David Roman | Asst. Inscape Editor
Originally printed in Viewpoints April 11th
Fresh off a cross country tour with fellow So-Cal band The Neighbourhood, Mickey Church of the White Arrows takes the time out to chat with me about the band’s debut album, their present projects including the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival and what’s in store for them in the coming year.
D.R: First off, congratulations on making the Coachella bill, how excited are you guys?
M.C: Very excited, I can say I have been a fan and an attendee of Coachella every single [year] except the first one. I used to hitchhike there to make it to the festival to see any band that was playing there in its first couple of years of existence, so it is nice to not actually sneak my fourteen year old self in, and to be playing is a big deal for me and the rest of the dudes.
D.R: What were your reactions when you found out they wanted you to play?
M.C: Just excitement but the fact is, it is insane because we all grew up with this festival just out here and it is just amazing, I do not know, it is just like groundbreaking for us, I never thought we would be playing at Coachella you know? Not even 5 years ago did I ever think that was a possibility.
D.R: So you guys have been around for a couple of years more or less, how’d you first meet?
M.C: Well my brother [Henry] is in the band we’ve known each other forever, and JP is like a family friend I’ve grown up knowing through Henry and my brother-in-law we’ve just known each other a long time, Andy and Steven I knew separately just from mutual friends, everyone’s kind of from the same area, just a bunch of mutual friends so when I moved back from New York and graduated from school and had a bunch of these songs written I said I was trying to find people that were going to be on board, not just be players, [that] just you know had kind of the right vibe, so the group kind of came together.
D.R: Can I ask the story behind the name White Arrows?
M.C: Um sure yeah you can ask (laughs). I’m not sure yeah I think the fact that It has a French reputation is kind of a good thing but uh whatever it meant when we decided on the name at the time, I think it was while I was studying shamanistic ritual at NYU and there’s like a lot of Native American imagery that comes to mind but a lot of people think it has to do with the Shel Silverstien [poem] Where the Sidewalk Ends, [one] of the last lines is something like “I’ll meet you where nobody knows where the chalk white arrows go” (oh okay) so there’s a bunch of references in there and I’m open to people’s interpretations because whatever it meant to me at the time, it means something completely different now, and hopefully it’ll mean something different again in two years it’s just… like one of those things where you know it’s calming, because it’s just the connotation taking on different meanings.
D.R: So you touched on this just now, I read that you got a degree from NYU in Shamanistic ritual?
M.C: Yeah it’s like a liberal arts degree but I got to form my own major but it was at the Gallatin which is a School of Individualized Study so I just kind of got to create my own concentration one of which is one that was shamanistic ritual. It was like all kinds of studies, everything from neuroscience to philosophies and autobiographical writings and a bunch of subject matter.
D.R: So what went in to the decision to start making music?
M.C: Well it somewhat just happened. I was living in a friend’s apartment in Long Beach, in the East Village. I kind of was out of it, just doing bad things to my body and my mind and I just picked up like a broken Casio keyboard that was like stuck on piano. We had this little home setup with an m-box and we kind of laid it down and we kind of just finished one song in a night and um just kind of deliriously and ended up liking what it was, [we] put it out online on our Myspace and it got more attention. I think Nylon immediately posted about it, somehow they heard about it and I just took a step back and looked at what I was doing, but until then I never had any interest in starting a band or playing music. The first song that I actually ever wrote was Coming or Going which ended up making the record, which is cool.
D.R: Would you say that is your favorite track?
M.C: God I do not know, it is my first track. My first try at a track. I do not know it depends, sometimes I really like playing that song and sometimes I wish it would go away forever.
D.R: Okay so I have always thought of you guys as indie rock, Wikipedia has you listed as psychotropic pop? How would you describe your sound?
M.C: Um well we have been kind of been pigeonholing this question, we come up with a new genre for every interview and then it would get printed and then we’d get listed as that genre. I do not know, I don’t know the longer we go, the harder it is to keep that up because some people take whet’s in print very seriously. So I don’t know what we are, psychedelic pop or something like that maybe something more classifiable than that but who knows, who knows. There are a billion genres for a billion different bands, at the end of the day who cares as long as you can find it in the right place and the right thrift store.
D.R: When was the first time you heard yourselves on the radio and how did that feel?
M.C: We were actually all together at practice. We knew, someone tweeted us, the person that was gonna play us on the radio tweeted that we were coming up at a specific time and were practicing in downtown LA and we were all gathered around my car with the windows open like standing outside with the radio on full blast, we had a freak out session. I think it even sounded differently, like they compressed it differently and the fact that you’re being played on the radio, you’re hearing it differently but it was a trip. It was surreal. And we’ve heard it five-thousand times before that but that was still a unique experience to hear that song on the radio for some reason.
