The Chicago-based duo White Mystery tore up the East End on 8/22/11.
The rockin’ siblings were kind enough to field some really real questions from ELEVEN PDX’s own Wendy Worzalla.
Photos by Erin Holcomb.
11: During your live shows what song do you like to open with that gets you guys going?
Miss Alex White: White Mystery. Definitely for the first one and we usually play Power Glove second and then everything after that is a total draw.
11: Just kind of have a go-to list?
AW: Yeah we definitely do a pretty even split of both album–pretty much right down the middle.
Francis Scott Key White: But we never write a set list. We just sort of feel it out.
AW: Which is good because we kind of just have a reciprocal nod about what the next song is. But a lot of times we’ll do multiple dates with bands and we really try to play a different set list.
11: What was the very first White Mystery show? Where was it and who did you play with?
FW: It was the Beat Kitchen…
AW: It was with the Jacuzzi…no, I’m sorry our first White Mystery show was with the Black and Whites who are from Oxford, Mississippi. If you can, check them out–they put out a bunch of great singles. Our second show was with the Jacuzzi Boys when King Khan got on the stage and it was so wild.
FW: But MySpace deleted all the show history off their database and that was the only history we had of our first year or two. Now it’s just sort of hazy. We don’t remember all of them.
AW: But we know that this year, on this tour, we’ll play our 100th show of 2011. So chances are we played, in the history of White Mystery, at least 220 shows in 3 years.
11: So let’s talk about your DIY ethic. You guys are self-made, self-managed, self-everything. How does it work for you and how doesn’t it?
FW: I say we share the load of work pretty well. When we’re at home my sister does a lot of the work and I usually sleep all day. But then when we’re on the road I do all the driving and most of the equipment loading so it sort of works itself out. I think we have a good dynamic going together.
AW: My favorite quote is, “It takes a whole community to be DIY”. It takes all your friends, all your family, and all your people to be able to do it yourself. So it’s totally our friend the webmaster, our mom the printmaker and photographer, and our friends who help us book shows.
FW: And the bands that play with us.
AW: Yeah so it’s definitely like a…
FW: Do it “ourselves.”
AW: I also tend to call it entrepreneurial, too, because it is a like a business that needs to be managed and has a lot of different elements to it. You’re doing accounting and marketing—there are a lot of different facets to this business. I went to business school and to be able to apply all those principles to something like a band—it’s really fun and you can do as much as you want or as little as you want. It’s a really good feeling. It’s funny–you can totally claim your success where you’re like “This went well because we worked really hard” and that kind of thing, but when it goes band you’re like “Aw man, it’s totally my fault!” instead of…
FW: Someone else’s.
11: So how would you define success insofar as your music this far?
FW: That’s a good question. [Thoughtful pause] FW: I guess the amount of money you have in your pocket shows–this is what my sister told me once–a good record of all the shows you’ve played and all the records you’ve sold and the good times that you’ve hand. Money is a good way to measure things I’d say…
AW: In a concrete way. Also, I would say that accomplishing the goals that we set up for ourselves on a yearly basis. Every year we have different goals that are measurable so we actually know when we’ve accomplished them or not.
11: What is the best record that either of you have scored so far—the cheapest dollar tape, cd, record…
FW: I guess this is sort of different, but my buddy in Vancouver gave me his second copy of the VHS skateboard movie The End by Birdhouse—which is a really good skateboard movie. That’s rolling around the car and that’s all I’ve really acquired so far, but I always wanted a version of it.
11: You guys don’t stop at record stores or…?
AW: You want to stay light on tour. I’ve gotten records that have gotten warped when you’re driving through Death Valley, you know? I kind of made this vow–that I’ve been doing pretty well with—which is not to buy anything. Like retail things and clothing especially. And a lot of records we get for free from bands…
FW: We try to travel light and keep it lean.
11: What do you guys travel in?
AW: A hatchback. It fits two people very comfortably. When we were driving through the mountains from Montana to Seattle we were like man it’s so good we packed light because the car is so zippy down these curvy mountain roads.
FW: It doesn’t call much attention to yourself like if you have a big white van with stickers all over it and long hair and stuff…
AW: There was that big story about that band that played Lollapalooza in Chicago—parked in an attended lot and got all their stuff ripped off.
11: Portugal. The Man. [See: Eleven PDX 1.3] AW: Yeah, so it’s like you’ve got a 13-passenger van with a UHAUL hitched to the back of it—you know, it’s pretty obvious. We have friends that are in really big bands and we joke, “So are you guys going to get a Dodge Sprinter with a badass kitchenette?” And they say, “That’s like the kiss of death.” If you want to make money, you’re trying to save on mileage and all these different things so we’re very—you know being a two-piece and everything being within the two of us—we pack very light. Just merch. And snacks. We bring lots of snacks.
11: What’s your favorite road snack? FW: Jerky. Gunslinger beef jerky—it’s homemade beef jerky in Chicago.
AW: We just got sponsored by a beef jerky company—we’re endorsed.
11: If you could be in any other Chicago band, what would it be? Can’t say White Mystery cause that’s not fair.
AW: ‘Cause that’s not another band.
11: Right, exactly.
AW: [Looking at Francis] I have my answer.
FW: Go for it.
AW: Buddy Guy. I love Buddy Guy and I would love to play with Buddy Guy. Straight up total blues music—just wailing because he’s like Jimi Hendrix. He influenced Jimi Hendrix in the way that he plays guitar….his command of the guitar. We go to see him every year and it’s always been a dream…what about you, Fran?
FW: I’ve always fantasized about being with my skuzzy, scummy friends Mickey. They’re in a great rock band. I love playing with my sister and she knows how to party, but there’s a certain amount of responsibility that comes with being in a band with your sister. She always tries to look out for me because I’m her younger brother. They’re just getting into fights and getting shitfaced every single night–just starting shit with everybody around and I could get used to that. »