative album Futureproof, with MC Marc 7, of seminal backpacker hip-hop group Jurassic 5. In 2021, he became the Chief Operating Officer of a hedge fund he founded with a friend – and linked up with label Th3rd Brain to release his second EP, Dream State; like its predecessor, Lost in Common (2019), it featured White’s own heavily processed vocals. In September of 2023, he put out his debut album, When the Light Breaks – and committed to a career in music.
“Finance felt like a job, and music felt like meditation”
Up until then, White says, “Finance felt like a job, and music felt like meditation; it was a way to recharge, relax, and refresh.” And yet, he admits, “It was challenging some days to try and force yourself to be creative after work,” and the long hours he was spending on both took a toll on his relationship with his wife. He was emboldened to become a full-time musician by the full houses that greeted him on his first-ever headlining tour dates, in the U.S. and Canada in 2023, and by the growing audience for his songs – which have attained more than 80 million cumulative streams across all platforms.
Vandelux’s breakthrough track was “Matter of Time,” which hit No. 31 on the Billboard Hot Dance/Electronic Songs chart in July of 2021. It brings together White’s resigned, submerged-sounding vocals, a nonchalant house beat, and buoyant lead sax by multi-instrumentalist Alex Maher – whom White approached after seeing him play in a dive bar in Whistler. The song accomplishes in microcosm what the album When the Light Breaks does across its 14 tracks, where the introspective and the uplifting are never too far from one another.
“I gravitate towards contrasts,” says White. “Labels are data-hungry creatures. They’re always going to want you to make multiple versions of what worked in the past. You can only make so many songs that sound the same as your last success before you go crazy, and it usually doesn’t work either. I try to focus on doing things that I’m proud of, and it often involves changing and evolving your sound as you go.”
For now, at least, Vandelux’s production is marked by two sonic touchstones. The first is a sense of restraint: even when a track expresses a strongly-felt emotion, such as on the euphoric “Right Now,” White doesn’t reach for the sledgehammer. “I think every producer falls into this hole,” he says. “When you’re creating a song, and you’re like, ‘It’s not quite there yet,’ you always want to add something. You want to keep building, keep building. I’m still learning how to strip back; give the track a section to breathe and let the groove settle in, as opposed to really emphasizing the next drop.”
Vandelux’s other trademark is the vocal processing, which White arrived at almost by accident, using it as what he calls a “crutch” to support his early efforts at singing. Often, the digital tools he deploys serve to darken his tone and emphasize his voice’s soulful, emotive qualities. The success this sound has achieved, he says, has left him torn. “I’ve shaped somewhat of a brand,” he says. “I want to preserve that, but with the stuff I’m creating now, I’m forcing myself to be a bit more comfortable with my own voice, stripping back some of the effects to be more organic and natural.”
Having left the finance world behind, he’s now able to immerse himself more fully in his craft, although the shift wasn’t easy at first. He recounts a conversation he had with vocalist, collaborator, and tour-mate Tyler Mann. “I mentioned, ‘Man, I quit my job two months ago, and I keep sitting down and trying to write; it’s just not happening.’ He’s like, ‘Just focus on showing up and being inspired.’
“It took me a while to get what he was saying. Now, in the morning, I usually listen to other music, or go on a walk, or go to the beach, just trying to find and keep inspiration. When you’re successful, the music kind of flows out of you. It’s not a job. I’m writing music that I couldn’t be more excited about.”