White Hills make psychedelic space rock for the apocalypse - it's as heavy as a death in the family and precise as a karate chop to the larynx. Ego Sensation and Dave W are the two consistent members in the band's roster and have been melting faces for almost ten years with different lineups and gear rigs. I've only seen them a couple times, but they're one of those bands where the members transcend the typical musician's role by becoming pure conduits of sound as a near-elemental force. The combination of showmanship, lighting, and virtuosity makes for an always impressive and unique experience.
White Hills have released several records on Thrill Jockey and other labels - there seems to be a constant flow of new music that these guys put out and they never really stop touring. In addition, they've even appeared in Jim Jarmusch's movie Only Lovers Left Alive, where they play "Under Skin or By Name," from their album Glitter Glamour Atrocity, which is being reissued by Thrill Jockey in August - I will surely be picking this up, and I strongly recommend anyone reading this to do so as well.
You can keep up with the band on their Facebook Page and their Website. They still have a few shows left in the US for this summer before booking their way over to Europe, so be sure and catch them if they're playing anywhere near you.
Jordan: You guys have been making music for a long while now. Have you seen any change in regards to who goes to a White Hills show?
DW: The audiences seem to get more diverse.
ES: We definitely can't pigeon-hole our audience. We always talk with people after shows and the variety is amazing- there are dads with their teenage daughters and both are psyched to be there, groups of young skater kids, a bone researcher from the Smithsonian, a financial analyst that flew from Milan to London just to see us, hippy-spinner women left over from the Grateful Dead era, vinyl-holics, etc. White Hills fans are fascinating individuals.
J: This is a bit of a similar question, but have you seen any changes in the psychedelic community at large? Are there any specific words you would use to characterize modern psych rock?
DW: The big change is that there seems to be more people who like "psych" music now and what is considered to be psychedelic music seems to cover a broader spectrum now. A lot of it is basically "indie" music. That said, psych seems to be a bit of an "in" thing at the moment. It's like the catch all phrase that has replaced "Indie" in reference to something new and played by a younger generation. Funny thing is most of what is considered to be "psych" now really isn't psychedelic at all. It's just good old pop music.
J: Your live show is really impressive from your guitar rigs to the light orchestration to your wardrobe. What goes through your mind(s) when preparing for a White Hills tour or live show?
ES: We like to transport ourselves and the audience into another dimension. We're always seeking new ways to create that kind of magic- sometimes it's as complicated as an intricate musical passage and sometimes as simple as glitter falling from a cymbal. The point is to create a multi-sensory, provocative experience for people.
J: Do you guys have consistent equipment as you tour or do you change up?
ES: We change things up. We're in a constant cycle of growing, finessing and changing. This involves trying out new equipment- different combinations of amps, pedals etc. A lot of musicians tend to get hooked on their favorite guitars/amps etc and will accept no substitute. Sometimes you don't even realize how that narrow-mindedness limits your creativity.
J: It seems like you guys are on a perpetual tour. Is the live show more invigorating or important to you than a recording?
DW: They are two different things. Both are important for different reasons. There is no point in comparing the two.
ES: The great thing about performing live is that you get to make that immediate connection with the audience. It's exciting to be involved in that symbiotic relationship- the audience is there for the band and the band is there for the audience and it all comes down to mutual joy and gratitude.
J: What has been the most interesting place for you to play?
ES: We played in Greece for the first time last year. It was fantastic because the audiences were so vocal with their excitement and appreciation of the music.
DW: This is such a hard question to answer, because every place has something unique about it, thus making it something interesting and special.
J: You guys put out a split 10" with Earthless. It's a great record and also one of those Scion AV records. The Scion program really fascinates me - they've had some really amazing artists on their music program. What was it like working with Scion and Earthless?
J: What role do you think corporations like Scion have and/or should have in music?
DW: It depends. The cool thing about the Scion event was that there was no advertising for any of their cars at the event, or on the record, outside of their name being behind it. I like what Scion does for music. They put on interesting events that span many genres without shoving their product in your face. There is the element that they are doing it for the music more than anything else.
In regard to Earthless, they are great guys and one amazing band. We've been wanting to play with them for sometime and were psyched when the opportunity arose.
ES: Throughout history artists have relied on patrons. Some countries actually set aside a budget to support arts and culture but unfortunately in the US it's not a priority. Scion is a good example of a corporation that is being supportive of music without forcing their advertising down your throat.
J: On the other hand, you have put out a bunch of records on Thrill Jockey. How does your experience with Thrill Jockey compare? Do you guys have a tried-and-true system for releasing records on Thrill Jockey?
ES: Scion is like a passionate one-night stand and Thrill Jockey is our adorable, dependable boyfriend! (Don't worry- TJ knows about Scion and vice-versa. We're all very adult.) They have been a great label to work with mainly because there are strong ethics behind the business- they put out music for the love of music and share profits equally with the artists. We only record a new album when the music is ready- it's not based on the label demanding a new product from us.
DW: In the same way that Scion is a patron of music, so is Thrill Jockey. They truly believe in every record they put out. That is rarely seen in this day and age.
J: It seems like you guys are also always recording music. Are you writing or recording anything right now?
DW: Creating is what we do. Something is always bubbling within.
J: White Hills to me is a visually enticing band. Who does the art for you guys for stuff like album covers or t shirts? How would you describe the overlap between your visuals and your music?
DW: I have done the majority of the artwork for our releases. In the past we've had Alan Forbes and David D V'Andrea do some artwork for us. The artwork reflects an overall vision for each release that ties directly into the music contained within the album. The visual component is just as important as the music, lyrics and title of each release. They all fit into the greater story of each album.
ES: Lately we've been experimenting with some new ideas to expand our live show. In terms of touring, there have been a lot of offers from places we've never been before like Australia, South America and Japan so we're hoping to make those plans a reality. We'll be working on a soundtrack for an independent film next year. We like to stay busy and creative.
DW: Let's not forget the re-issue of our second album "GLITTER GLAMOUR ATROCITY" that is coming out in August on Thrill Jockey. This is the album that has the song, "Under Skin or By Name", that we perform in Jarmusch's "Only Lovers Left Alive".
J: Anything else you'd like to say?
ES: Challenge your thoughts, walk down a different street, listen to a new album, question the facts, give a stranger a compliment, eat ice cream for breakfast and drink coffee for dinner. Live now baby!
DW: Log off of your computer, go outside, there is a wonderful world at your finger tips just waiting to be explored. Even the most common places you know have a new treasure just waiting to be discovered.