NOT PLAYING GAMES: White Hills

Only Lovers Left Alive event at Heaven, London, 06 February 2014

The NYC psych outfit spills the beans on their influences, on Krautrock in general, on their hometown scene, their upcoming album, and more. Below, listen to key tracks.

BY JONATHAN LEVITT

White Hills, who hail from New York City are, sad to say, one of the bands it took me until 2016 to finally hear. Since I didn’t know much about the band, I decided to contact Dave W. for a quick interrogation. The band has graciously offered Blurt readers an exclusive link to the triumphant and otherworldly, “Before Leaving Earth”, from their Oddity III: Basic Information CDR. The music is the aural equivalent of liquid propellant being forced through the shuttle’s, booster rocket O-rings, before consuming itself and spinning back to earth. So strap yourself in because it’s one hell of a ride. (Visit the band at their Facebook page HERE or at their label, Thrill Jockey.)

How long have you all been together and could you introduce the members of the band?

DW: We’ve been together since 2006. The only other constant member other than myself has been Ego Sensation.

Seeing that your ep No Game to Play was released in September what’s next for the band?

DW: No Game To Play was the first release under the name WHITE HILLS. It was re-issued, for the first time on vinyl, by the San Francisco based label 300mics. It was originally released only as a CD-r with a different sequence and mix under the title They’ve Got Like We’ve Got Blood on Julian Cope’s short-lived label Fuck Off & Di label in 2006. The vinyl version is the original sequence and mix of the album.

Presently we are working on a new album, title STOP! Mute Defeat, that will see the light of day on Thrill Jockey records in mid May of 2017.

Tell us about some of the bands that have influenced your music?

W: I am the collective sum of all music that has been dear to me. I wouldn’t say any one has more influence on me than another.  Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of Dub, James Brown and various bands from a scene out of Sheffield in the late 70’s/early 80’s; groups like Hula, Clock DVA, Cabaret Voltaire and Chakk.

What’s the New York Psych music scene like? Any bands from the scene that you’re into?

DW: I couldn’t tell you to be honest. I’ve never been one to pigeonhole myself, or prescribe to a certain scene.  I like to immerse myself in anything and everything. That is easy to do living in NYC. What I can say is that when I started the band “Psych” was a dirty word, now it’s the catch phrase of the month. Some other genre will replace it soon enough.

Some bands I dig in NYC at the moment include The Space Merchants, The Netherlands, Insect Ark, One Prayer One Sin, SQURL, Psychic Ills and Anasazi (although I’m not sure if they are still together which is a shame if that is the case.)

white-hills-by-marylene-mey

Do you guys use any vintage gear?

 DW: We aren’t gear heads of any sort. We like to use what sounds pleasing to our ears. If you can make an instrument sing it doesn’t matter whether it’s old or new, does it?

What’s the last record you purchased?

DW: Wovenhand’s Star Treatment. Definitely worth looking into if you haven’t yet. They never disappoint.

Name 5 Krautrock albums that you feel are essential listening?

DW: I think the whole Krautrock thing has been touched on enough at this point in time. The only band that I might be able to shed some light onto that many might not be familiar with is Ton Steine Scherben. Unlike many of their contemporaries, they were not spacey, but heavier in the same way that the MC5 & The Stooges were to their contemporaries.

I’ve always been found of music that comes out of Germany. Lately I’ve been listening to bands like Abwärts, Deutsch Amerikanishce Fruendschaft (D.A.F.), Die Krupps, Palais Schaumburg, S.Y.P.H., Blumfeld and DIN A Testbild, and am more interested in the post-punk and experimental scenes that came out of the late 70’s/early 80’s.

What’s the reception to your music in Europe versus the US?

DW: We spend more time touring Europe, so I’d say we are better received there. We do tour the US, but more offers come in from Europe.

Have you ever played in Asia?

DW: Not yet. There have been a few chances but they’ve never materialized.

I’m new to your music but my gateway drug was the album Oddity III can you tell us a little about the genesis of this record?

DW: Oddity III: Basic Information is part of a series of limited edition self released CD-r’s that are only available from us when we are on tour.  Each release is made up of unreleased tracks that are collected from studio, live and rehearsal recordings. The material corresponds to the new album we have at the time. I see the series as a look into our process for that album. The tracks on this release were accumulated from sessions that gave birth to the album H-p1.

 Any tours planned at the moment?

DW: At the moment we are in the process of finishing up our next record. Outside of a random show here and there, touring won’t really kick in for us until the spring of 2017.

What does 2016 mean to you all at this point in time?

DW: Today, it seems that the collective human conscious is choosing to head towards a time of uncertainty, the potential destruction of our planet and ourselves in the process.  The further we evolve the further away we get from moving forward in a positive non-harmful way. We’re smart enough to have invented all kinds of technology that we perceive makes life better for us now than it was in years past, but we aren’t smart enough to realize in the process that we are polluting the earth’s resources faster than they can be naturally detoxified and in doing so have tilted the balance of nature.

Balance is the key. The pendulum cannot swing to heavy one way or the other without a problem. At this point in time the pendulum weighs too heavy to one side. That is why all seems so tumultuous at this time. Humans will continue down a destructive path, until we don’t exist anymore, unless the collective conscious realizes that we need to live within harmony of all things. It’s not brain surgery. If we continue to destroy what gives us life, we in turn are only destroying ourselves. The earth could care less about humans and it will do what it needs to do in order to heal itself. It is time we get off our high horse and realize we aren’t as great as we think we are. Only then we will be able to move forward in a positive direction for all things and not destroy ourselves in the process.

white-hills-by-chris-carlone

Photo credits (top to bottom): Simona Dalla Valle, Marylene May, Chris Carlone

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