CUSP Magazine: Winter Issue 2014

Cusp2013

CUSP Magazine is a Chicago based publication focused on helping up and coming creatives gain exposure for their brand and products. Our company is a collective of highly motivated individuals who work together to bring a new voice to the creative community.

MUSIC FEATURE//WHITE MYSTERY

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“The whole brother-sister dynamic lent an

organic flow to it.” White Mystery officially came

to life on April 20, 2008; the Whites celebrate

the anniversary every year with a release on the

same date. “We decided we would be a band

for 10 years total. No moving away, no backing

down, no matter what.” Alex said. Six years and

four full-length albums later, White Mystery is

still going strong—and the siblings attribute much

of their initial success to their hometown’s rich

legacy as a hub for DIY music. It is no wonder a

plethora of intimate DIY spaces have cropped up

in basements, backyards and bars in youth-centric

neighborhoods across Chicago. Given its history

as a self-made city, Chicago artists aren’t afraid of

hard work. Considered by many to be a fixture in

the scene, White Mystery started by playing small

local shows. Despite growing national success,

Alex and Francis can still be found playing at DIY

venues and festivals around the city. “The best

kind of shows are the ones where you can really

connect with people,” Alex said.

“The DIY scene is really awesome for

meeting other young punks.” In fact, one of White

Mystery’s recent memorable collaborations arose

out of a connection made locally.

Alex and Francis met up and coming rock

n’ roll three-piece band, the Holy Motors, at one

of White Mystery’s own shows during the summer

of 2013. The band’s lo-fi sound and rich, baritone

vocals make them right at home in Chicago.

“It was really cool because we started out as

fans,” Alex recalled. Opportunity for collaboration

sadly arose out of tragedy. The untimely passing

of influential garage rocker, and friend of White

Mystery, Jay Reatard brought the Whites together

with the Holy Motors for work on a tribute album

with French label, Teenage Hate Records. Teenage

Hate Records released their first limited edition

vinyl tribute to Reatard this past February. The

compilation on which Holy Motors and White

Mystery collaborated will be available in 2015.

In the late 2000s, DIY venues across the

city felt the pain from local authorities following a

citywide crackdown on live music permits. Largely

thanks to Paul Natkin, famed photographer,

CUSP MAGAZINE WINTER ’14 ISSUE

skilled networker, and friend and mentor to Alex

White, the scene pulled through and so did White

Mystery. Aside from being an influential force in

the survival of Chicago’s punk and garage rock

movement, rock and roll photographer Paul

Natkin encouraged Alex to take a plunge into a

full-fledged artistic lifestyle. “Paul was a friend of

my mom’s in the 70’s. He would take me out to

lunch sometimes and one day asked why I wasn’t

doing [music] full-time. I was 24.” Although she

was playing shows every weekend and touring

nationally and internationally with White Mystery,

Alex still worked a day job at a Busy Beaver Button

Company in Logan Square. “I can’t say I was

comfortable making [such a] big leap but I didn’t

want to still be working an office job at 26,” Alex

said. Following the conversation with Paul, Alex

saved every penny, quit her day job and began

booking White Mystery shows every day.

In the 6 years since White Mystery’s

naissance, Alex and Francis have played almost

1000 shows in 20 countries. They’ve booked major

music festivals, like South by Southwest and Riot

Fest, and performed with names as illustrious as

Robert Plant and Weezer. The Whites’ powerful

live shows and polished studio recordings only

fuel the momentum of their redheaded fury. “I go

into playing the best show of my life, every day

of my life,” Alex said. Alex’s heavy, virtuosic riffs,

provoke memories of the White Stripes or MC5,

and perfectly balance her soaring vocals. Francis

first ignites audiences with wild thrash-worthy

drum sets before guiding them on decidedly

psychedelic journeys rife with poetic, reverb-heavy

improvisation.

These energetic and effortlessly charismatic

performers never fail to treat their audience to

an unforgettable show. The performances, in

part, have earned White Mystery sponsorships

from a number of prestigious companies. Alex

and Francis have worked with Levi, Orange

Amplification, C&C Custom Drums and even

Airhead and Pretzel Crisps. Much like their stance

on record labels, the Whites are stringent when

selecting partnerships, only entering into mutually

supportive relationships.

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