“Hellion Blender…marks the 10 year anniversary of White Mystery,” 50 third and 3rd
Posted Wednesday, July 18th, 2018 at 4:20 pm
White Mystery “Hellion Blender” – A Conversation With Alex White
Aaron the Audiophile – July 17, 2018
There are plenty of consistent events each year in Chicago. Dying the river green, the Cub’s opener, The Taste, and my personal favorite, a new record from White Mystery! Year after year, the red-haired brother and sister duo of White Mystery, drop an album on April 20th. Between constant touring, writing, and even a TV show, it hard to see how Alex and Francis even have time to record a record, much less a quality one. But somehow they manage to pull it off without a sweat!
What makes this year’s Hellion Blender unique is the fact it marks the 10 year anniversary of White Mystery’s inception!
It doesn’t seem like White Mystery has been slaying the indie scene for that long, but with each record, their sound continues to evolve and grow without sacrificing what makes them who they are. The consistency of flirting with experimentation is what makes Hellion Blender such a satisfying listen too. One minute its feral and gritty, then it’s a spoken-word drone using pop culture as hypnosis.
Just ahead of the vinyl release of Hellion Blender on Romanus Records, I had the opportunity to talk with frontwoman/mastermind behind White Mystery, Alex White. We discuss the new album, the scene, and Eagle Man? (Chicagoans know the reference)
First off, for those who don’t know, what is White Mystery?
White Mystery is just like the candy flavor— sweet and mystifying.
I hear all sorts of influence in White Mystery’s music, from 60s garage to 90s punk. What is the biggest influence for you that keeps you wanting to make music?
Bubblegum and garage rock hits from the 1960s and 70s drive my love for music, along with a lot of soul and funk 45s. Paul Revere and the Raiders “Let Me,” The Ohio Express “Chew Chewy,” and “The Rapper” on Kama Sutra sound so punk, to this day! Yes, you can definitely hear 1990s Chicago locals Veruca Salt and the Smashing Pumpkins, plus Sonic Youth, inevitably influencing White Mystery tunes. At the same time, when I was a teen during the turn of the century, I was heavily inspired by the Mooney Suzuki “People Get Ready,” The Clone Defects, Man or Astroman! and seeing the Donnas live at the Metro and Fireside Bowl. What keeps me wanting to play music is the power of rock’n’roll coursing through my fingers, and the force of air blasting from a blisteringly loud guitar amplifier.
I was born and raised in Chicago myself (south side!) and with so many different vibes in the city’s music scene, you folks STILL manage to stand out as unique. Do you feel you are part of that scene or beyond it?
Ever since I starting going to shows as a tween, here in the city, the community aspect has been extremely important to me. When I was 13 years old, and attending all-ages concerts at the Fireside Bowl, I found my best friends in the mosh pit. Many of these folks, decades later, are still some of my dearest pals. In Chicago, we are willing to put in the sweat equity to make music— which includes believing that rock’n’roll in the land-locked Midwest can succeed worldwide.
In a broader sense, I rebel against stereotypes about musicians, and what age-old power structures are required to succeed. For all you folks out there, you better believe that you can be your own manager and flourish as a musician. Yes, you can release your own albums and get distribution. You can also make music your life and career, despite the starving artist cliché. You just have to work harder, and smarter to accomplish these goals. It’s 2018 yall!
I LOVE all the Chicago references in “Two Flats” (even had time to fit in an Eagle Man quote? genius!!) How important is Chicago to you?
I love that you love the blatant ode to this dangerously beautiful urban mecca, that is Chicago. The White Mystery song, “Two Flats” on Hellion Blender shouts out to the Mutiny, the L&L, John Dillinger, John Wayne Gacy, the Red Line, the “Bean,” and many more Chicago iconic symbols. My brother Francis and I still live in the West Rogers Park two flat that we were raised in, just in a different unit. It’s such a Chicago lifestyle. Our identities are inextricably intertwined with the rhythm, hardness, scrappiness, and sheer volume of our beloved hometown.
You’ve managed to release an album every year since the band’s inception. How do you manage to do so much and still have time to drop an album each year? whats the secret?
The secret to dropping a new album every year, on the same day, April 20, is determination. Do you think White Mystery has broken a Guinness World Record yet?
Speaking of doing a lot. DIY seems to be a big part of White Mystery yeah? Just how many roles do you play keeping this band going?
Do-It-Yourself, is extremely important to creative control and expression. White Mystery has done a lot of things that a larger entity would have dissuaded us from doing, like releasing an album called Fuck Your Mouth Shut last year. At the same time, I truly believe in the expression “DIT,” which means “Do It Together.” This ethos is a sense of cooperation, teamwork, and lifting each other up within the independent music scene.
Hellion Blender is being released on vinyl via Romanus Records. Chris and Warren are also DIY heroes of mine. How did working with them come about?
I’ve admired the Romanus Records vinyl catalog via Instagram for some time now. Chris physical manifests music on daring, multicolored albums— and even invented the first ever “LED” light-up album. We’re pretty excited for the album, White Mystery Hellion Blender, to drop on several variations, including a sand-filled vinyl album that stands the tests of time.
Other than being the 10th anniversary of the band, why is Hellion Blender important to you as an artist? Any insight on the creation of this beast of an album?
It’s interesting how quickly a decade goes because Francis and I were 20 and 22 years old respectively when the band first started. Now we are in our 30s and have accomplished many goals, including White Mystery tours throughout Japan, England, the European Union, and most towns of all sizes in North America. We’ve also come a long way since the first self-titled White Mystery album in 2010, which had a foldable cover like a big 7-inch record. Hellion Blender, at the same time, was made in a similar fashion to the previous discography: tracked in two days, and mixed in two days. White Mystery has a sense of urgency, despite its longevity. You can feel that in this new album.
Whats the story with the spoken word aspect of Hellion Blender?
Since the 2014 double album, Dubble Dragon, Francis (the drummer, and my brother) has taken the reins for writing lyrics. Francis started writing poetry as a child, and even won a couple contests for it. My role is to compose music and melody for his words, then arrange everything into a pop song. For Hellion Blender, we wanted his words to stand on their own, so everyone can hear the naked lyrics clearly without the hustle and bustle of instrumentation.
When you work on new songs, I imagine you try to stick what can be done in a live setting, do you feel being a duo sort of boxes you in, in terms of experimentation? Like is there places you WANT to go but feel you can’t?
Playing songs live is definitely a very important aspect of writing them. At the same time, with the 2016 album Outta Control, we started experimenting with multi-tracking instruments, including piano and ripping guitar solos over my own rhythm guitar. You’ll notice I play bass on the last three albums, which is super fun. Francis and I still push the envelope of what two people are capable of, even in the live setting, when I play guitar and drums simultaneously, and he raps while playing drums with me on stage.
Romanus Records is famous for all these wild vinyl variants, whats your thoughts on ones available for Hellion Blender?
There are three very groovy vinyl variants in red, white, and blue, the patron colors of White Mystery for Hellion Blender. The splatter, tri-color, and *real* sand filled albums are a total coup d’etat.
Being so tied to Chicago’s scene, do you have any advice for any aspiring artists here? (or across the globe for that matter)
RESPECT YOURSELF. LOVE YOUR FAMILY. QUESTION AUTHORITY.
Why should we buy Hellion Blender?
You should all buy Hellion Blender because it is the most real, intense, rock’n’roll you’ll hear this year and there are only 420 copies made. What happens next is the mystery…
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