Andy and Edwin Mathis White are the duo known as Tonstartssbandht. They began in August of 2007 in their hometown of Orlando, Florida. Soon after, Andy and Edwin moved to their new respective homes in Montreal and New York City. In these two cities, Tonstartssbandht continued under the restraint of solo writing, recording, and e-mailed collaboration. This method of songwriting and exchange was carried through on their three self-released 2009 albums, An When, Dick Nights, and Maihama.
After bringing the split psyche sets on the road, the focus eventually shifted toward a streamlined live instrumentation involving their voices and analog ware. As Tonstartssbandht continued touring, the recording never stopped. Full set live cassettes followed with Nantes, Hanoi, and Christchurch. After moving back to Orlando in early 2016, their home studio album Sorcerer was finally completed and released via Mexican Summer the following year. The duo spent the pandemic writing new material after a touring hiatus.
Through constant touring, the brothers’ songs both take shape and change shape, becoming something a little different every night as they explore the possibilities inherent within them. With time, attention, and intention, these songs—long, languid, full of open musical questions and temporary answers—become distinct objects, and the process begins again. On Petunia (2021), the brothers’ 18th album and second for Mexican Summer, they bring us to the earliest moments of this process, showing off a barn full of hatchlings already decked with splendid plumage.
Where most Tonstartssbandht albums come together slowly over years, Petunia is the first Tonstartssbandht album to be created in a sustained manner and in a consistent environment, written and recorded in a single place over a focused period of time. Using little more than a 12-string guitar and a drum kit, Andy and Edwin weave together the gentle headiness of Laurel Canyon and the sweaty pacing of Cologne; like a gyroscope, its constant motion produces the illusion of stillness—and that stillness gives it a sense of intimacy and introspection, something that’s further illuminated by the new emphasis placed on the brothers’ intertwining vocals.
The album was recorded at the brothers’ home studio in Orlando between April and August of 2020 and mixed by Joseph Santarpia and Roberto Pagano at The Idiot Room in San Francisco. This is the first time the two have brought in perspectives from outside of the White family, and the resulting Petunia is brighter, punchier, and more direct than its predecessor. As the Whites have long known, a song—like a person—is a constantly evolving thing, and a record is a photograph, a way to pause that motion, to examine an object at a single moment in its evolution. Petunia is a portrait of Andy and Edwin White at home in Florida, an artfully staged landscape rich in detail, its winding passages and airy environment waiting to be explored.