• Cherry Popper
Chicago band White Mystery portrait

Chicago Cherry Popper: White Mystery

written by: on February 9, 2011

When Chicago’s latest contribution to the garage punk scene takes to the stage, there is no shortage of energy or eccentricities. The brother-sister duo affectionately known as White Mystery—named after the White Mystery Airheads flavor—pare down their songs to their musical core and mash out a punctuating and outright intoxicating sound.

Brother Francis White and sister Miss Alex White were born and raised in Chicago, and have developed a fan base in the Windy City that culminates from damn near every walk of life. Though their motif may be geared around their loud red fros and steady, simple punk sound, the band is in their own right a staple of the Chicago music scene.

White Mystery is a self-made organism.

They are self-recorded, self-distributed, self-managed and self-aware.

Their grassroots attitude keeps them in control of their creative identity and allows the band to make their own decisions, coming and going as they please. Miss Alex and Francis handle their own web page, fill their own record orders and book their own shows. They enjoy a certain freedom most bands can’t have. The band capitalizes on their fast and loose style and is a free radical bouncing around uninhibited.

Francis and Miss Alex came into this world musically inclined almost right out of the womb. Their parents brought them up on the likes of Cream, The Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix, and their psychedelic heredity shows in their music.  The combo wrote their first song called “Baby Blues” at an incredibly young age. Though both were intertwined in the music scene, it was Miss Alex who worked with other bands the most.

Originally a member of Miss Alex White and the Red Orchestra, Miss Alex eventually followed her heart and teamed with her brother stating that it only seemed natural to be in a band with him. Though they can be compared to other two-people teams like The White Stripes or Matt and Kim, White Mystery brings an air of bare bones realism to the stage that other aforementioned bands can’t seem to. It’s a winning mix that seems to keep the fans coming back for more.

They broke onto the scene last year with their self-titled debut and have been increasing their following in stride. Having played major music festivals like South by Southwest and toured with other Chicago punk rock mainstays like Pegboy, White Mystery is riding a wave rivaling their raging rouge manes. The two are steadily growing a name for themselves and are currently working on recording a second album.

Their first album gained them a large fan base and their infectious stage presence solidified them in the ranks of other great Chicago garage bands like Local H, Naked Raygun and the like.

With the spring and a cavalcade of upcoming shows on the horizon, Miss Alex and Francis took time to talk with Pop ‘stache. They speak about their upcoming second album, Blood & Venom, the Chicago music scene and their Middle American road trip en route to Austin, Texas.

Chicago band White Mystery press photo on Navy Pier

Pop ‘stache: Now that your first full-length album together is under your belt, what lessons will you take with you into the studio this time?

Miss Alex White: We dedicated a lot more to the drum sound on this record.  That was a priority to increase Francis’ presence.  You’ll hear that and Francis’ contribution to the lyric writing, singing and definitely the drums.

Francis White: I definitely had more tracks available to record on for my drums this time and they just sound a lot beefier. The people we recorded with were more comfortable with our sound.

MAW: We recorded on the same analog equipment that we did the first White Mystery album with in a Chicago steel factory with Devin Davis. All the elements are there. You’re gonna get the same atmospheric live sound with 11 new songs.

PS: Out of those 11, are there any tracks to look out for when the new album comes out in April?

MAW: The title track is “Blood & Venom” for the new record. So the title track kicks ass. My personal favorite is a song called “Pumpkin Crème.” A song that we’ve been playing all year long that a lot of people really love is called “Good Girl.” That’s probably kind of a little bit like an anthem.

FW: I’d say that my personal favorite off this album is a song called “Smoke in the Jungle.” We let out a lot of demons in that song that sort of built up over the past year.

PS: Is any more money going into this production as opposed to last time?

MAW: We’re recording with the same exact people under the same exact circumstances. As a band, White Mystery is an organization. And from last year playing part of the shows and having a song on a Levi’s online campaign, so you know it’s been a really good year. We’re so lucky. We’re a self-organized band, self-managed, self-released and so on.

PS: About the music, what do you guys think is missing—if anything—out of the Chicago music scene?

MAW: I’ll just start by saying is that one thing that I am happy to see more of is a lot more girl-oriented bands. On Valentines Day, we’re playing with The Pleats. I’m glad to see a lot more of that.  One thing that I would like to see a lot more of is the all age’s shows. One of the reasons that I have such an interest in music is that is I was able to get into all ages shows in the late ‘90s and early 2000 when I was growing up. Is there a lot of all ages scene going on?

FW: There was for a while, but the one thing that I think is personally missing is a lot of house venues. And that’s something that always fluctuates year to year as far as people who are willing to support the venue in their own home and book bands and stuff like that. And last year there was a rage house venue on like every single block that you could go to no matter what age you were or what you looked like. By the time the fall came around and all these Time Out Chicago and all these articles about the Chicago music scene kept creeping up, and all these house venues started falling apart. Hopefully there will be more this spring and summer.

PS: I know you guys are going to be heading to South by Southwest. What are you guys expecting? What do you hope to gain when you go down there?

MAW: Just to rewind a second, we did SXSW last year and that’s when our self-titled album came out. We played seven shows in three days and it was a total super fun, high-energy trip. We got home, we  played The Hideout for our record release show and later we got a call from someone saying we were one of the few bands featured in the Austin Chronicle, which is kind of like their Chicago Reader. It’s their free weekly. One of the biggest music festivals in the world and somehow we came away getting this wonderful press. We plan to be community-oriented and to just share our message with a larger crowd of people.

FW: Also, we’re not planning on just flying down there and playing a couple of shows. We’re going to be driving down there and doing shows on the road.

MAW: Totally. We’re playing Omaha, Kansas City, St. Louis, Dallas, Houston and then we’re going to have like a mini vacation down in Austin. So we’re really going to take our time and really enjoy the experience. Right now we’re playing like five shows in four days, so it’ll be pretty intense.