White are as mad as hell – and they’re not going to take it anymore
The Glaswegian synth pop outfit have found a new source of energy on their latest track ‘Step Up’, swapping some of their softer poppy edges of previous releases for a full-on sonic assault.
We spoke to lead singer Leo Condie about political anger, Glasgow’s live scene and the ‘undead horror’ of a munchy box.
‘Step Up’ feels like a particularly angry number. What’s got you so riled up?
“There’s a really frightening, aimless anger growing in society, since the financial crisis of 2008. This sense of things sliding in all directions, as Leonard Cohen sang. It’s like the old codes and pillars are tumbling and a lot of predators are waiting to fill the void.
“The way the Brexit vote instantly emboldened racists in the UK to start attacking minorities was just horrific, and the way they’ve been exploiting fear and chaos caused by austerity and unbridled greed is so dangerous. ‘Step Up’ is an angry world, where parents eat their young, everyone feels they need to shape up, and trickle down economics just won’t trickle down. Wake up and start again.”
Where was the video for ‘Step Up’ shot?
“We shot it in Belgium, when we were staying overnight in this surreal converted warehouse, with one big open-plan room full of palm trees, dentist chairs and a projector. Hamish got the bit between his teeth to direct the video and started covering us in lyrics from the song, then spliced it together on the way home. I love it.”
Do you think that sometimes synth pop can struggle to get emotion across? How do you get past that?
“I’m probably the wrong person to ask. Synth pop gives me all the feels. I never get the coldness from it, other than from super-sparse minimal wave electro. I love big, lush, warm synth strings, doused in chorus – it’s a sound that covers so many frequencies.
“But ‘Step Up’ isn’t one for warmth – as soon as Lewis played me the incredible backing track he’d written for it I knew it was a soundtrack to pure catharsis, primal scream therapy. We wanted to make it unhinged and uneasy, like the nightclub at the end of the world…”
What can people expect from your upcoming EP?
“Glitter, shadows, neon, dancing and chaos. For one of the songs we gathered about 30 people in the studio, from some of our favourite other Glasgow bands (The Ninth Wave, The Lapelles, Baby Strange to name a few), and they fired out some incredible crowd vocals.
“I’m really excited about the release because I think it lets people into a whole new side of the band, and it lets us take you deeper into our world.”
What makes your live shows stand out from other acts?
“We always set out to bottle the crazy intensity of a club night, the pounding drums and the body-rattling sub-bass, and bring that to the stage with a real live vibe, big melodies and big performances. We want to take you utterly into the moment and make you forget yourself at our gigs.”
How much has your music you been shaped by Glasgow’s live scene?
“Glasgow’s a really inspiring place to make music. There’s such a rich history to tap into – Postcard Records, Simple Minds, Primal Scream – and yet it’s not a museum. New bands are ripping it up and starting again every week.”
“The scene seems to be growing yet again and there’s a lot of great ideas swishing about. And a lot of great bands.”
What live venues hold a special significance for you and why?
“We played our first Glasgow headline gig in the Poetry Club, a strange Weimar-style speakeasy under the railway lines. It’s run by Turner prize nominee Jim Lambie, and crammed full of bits of his art. For our first gig we filled it with neon lights and balloons, and got our very talented piano-playing friend Euan to hammer out bar-room versions of all our songs.”
If any readers find themselves in Glasgow, in the dead of night, what should be there go-to takeaway destination?
“Due to the vagaries of touring and trying to stay healthy when we’re home, I could probably give you better advice on the takeaways of Brighton than Glasgow!
“But if it’s not quite dead of night yet, Stereo or the CCA are great for veggie food and hefty doses of culture. We’re still waiting for the great street food revolution in Glasgow, so you’ll probably have to make do with the undead horror of the munchy box in the meantime.”
White are playing the following UK tour dates
Jul 8: Lexington, London
Jul 16: Latitude Festival, Suffolk
Jul 22: Deer Shed Festival, Yorkshire
Jul 29: Y Not Festival, Derbyshire
Aug 5: Belladrum Festival, Inverness
Aug 13: Summerhall, Edinburgh
Aug 14: Boardmasters Festival, Newquay
Aug 19: Lexington, London
Aug 27: Electric Fields Festival, Dumfries
More information at facebook.com/calledWHITE
Main image: Neelam Khan Vela