White Arrows Talks the Difficulties of Being a Band Among DJs

White Arrows frontman Mickey Church approached writing the band's latest, In Bardo, as though it were the end of his musical world on Earth. The result: a playfully quirky, anything-goes-into-a-pop-song groove inhabiting the album from start to finish.

"I didn't really know or care what was going to happen after this," Church says. "I treated this as if this were going to be the last album I was going to make, and I wanted it to be something I was proud of. Beyond that, it's out of my control. It was actually liberating [to think] whatever happens happens. There was no sacrifice. Whatever I wanted to say -- whatever I wanted to do -- on this record, I did. I know it sounds kind of vulnerable, and it's a little bit hard to talk about, but it's all about just going for it."

See also: 10 Vacant Buildings Around Phoenix That Should Be Music Venues

This Los Angeles indie quintet deftly aligns electro-pop with gritty guitars, dark bass romps with falsetto vocals, synth extrapolations with Latin shakedowns, and assorted one-off sound effects for added depth. Toss in a world music sensibility of beats and rhythmic textures, and the songs feel fresh, airy, and, at moments, uplifting. Despite all the layers, rarely do these mini-epics feel overdone.

"I've always had an interest in a bunch of different things. I'm into psychedelic rock as much as electronic dance music. I guess it was a blending of all those things . . . I don't think it was a conscious effort to do something in a specific genre or develop our own genre, but it happened accidentally," Church says. "But it's also an acknowledgement that sometimes we're sandwiched at festivals between DJs who are going to sound perfect every time they hit the stage. How are we going to get our live sound to be sonically pleasing given that we're playing between two DJs? We want it to be big but not frivolous."

Church, who with guitarist Andy Naeve, takes a producer's approach to recording -- gradually building each track layer by layer. Unlike the making of the band's first album, Dry Land Is Not a Myth, which was cobbled together over a couple of years between tours, the band brought in producer Jimmy Messer to oversee the project.

"We wrote this like producers, but we also had a real producer, someone we brought in with a ton of experience," he says. "That's the beauty of having a real producer -- it's an extra brain, the brain we're not used to having in [the studio] that functions as an editor. It was good having another perspective and having someone tell us when we're done, or it's time to move on."

Recording In Bardo in a single studio session and a cohesiveness lacking in the band's debut, which balanced two years' worth of mood swings, tour highs and lows, and fatigue. In Bardo is, as Church says, a single "snapshot in time."

"The first album I consider more a collection of songs. The album was written over the course of two or three years without us having any real direction," he says. "In Bardo's a snapshot of one place in time as opposed to a mix of feelings and emotions . . . It was a very natural thing."

How could it not be with a simple go-for-it attitude for what could be Church's musical end-all?

"There was no preconceived notion or plan," Church reconfirms. "That being said, I think In Bardo is a real cohesive piece of work -- thematically, lyrically, tonally it flows together far more than anything I've ever done before."

White Arrows is scheduled to perform Tuesday, January 27, at Pub Rock in Scottsdale.

Find any show in Metro Phoenix via our extensive online concert calendar.

9 Tips for Using A Fake ID To Get Into A Show 10 Classic Punk Records That Actually Kind of Suck The 10 Coolest, Scariest, Freakiest Songs About Heroin The 30 Most Disturbing Songs of All Time

Like Up on the Sun on Facebook or follow us on Twitter for the latest local music news and conversation.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Glenn BurnSilver
Contact: Glenn BurnSilver