If ever, for some strange reason, you’ve googled “tropical crunk,” you know White Arrows. The self-proclaimed “blackest ‘white’ band” from LA have been called every possible name for “we don’t really know what to call them.” Electronic. Alternative. Lo-fi. Psychedelic. Equatorial soul. But by far, their favorite is “tropical crunk”. It just sounds perfectly fitting for these “tripped-out dudes,” as guitarist Steven Vernet calls himself and his bandmates, also known as Mickey Schiff, Juice, Henry Schiff, JP Caballero and Andrew Naeve.
Founded by singer Mickey Schiff after graduating from NYU with a degree in Ritualistic Shaminism, White Arrows has become legit enough to brag about playing Sasquatch!, opening for Weezer and touring with The Naked and Famous. They’ve experimented with classic covers and made them their own, like Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire” and Fleetwood Mac’s “Save Me A Place” and are enjoying the success from their first vinyl single, “Get Gone.” The band has gotten recognition not only for their distinctive sound and its singer’s rare voice, but they’ve even got a fascinating, OC-style backbone story to boot… Guitarist Steven Vernet fills us in from the road.
How did White Arrows get started? The band has got a bit of a family background, right?
Vernet: Well, Mickey started writing some stuff when he was in New York, he was going to school in NYU, and when he came back, we all sort of came together. And yeah, well, the drummer and Mickey are brothers, he just graduated from high school and he’s really loving being on the road. And JP and Mickey are half-brothers, but they didn’t find out ‘til way later in life. Apparently Mickey’s dad was the sperm donor, and it’s just really nutty, like it’s especially nutty when we’re together and you start noticing all the similarities.
Okay, so I know you can’t go through a single interview without addressing this, but is it true that (singer) Mickey was born legally blind?
|“Get Gone” by White Arrows|
Vernet: Yeah, he was born blind and it wasn’t ‘til later that he started seeing. And he had to rely on other means, like, he has a heightened sense of smell, among other things.
Tell me about your current tour with The Naked and Famous, how’s everything going?
Vernet: We love The Naked and Famous, and we get to watch them play for free, so that’s really cool. It’s really a huge stepping stone for us, we’ve been able to play these amazing venues for huge crowds, something we wouldn’t have necessarily been able to do on our own. They’re great, and we get along with them and we hang out on our tour bus, which is amazing. We travel in this huge RV with this creepy photo of these two little boys on the window, it’s really funny.
Has there been a particular show on this tour that’s been your favorite?
Vernet: Our last one in Seattle at the Showbox. It was the first time where we really had a huge crowd all clapping along to our songs in unison, and that was pretty special. We like to get involved with the crowd as much as possible, and that just meant a lot. But every show’s been more that we could’ve imagined, every show on this tour has been sold out except for Minneapolis. They had some weird thing, the annual zombie pub crawl or something like that. It’s like a Guinness World Record thing, and they do it every year. But we still had like 700 people there.
What do you see in the audience’s reactions?
Vernet: Sometimes we get really pleasant reactions, you know, people coming up to us and tell us like, ‘Wow! Your music is awesome!’ And sometimes we get critics, yeah. But a lot of people have been reaching out on Facebook. It’s a little bit of both, but on this tour it’s been mostly really positive stuff.
What sets you apart from other new bands?
Vernet: Well we’re pretty psychedelic dudes, you know, we’re tripped-out dudes and want to do something unique, something that hasn’t been done before and we’re just trying to do our own thing. And we have Mickey’s voice, which is just really different. And we’re fusing a lot of things into one: we’ve got an electronic side to us, a classic, psychedelic, rock side to us. You know people always ask us what genre we are, and we have such a tough time coming up with one specific genre. Sometimes we just make things up, like tropical crunk.
Tropical crunk? So if I google tropical crunk right now–?
Vernet: Yeah, we’ll come up, seriously, google us and we’re one of the first things that pops up!
What do you guys listen to when you’re on the road?
Vernet: We’re listening to a lot of things. We’re big fans of Delorean, and Smashing Pumpkins are very influential on us. I’m a big fan of Wire, too. Basically, between all six of us, we’ve got such a big variety of music. JP loves to listen to Mozart and Bach and all that, and you know, it’s tough choosing one thing for all of us, so we all mostly listen on our headphones. Spacemen 3 is also one of my favorite bands, Spiritualized, that whole era of psychedelic craziness.
So your favorite musical era would be…
Vernet: The early 70s, definitely. I’m a huge fan of Jimi Hendrix also, actually, if there’s one person I would love to have seen on stage, it’s him.
So what’s next for you guys? Any plans?
Vernet: We’re working on the full-length album right now, we’re hoping to release it by the beginning of 2012. That’s what we’re trying to push on. We’ve got about five or six songs done. It’s tough being on the road, but back home, we just do an in-home studio session at Mickey’s house, we call it the eagle’s nest. The new album’s got more of a dance-y electronic vibe to it than we had before. There’s a lot of sample, a lot of dance scene numbers.
You like to dance? You do the white-boy fist pump?
Vernet: Well, I try to stay away from the fist pump. I like a more grungy, hair-in-my-face kinda dance.
Watch White Arrows’ music video for their song “The Voyeur” from their self-titled EP below.