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MUSIC FEATURE//WHITE MYSTERY 66 A first-time encounter with the White Mystery siblings conveys an uncanny satisfaction, a feeling that only comes from meeting individuals of genuine originality and distinction. Even the most cursory glance belays their relation. Francis Scott Key stands tall and stoic, with long, red curls falling in feral tresses to either side of his bespectacled face. A few years older, Miss Alex White, as she is known in the music scene for her self-titled solo work, is diminutive with a shock of the same curls and a strikingly focused gaze. Despite her commanding presence and impressive resume of artistic accomplishments, she is surprisingly soft-spoken. When onstage, the siblings make a fierce pair. Their live performances radiate energy reminiscent of the glory days of rock and roll, though their friendly and approachable offstage demeanor speaks most to the soul of their vision. Meet White Mystery: the brother-sister power duo whose refusal to play by the rules is changing the landscape of the music industry for independent artists in Chicago and across America. White Mystery has been tearing up stages in basements and bars, at music venues and festivals, all over the world since their inception in 2008. They have four full-length albums, an array of prestigious sponsors, and show no signs of stopping until they reach their predetermined 10-year mark in 2018. While countless punk and garage-rock bands call Chicago home, Alex and Francis differentiate themselves from the pack by the scope and variety of their projects, the power of their live performances, and a staunch refusal to compromise the integrity of their art. Born and raised in Rogers Park, where they still live today, Alex and Francis were raised in a creative household. “What got us into music in the first place was probably our parents’ great taste in Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones,” Alex said. Their mother, Chicago’s photographer Diane Alexander White, achieved acclaim through her street documentation of the 1979 Disco Demolition, rock and roll’s rowdy backlash to the disco movement. Although not musically inclined, the Whites nurtured their children’s talents and <strong>CUSP</strong> MAGAZINE WINTER ’14 ISSUE Photography by Diane White
encouraged their pursuit of music. Francis recalls attending some of his first shows in Chicago, “[Our parents] would drop us off at all ages shows around Chicago, like the Fireside Bowl and backyards where our friends would play.” Both siblings began making music very early. Prior to forming White Mystery in 2008, Alex had already made a name for herself through her solo work, as Miss Alex White, and numerous collaborations. So far Alex has played in 12 bands and has 18 vinyl releases. She self-released her first album at 17 on Missile X records, a label founded with her best friend. It was around that time that her solo project and her band, The Hot Machines, began making some serious waves. “The Hot Machines played with The Kills and The Raveonettes, so we were getting some attention. We were being pursued by a major label but the feeling wasn’t right,” Alex said. Turning down several major record deals in favor of maintaining direct creative control over her music, she continued to self-release on Missile X Records and would eventually uphold that same tradition with Francis and White Mystery. Her decisions early on effectively set a precedent for White Mystery’s later work. Of their 4 studio albums, White Mystery (2010), Blood and Venom (2011), Telepathic (2013) and Dubble Dragon (<strong>2014</strong>), all are self-released. “We’ve definitely received a lot of offers from a lot of different labels but we are committed to independence,” Alex said, expressing a sentiment widely shared in Chicago’s DIY scene. “What I’ve told others and what I tell myself is continue to follow your instincts… you might be the right type of person for a label or maybe not,” Alex explained. Demonstrating a presence of mind, not often mirrored by young artists breaking into the music industry, Alex and Francis White have established White Mystery as an independent creative powerhouse, blazing a new trail toward a new definition of success. Francis also got an early start in music. He attended his first live show at 13 (Alex chaperoned) after which he played in his fair share of bands prior to the forming White Mystery. “We’ve both been in other bands before and the creative process wasn’t always easy,” Alex said. Photography by Medium Gallery <strong>CUSP</strong> MAGAZINE WINTER ’14 ISSUE 67