Whether her flame red bouffant is bobbing across the smoky interiors of hole-in-the-wall clubs, or her fingers are frantically groping her fret board before raucous festival crowds, Alex White of White Mystery personifies the fireball she so undeniably resembles.
Shuffling across Europe with her band mate and brother Francis Scott Key White, White Mystery is gearing up for a valiant Valentine’s Day homecoming as the release of the duo’s third album Telepathic approaches. Pop ‘stache shot the femme-half of the bro-sis duo an email to talk touring life, not-so-legal bar hopping and the wisdom of Airhead wrappers.
Pop’stache: After being in bands since you were 13, how did you decide to start White Mystery with your brother?
Alex White: We learned how to play music together in our parents’ North Side home, grew creatively together in projects like Forestbride, then took the big plunge to start White Mystery on April 20, 2008.
P’s: What kind of bond would you say you have with Francis? Has it changed over time?
AW: Francis and I have been inseparable since he was born in 1987 with a bond that holds true on-and-off the stage today.
P’s: The boy-girl duo seems to be reserved for larger-than-life pseudo-couples like Jack and Meg White, Alison Mosshart and Jamie Hince. How do you and Francis embrace your own dynamic onstage?
AW: The White Mystery dynamic is different from the White Stripes and Kills because we are actually siblings that share genetic material and a telepathic rhythm that explodes in music.
P’s: What is the creative process like?
AW: I compose a guitar riff, Francis jams it on his drums, we write the lyrics like poetry, sing it a Capella, play it instrumentally again, then record the song.
P’s: How is your upcoming record, Telepathic, different from its two predecessors?
Telepathic expresses the increasingly synchronized rock ‘n’ roll White Mystery plays in a red hot album.
AW:We recorded outside of Chicago for the first time and worked with with Greg Ashley in Oakland, Calif. while on the WHITE MYSTERY REVENGE Tour. You’ll hear that energy on Telepathic.
P’s: You guys recorded your third album in San Francisco, did your surroundings affect the sound of the recording or your outlook?
AW: Definitely, it’s great to challenge yourself in a new creative environment. Listen to the song “San Francisco Dream” from the new album and you’ll get the idea.
P’s: Do you find that your Chicago upbringing has influenced the band’s sound?
AW: White Mystery definitely evokes the urban sound of two city kids raised in the hustle and bustle of a steel-concrete-lake place like Chicago.
P’s: You were exposed to the Chicago music scene by going to house shows and sneaking into bars. Have any crazy stories from those shenanigans?
AW: I would run up several flights of a fire escape, then have a friend open the backdoor of one club to sneak in and see bands like The Clone Defects, The Hunches and the Tyrades.
P’s: What was your first absolutely pivotal, life-changing album?
AW: “Who’s Next” by the Who, when I was in fourth grade.
P’s: Who are your top five favorite artists?
AW: Led Zeppelin, Buddy Guy, The Ohsees, Tina Turner and The American Breed.
P’s: Do you have influences outside of music that inspire you creatively?
AW: Contemporary art, early American colonial portraits, mid-century architecture, fashion, walking.
P’s: Why did you decide to open your own record label, Missile X Records?
AW: I started Missile X to release my own music on vinyl as a teenager, then to put out groovy records by the Dirges and The Spits. It was a matter of creative control. White Mystery continues to release its own record on its own label.
P’s: What are some challenges you ran into as a label owner?
AW: Cash flow! Inventory!
P’s: Your band name and philosophy is based on a catch phrase on an Airheads wrapper, White Mystery, out of control!, are there any other phrases you like to live by?
AW: Let freedom ring.
P’s: You’ve played with a wide range of acts at very different venues—from Riot Fest 2012 to playing alongside Shonen Knife and Garbage—who is your favorite act to play with?
AW: Every show is awesome for different reasons, whether it’s a huge auditorium or tiny record store, and it was really cool playing with Iggy and the Stooges at Riot Fest!
P’s: You played around 200 shows last year, how did you keep the energy up to go out onstage nearly every day?