D.R: You said you were first played on an LA station, you’re from LA, You’ve got a lot of LA love, where’s your favorite venue in LA to play?
M.C: That’s tough, I’d say it’s a tie between the Henry Fonda Theater and The Troubadour. That’s because I grew up in and have seen like three musical shows there that have changed my musical taste and my life there. Growing up I remember seeing Arcade Fire at The Troubadour for their first LA tour, their first time being in LA ever, that was insane, I was a sophomore in high school. And then at the Henry Fonda as recently as last year I saw James Blake blow my mind. It’s gorgeous and it was an honor to play there.
D.R: Cool, so you guys have been touring a lot lately, what’s that been like?
M.C: It’s been good. I mean I feel very fortunate that not only have we gotten the chance to tour a lot but also because it helps to work out like all the things that you need to work out live. We could practice in a garage for a year straight but until you put it on stage and perform it every single night on consecutive dates on different stages, you kind of work out all the things you need to work out in a live band based on you know how people react to it. Based on how you feel when you’re actually performing on stage as opposed to just playing your songs in your rehearsal space, and so the fact that we’ve gotten to tour so much we’ve gotten to that point where we understand what a live show is supposed to be. It’s always ever evolving you know. It’s because we’ve gotten to tour so much that we’ve played with bands that are our favorite bands you know we’ve gotten to go out with people who we actually really love listening to so it’s a trip. The fact that we get to do it off just our 7” and through our record is awesome.
D.R: Sweet! What’s been your favorite city to play so far?
M.C: It changes, it changes but on this last tour I think it was Portland, which is my favorite city. But in the past we’ve had fun in Seattle and have had some really good shows in San Francisco, including one of my favorite shows ever and that was only a week and a half ago [Feb. 28th] at The Great American Music Hall.
D.R: Okay, so has this constant state of touring put any kind of strain on the band or your music? Or has it actually given you more things to sing about?
M.C: There was a run we came off of not too long ago that was in the summer that was three, or rather four consecutive tours that was pretty much being gone for four months straight. There was definitely times of feeling creatively stifled on the road, but now that we’ve been back we’re actually recording all month, we just had this explosion of just whatever comes out, comes out of just writing and recording and some stuff will be the White Arrows and some stuff won’t be the White Arrows and some stuff that might be a new project. It’s just writing to write and that feels really good after being on the road.
D.R: Cool. Now Dry Land Is Not A Myth came out last year, when can we expect a follow up?
M.C: um I think that we will have a 7-inch and maybe an EP at some point this year.
D.R: What goes into your performances, do you prep or is there anything special you do to get into the performance mode?
M.C: Yeah we’ve got this song that we sing backstage we get into a huddle and kind of harmonize together and we sing Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls and um we had to have a lot of projections and visually overwhelming things, so when we perform it’s a lot of fog and projections and stuff like that and it’s just been gradually getting bigger and weirder and more visceral of an experience.
Now that we’re back we’re redoing the whole live set, tomorrow we’re gonna make it completely different.
D.R: Can we expect any surprises?
M.C: We’re gonna sound completely different, after this next month. We’re gonna do like a new live set for Coachella.
D.R: Now I’m excited! What’s been you’re biggest show to date?
M.C: Our biggest show to date was probably when we played the U.S surf open, which is the Olympics of surfing, and it was a free show on the beach, Huntington Beach or something like that. While the actual surf competition is happening it was Grouplove and us playing on the beach. Everyone was just there on the beach it was just literally a sea of people, next to the sea and it was all kind of surreal.
D.R: So do you think that performance has you prepped for Coachella?
M.C: Yeah, maybe, who knows?
D.R: (laughing) Now you guys have a really strong internet presence, you’ve got a tumblr, a twitter, your website is awesome, what went into the decision to focus on that? To use social media in a new way to really connect with your audience and get your name out there?
M.C: I don’t think it was so much of a methodical conscious decision as it was just that we’ve been on the road for so long that we actually need things to take up time when we’re sitting in a van for hours at a time. Being able to communicate through our Iphones and through pictures on Instagram and Tumblr. It’s always cool to chat with a thirteen year old fan via emoji’s.
Dry Land Is Not a Myth is available for purchase and download on ITunes and you can see the White Arrows playing live at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival April 14 and 21.