Q&A: White Mystery Kansan.com

By Alex Tretbar

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Miss Alex White and her brother, Francis “Scott Key” White are White Mystery.

Chicago is home for the red-headed, brother-sister garage rock duo White Mystery, but the band spends most of its time driving and playing shows throughout the country. Miss Alex White and Francis “Scott Key” White tore up the Jackpot last Thursday night with their tourmates Night Beats (Seattle) and local punk trio Up The Academy. Since forming in 2008, White Mystery has picked up increasingly positive press, recently landing a song on MTV’s Jersey Shore. They’ve self-released both of their full length albums and are set to release a new 3-song EP, “People Power,” on April 20.

Has music always been a huge part of your lives?

Alex: Definitely, from a young age. I started playing shows in Chicago, in basements and garages, when I was 13. By the time I was 15 I was playing clubs with adults and my parents would drive me in their mini-van to play bars when I was in high school. Chicago’s the kind of town where you can do that — you can develop as a musician even in your teens, and I think that head start has a lot to do with where White Mystery is now. I also started a record label when I was 17. It was a mail-order thing when the internet was “new and exciting.” I made a one-page website with a PayPal button. That’s what kind of birthed my DIY persistence or aesthetic in music.

Francis: I started playing shows when I was 14, but I never made it outside my backyard, where we’d play shows with a couple buddies watching us. I was mainly just playing Dungeons and Dragons and helping my sister write songs and formulate songs for other bands — just being a nerdy little doughboy.

Is Chicago a competitive place to try to cut it as a band?

Francis: Chicago’s competitive in the best way possible — where the competition inspires all your friends to do better than you and try to outdo each other. It’s not a backstabbing market by any means. It’s a really tight-knit community with really great musicians that are all very… incestuous in the bands that they get into. They riff of each other, forming different bands with the same guys. It’s like there’s that one drummer who drums for every single band, and that one gun-for-hire bass player who’s in every band, you know?

Alex: One thing I’ve noticed that’s unique about White Mystery and a teeny tiny pinchful of other bands in Chicago, in our niche rock scene, is that only White Mystery and one other band are fulltime. We’re not bartenders, we’re not baristas — we both worked very, very hard and saved a lot of cash to be able to do what we do full time. We quit our jobs (Busy Beaver Button Company) and were able to focus solely on music last January, 2011.

Was there a particular piece of press that kicked off your recent popularity growth spurt?

Alex: Well, NPR’s “Sound Opinions” show featured us when we got back from our first nationwide tour. It was a big deal for us because the show only seems to cover big, serious-ass stuff like Metallica or R. Kelly rather than independent music. But the big thing is MTV: they’ve really taken care of us. Pitchfork never really covered us. They gave us a 7.2 for our first record, but stopped covering us after that, so we said, “Fuck it! We’re going to MTV, dude!,” ‘cause that is international money-bag stuff — they got a real cable TV station, so many subsidiaries, a movie production company, “Beavis and Butthead” is back on the air — it’s just way more farther-reaching!

How would you describe White Mystery’s sound to someone who hasn’t listened to your music?

Francis: Dirty, heavy rock ‘n’ roll.

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