On Thursday night, I watched an exciting performance by the White Arrows (along with the Chain Gang of 1974 and The Naked and Famous) at Webster Hall. The band played an eight song set that proved they surely headed in a great direction. While they don't have a lot of music available at this point, White Arrows has a good sound for a live setting and a quality repertoire already. Each song has a clear energy that makes you feel like moving or gives you something pleasing and interesting to take in. And what I loved most is that every member of the band put themselves into every performance. It was great to see them circle up around the drums. Fun show, I dug it. And the people I met standing in line, who only knew the headliners The Naked and Famous were quite impressed, too. Check out the White Arrows, everyone!
What's that? You would see them tonight if you could? Lucky for you the band is playing TONIGHT (October 30th), again at Webster Hall, but this time it's a headlining gig at the Studio. It's $10 and begins at 7:00 PM. More info here.
Before the show, I got to talk with lead vocalist/guitarist Mickey and keyboardist/vocalist Andrew. Here's the interview:
TWD: To start off with, since Halloween is coming up, you know the band Phish? They've done musical costumes for Halloween where they cover full albums. What would be an album you might consider covering for a musical costume?
Mickey [Lead Vocals / Guitarist]: Oh man, that's a good a question. Something in its entirety – what's one of my favorite albums?
Andrew [Keyboards & Synths / Vocals]: A Halloween album?
Mickey: No, any album. It's a musical costume. We wouldn't dress as them, we would play as them.
TWD: Well you could.
Mickey: That too. What would be a really fun album to perform?
Andrew: Kid A would be a fun one. Plus it has a little spooky element.
Mickey: That's true. Kid A, I could get down with that. A Pink Floyd album would be really fun to do 'cause it's so epic. And it is spooky as well. Maybe The Wall or Dark Side of the Moon.
TWD: Cool. You did do a cover recently, the Fleetwood Mac song ("Save Me a Place") that's on your 7-inch. What was the inspiration behind choosing to cover that?
Mickey: There wasn't that much foresight into methods for a choosing a cover, it's just that I love that song. I love the lyrics. It turned out completely different than the original song; except for the lyrics, it doesn't really resemble the song at all. But as far as covers go, I think it's just pick a song that you love so much that you want to do it an honor by playing it your own way.
TWD: Since we're talking about Halloween and you have a song called "Everything Scares Me," do you have any favorite horror films?
Mickey: The Shining is probably my favorite horror film.
Andrew: Mine is probably this film called Ichi the Killer.
Mickey: Oh that's a good one. I love that movie actually.
Andrew: (laughs) It's just brutal. Just brutal.
Mickey: So over the top.
Andrew: He's wearing ice skates that are killing people. Pretty much every part of his clothing can kill someone in some way.
TWD: That sounds like a good one.
Andrew: Yeah. If you have a chance, check it out.
TWD: Who made it? Is it Japanese?
Andrew: It's Japanese, it's subtitled and everything.
Mickey: The director does a bunch of movies. Did he do Akira or something like that? I'm not sure, but Ichi the Killer is a good one.
TWD: I think my favorite cheesy horror film is Troll 2.
Andrew: I have seen Troll 2! That is probably one of the best worst movies there ever was. Every line is so unbelievably bad that it's kind a mockery of filmmaking, but in the best way.
TWD: I agree. They actually made a documentary about it called Best Worst Movie.
Andrew: There are some great quotes to come out of that movie. Can't remember any off hand. The little boy stands up at one point and just starts peeing on the dinner table.
TWD: And you don't piss on hospitality.
Andrew: Yeah! (laughs). Yeah, there's one quote.
TWD: That one's great. Let's see, "Get Gone," the recent release, a message that I was getting from that is how sometimes sacrifices are necessary, or leaving something behind, whether physically, metaphorically, or emotionally. Aside from pursuing music, has there been something in your life that was really hard to give up? And what might have helped you to do it?
Mickey: I think almost everything in life is about giving something up for something else. Things have always been really hard for me to give up because I am a creature of habit. Everything that I become accustomed to, whenever it's shaken up and thrown into a completely different realm, it's scary and it's daunting. But it's worthwhile because of how exciting it is for that same reason. There have been many occasions, moving to New York being one of which that's equally scary as it is exciting. Giving up the comforts of home and going out and being on your own and not really knowing what's going to happen is probably the scariest thing for a kid or that I've gone through at this point in my life. What about you?
Andrew: I didn't write the lyrics, but it's all about balance, I guess. For me, I try not to let any part of my life get out of control, just moderate as well as I can.
TWD: I've been reading this book, it's called Unbroken. It's about this guy named Louis Zamperini. He was a bomber in World War II and at one point, his plane goes down in the Pacific. He survived on a raft for 47 days. It's just been incredible to read, and part of what was so interesting was is he survived partly because he had this will to survive. What's something that's really inspiring to you?
Andrew: That story actually reminds me of my grandfather's story. He was in a B-52 bomber and got shot down over Russia. He parachuted out and was in a camp for a couple years. Everyone thought he was dead. The fact that I'm alive right now is a testament to him.
Mickey: That's such a heavy story it's hard to even think of something like that.
TWD: It could be small, sometimes small things are very inspiring, too.
Mickey: It's just there's so much, I'm scrambling to even think of one thing.
TWD: That's fine. It's just been on my mind lately. The last interviews I did were with a bunch of bands all at once during CMJ last week. We made a playlist as we went along. I'd like to do that again, starting with you. The one I'm thinking about is live music experiences: what's a song that you saw live that just blew you away? Maybe that took on a new life if you had been familiar with it beforehand.
