Thursday, February 10, 2011

Interview: White Mystery

Posted by Andrew

photo: Rob Karlic
I know what you’re thinking. You’ve heard enough about White Mystery over the past year and already know everything about them and don’t care to read another interview. Well tough shit, honey. We may be spoiled now because they’re playing Chicago every week, but one day they’re gonna be gone. They got big plans to show off to the whole world their fiery brand of balls-to-the-wall garage rock, which means you’ve got to enjoy ‘em while they last. You’re next chance to do so is for FREE at the Empty Bottle on Monday, February 14th for Less Than Three Day (Valentine’s Day for all of the non-nerds out there), with Dark Fog and the Pleats opening. As always, they got a couple other gigs planned sporadically throughout the city over the next couple months which they were kind enough to give the word on. Read on to find out where they are, as well as the duo’s gaming habits, artistic inspirations and plans for world domination.

WCR: I told myself don’t mention hair, don’t mention the weather, don’t mention the White Stripes. But now, I’m thinking, fuck it: since the White Stripes just broke up, I want to know your opinion: do you think it’ll help people veer away from the comparison or do you think people will be too eager to look for the next White Stripes now?

Miss Alex White: We’ve got a lot of tweets from people basically saying that there’s only room for one ‘White’ band in the world. So that’s flattering.

WCR: And didn’t want to mention the weather, but after that Chicagoist interview a couple weeks ago, are you sort of eating your words now with all this going on?

MAW: We had the most fun, epic adventure through the snow yesterday together. Just like trekking through the snow and chasing after each other and throwing snow at one another. That was pretty awesome.

White Francis: Yeah, the city’s definitely in chaos but it’s a whole lot of fun for me because I can sleep and stay in my basement playing video games and watching everything fall apart. So I’ve been enjoying it.

WCR: I noticed the Halo ‘like’ on your Facebook page. Are you both gamers or is that just you, Francis?

WF: Oh, that’s just me. My sister likes vintage clothing and I like video games.

MAW: [laughs]

WCR: I wanted to ask what role improvisation plays in your songs?

WF: Most of the time it starts with improvisation. I rarely play the same song twice. But once Alex and I both discover something that works through improvisation it just becomes part of our formula I guess.

WCR: Considering you’ve played not just every venue, but it seems every building in the greater Chicago area, do you have a favorite place to play?

WF: Pretty much any place I’m allowed to smoke and drink at the same time is my favorite. I love all of the venues we go to; we always have a great time and get treated really well, but there’s just something about the garage and the basement and the warehouse that’s just a really good time.

MAW: I of course really love playing the Empty Bottle, the Hideout, the Metro, the Subterranean, all of those favorite kind of punk venues, for sure, in addition to all of the DIY venues too, like Mortville. We’ll be playing the Happy Dog Gallery which will be kind of like a fun, unofficial show March 5th. But I think that so far, my absolute favorite place - I’ll just say it - was when we played my apartment on 4/20 last year. We played in our dining room, and it was pretty cool being able to walk into my kitchen and get myself a glass of water. There was a ton of people there, it was a really, a pretty…

WF: Wild experience.

MAW: Yeah. 

WCR: I noticed an inspiration of yours is Jasper Johns.

MAW: Jasper Johns is one of my favorite visual artists, who’s pretty well known for all of his target paintings and you might notice that a lot of White Mystery imagery is circular and round and Jasper Johns is, too.

WCR: Are there any other visual artists you’re influenced by?

WF: My biggest inspiration in the art world is the late Frank Frazetta. All of the pulp barbarian artwork he did really influenced me throughout my formative years.

MAW: For me, personally, studying graphic art, visual art and fine art for three years…of course, you know, Andy Warhol, paper dresses, Brillo boxes, silk screening had a lot of influence on White Mystery’s stamp projects, where we stamped underwear, tube socks, t-shirts, LP mailers and that kind of thing. But I also really love colonial portraits. If you went to the Art Institute, there’s a whole wing dedicated to early American colonial art where there was a lot of amateur fine artists who were trying to capture colonial life. What’s kind of interesting is that a lot of them are very abstract representations of people, like where they have giant eyes and small mouths and really tiny, little bodies and huge heads. I’m really very influenced by that. Also by our mom, Diane Alexander White, who was a fine arts and natural history photographer. She was a photographer at the Field Museum and did exhibits of Native American art and artifacts. Like Travels of the Crow and Cheyenne Visions about the Cheyenne Indian trek. She’s also known for her documentation of the Disco Demolition from 1979 in Chicago where she had an exhibit of her work. I’m a big fan of Shepard Fairey and I have been since high school. My guitar case for the past ten years has had an Obey stencil on it. Not to sound too typical, but those are some of my biggest visual inspirations.

WCR: You have the tour coming up and the release of the second album in a couple months. Any other plans for the year? 

MAW: This year’s looking pretty bright and fantastic. White Mystery is heading to SXSW. If you go to to the shows section, you’ll see an entire southwest tour we have planned around SXSW. Shortly after that is a trek down to the southeast in April to play the Atlanta Messaround Festival, along with Nashville and a bunch of cool cities that we like. For instance, we have a show in Muscle Shoals, Alabama where we have a lot of friends, which is also the birthplace of a lot of rock’n’roll and gospel. We’re also headed to New York, the northeast in the springtime. One thing that’s really cool is that we’re opening for the Greenhornes March 25th at the Double Door. The following month we’re playing a record release show for Blood and Demin…or Venom [laughs]. Sorry, Francis made a funny face at me…Blood and Venom [laughs], April 20th at Panchos, which will be an all-ages show as close to the time 4:20 as possible. We are also looking to go to Europe and Brazil in the autumn.

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  1. It was great reading this. I didn't already know a lot about them actually. Only seen them live.