White have been a hard band to pin down thus far. There’s the name, of course, which conveys nothing but a resistance to search engines, and seems deliberately at odds with the neon-streaked electro-funk of the group’s first two singles. Until fairly recently, their identities were just as elusive – no pictures, no performances, nada. When new bands go to such lengths, it’s usually because no-one cares who they are anyway. For White, however, it was more about making a clean break from the past.
Three members of White – guitarists Hamish Fingland, Chris Potter and bassist Lewis Andrew – are former members of Glaswegian folk-rockers Kassidy, who enjoyed some notoriety, if not quite success, before their frontman Barrie-James O’Neill upped and moved to LA to be closer to his then-girlfriend (who also happened to be Lana Del Rey). “The band had been coming to an end for a long time anyway,” says Fingland. “It had gotten a bit soulless. We weren’t working very hard in terms of writing and we all knew it was over but we wanted to keep playing music. For us, him going away seemed more like an opportunity to have another shot, to not make the same mistakes we did before.”
While prepping a side-project of his own in late 2013, Fingland was put in touch with Leo Condie, the theatrical frontman of the Low Miffs, another defunct Glaswegian group who’d released an album with Josef K’s Malcolm Ross before sputtering out when, “everyone got serious about working and stopped pretending to be rock stars.” Condie’s voice and mannerisms reminded Fingland of The Associates’ Billy MacKenzie and, after discovering a shared love of Bowie, Talking Heads and LCD Soundsystem, Fingland brought Lewis and Potter into the fold. Drummer Kirstin Lynn, preceded by her reputation as “Glasgow’s hardest snare-hitter,” was the final piece of the jigsaw. They chose the name White for its clean-slate symbolism. “Someone told me we were called White because our music sounds like cocaine,” laughs Fingland. “But really, it’s a blank canvas you can do anything on.”
White have been coy about showing too much of that canvas. They worked in secret for much of last year, says Condie, “because we wanted to have the songs in place, have an image and a sound in place, so that we’d be like a spaceship landing from out of nowhere.” When their first transmission, the whip-smart Franz-ian funk of ‘Living Fiction’, started causing a stir last summer, even their close friends had no idea who they were. By the time they signed to Sony earlier this year, they’d played more rehearsal-room sets to interested A&R men than gigs to actual audiences.
Their next release, however, should yank back the curtain considerably. ‘Blush’ sounds as ‘Reflektor’ might have if James Murphy had joined Arcade Fire instead of just producing them, while lyrics such as “this is your kind of sin, this is your kind of discipline” offer a glimpse into the dark world many of White’s songs inhabit. “It’s about a guy who’s found fame, but ends up needing to get his kicks through ever-more disturbing means,” says Condie, who reveals that the video – in which the band members finally appear – is set in an S&M dungeon. “That’ll probably be us in a year’s time…”
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NEED TO KNOW: WHITE
FOR FANS OF LCD Soundsystem, Franz Ferdinand, David Bowie
BUY IT New single ‘Blush’ is available on iTunes and Spotify
BELIEVE IT OR NOT Their first gig took place not in Glasgow but Hamburg, where a local DJ had discovered ‘Living Fiction’ through NME, and started playing the track during his DJ sets.