Mickey: Most recently, I saw Arcade Fire in concert and "Rebellion (Lies)," especially with everything that's been going on in our economy and now with everyone occupying Wall Street and whatever area they are. To go back to that last question, it's equally as inspiring. I grew up in a time where mostly people are apathetic and it always worried me people got too comfortable with technology to the point where if something needed to change, people had lost the gusto and energy to actually walk out their door and be uncomfortable to get something bigger to change. As horrible as they were, in London with the riots, and then now with the protesting that's going on all over the United States about being fed up with big business and what not, I think that's inspiring. And seeing that song live was just so powerful because of all that.
Whether or not you think it's good or bad that people are protesting and taking it to the streets, I think it's amazing we can still do that. That us as a generation can still get fed up to the point where we have no other choice but to take to the streets and band together. And case in point with technology, the London riots were deemed the "Twitter Riots" because they were organizing all through Twitter. So there are ways to utilize technology to get your voice heard.
Andrew: Oh, on to me then (Mickey laughs). Probably one of the most powerful songs I've seen live was "The National Anthem" at the '05 Coachella. Radiohead. It was never really one of my favorite songs off that album, but seeing it live was just so powerful.
Mickey: Live was epic, I saw that same show. I was close to saying "Everything In Its Right Place," when I saw them at the Hollywood Bowl. They had streaming across an LCD screen behind them "Everything in its right place, everything." The lyrics to that song, as abstract as they are, are really powerful.
TWD: For Radiohead for me, "Idioteque," I had that experience.
Mickey: Oh my god.
Andrew: Oh yeah, that's a great one live. Almost better live.
Mickey: Totally. Live in Japan, on that record is better than the recorded version I think.
TWD: Which member of your band would be the most successful busker?
Andrew: Probably Steven. Right? Because he's not at all afraid to put himself out there.
Mickey: What is busking?
Andrew: Busking is when you go out with an instrument and you put a hat out and try to get some change. I think personality goes farther than actual music.
Mickey: Oh. I definitely did that when was living here. After a night of zero sleep with my friend who was in a band called Chief, they've since disbanded. Me and Danny, we went out, he had an acoustic guitar and I had a tiny toy piano like in "Charlie Brown." I just banged on it. He had just dropped out of NYU where I was going, and all the lyrics were – like you said, it wasn't about the music, 'cause the lyrics were insane! They were about how everyone was going to work in a school and he was like "Fuck their lifestyle." But it was so funny how many people gave us money just because we were out there at like 6 o'clock in the morning. Probably looking like we needed help. So I guess I've busked before.
Andrew: I've always wanted to busk.
Mickey: It was pretty fun.
Andrew: Yeah, I'd imagine.
Mickey: I think it has to be after a night of debauchery and not sleeping for you to be out of your head so you don't feel self-conscious when you're out there.
Andrew: I thought of it one time, but I was like "I should probably get a city permit," and then I dropped it.
Mickey: We did in New York right on Lafayette and I think Prince or Spring, in front of a Laundromat there. The Korean ladies loved it for some reason. They came out and were hanging out and clapping and gave us some dollars. I think we made $21, so $10 and $11 respectively.
TWD: Oh wow, that's not bad.
Mickey: Yeah, it was pretty good.
TWD: You have that song, "City Boy," which seems to me more negative about cities. I am actually really interested in urban planning and things like that, so I was curious if you've ever been struck by an idea a place – whether it's in general or a specific city – should do to improve?
Mickey: Tokyo, from what I hear, has it pretty down in terms of efficiency, and in transportation, everything being accessible.
Andrew: Transportation is probably the biggest issue in LA 'cause there isn't any worthwhile public transportation. You can hop on the bus and it'll take you down one street, but good luck getting anywhere that you actually want to go.
Mickey: And because of traffic, you have to account for everything depending on what time of day you leave. I actually refuse to drive in LA. I bike everywhere because I know exactly how long it takes me to get from Point A to Point B, not depending on rush hour or a car accident or a freeway exit being closed. There are too many variables. I just like to know my distance, and if it takes me two hours to get from downtown LA to Venice, I know it takes me two hours and I'll leave two hours before. As opposed to having to be somewhere at 5 PM on a Friday and having to leave at 1:30 just to beat traffic. It's pretty miserable. LA is the perfect example of transportation gone wrong. Horribly, horribly wrong.
TWD: I've heard that your live shows have a big visual element. One thing I always am curious of asking bands is if you ever could have the opportunity to score a film, is there any director you might want to work with?
Mickey: PT Anderson would be pretty epic. I like pretty much all of his movies. And pretty much all of Michel Gondry's. Those would be pretty fun to score. Wes Anderson uses Mark Mothersbaugh, so he'd be tough to top. But in that realm, it'd be awesome to score a film. Yeah.
Andrew: I'd like to do something darker. I was really jealous of Johnny Greenwood when he did There Will Be Blood.
Mickey: That's PT Anderson. He did Magnolia, There Will Be Blood, Hard Eight, he did a bunch. They all have an element of darkness.
TWD: Boogie Nights, Punch Drunk Love.
Mickey: Yeah, Boogie Nights. Scoring Boogie Nights would have been awesome (laughter). Punch Drunk Love had a great score, too, and a really good soundtrack, like a bunch of Hawaiian music.
TWD: That's that Jon Brion guy.
Mickey: Yeah, Jon Brion, totally. He performs in Los Angeles every week. He has a residency at Largo, which is a cafe. What he does is he has a bunch of instruments set up and a bunch of loop pedals set up. He'll go up and play something on the piano, loop it, then play something on the guitar, loop it, play something on bass, and by the end of it, it's like a huge score or amazing song. He does it every week in LA, it's awesome.