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Interview with Emily Jane White

- by Shauna Keddy

 

“That’s the cool thing about art, it can transcend things,” mused San Francisco based singer-songwriter Emily Jane White, when I sat down with her in the recording studio to discuss her music. “Everything I write is from my perspective, so it’s filtered through my body, my lens,” White explained. She went on to say that although her viewpoint is one of the white middle class, political statements expressed through music can go beyond the original meaning they had to the writer, and reach out to other people while still giving voice to the songwriter's experience. “I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately—what makes music political, how is it political. It is automatically, music has to be political, because the personal has a political nature to it. When it’s a big issue, then you are one amongst many expressing yourself. But when it’s something specific, like a catastrophe, then I try to be more subtle and suggestive about it.”
 
On her second solo release, Victorian America, White sings on the title track “She lost her home in Victorian America; it was the biggest things she’d ever known. A giant flood overtook Louisiana, but it took more than just the city of New Orleans.” In this smart and poetic form, White is able to make a fascinating and reflective statement, which is delivered beautifully, but with no less sting.
 
White’s first CD, Dark Undercoat, was released in 2007 to critical acclaim in Rolling Stone and Pitchfork, and since then she has continued to receive rave reviews from Spin, Paste, Fader and others. Her latest album was released in the U.S. in April, although the songs on it had actually been around for many years. It came out earlier last year in Europe, so by the time it came out here she was already eager to come up with new material.
 
“The music community here is very supportive and welcoming,” White smiled. “There are a lot of medium sized clubs, which are really accessible. It is a convenient urban place. It is great for local smaller shows, although there aren’t house shows or any abandoned houses,” White laughed. She first broke into performing by constantly doing house shows while living in Santa Cruz.
 
The musicians that provide her band are all incredibly talented and provide an amazing orchestral sound, perfect for her dark, romantic storytelling and melodic voice. “Working with a band, I wanted to make my second album more epic and dramatic. The reason my first album sounded more punk, with surf sounds, is probably due to the electric guitar compression I was working with."
 
Her band came together for the most part through mutual friends, although cellist and violinist Jen Grady and Carey approached White to play with her. Grady is quite the collaborator, and is now a member of Adam H. Stephens’ (Two Gallants) band, for his solo album that comes out in September. The string arrangements perfectly suit the songs on “Victorian America”, and give them both a classic beauty and an exciting urgency. White’s band is a fantastic fit for listeners who appreciate musical complexity.
 
Taking piano lessons from an expressive arts therapist helped White learn improvisation techniques. “I started writing songs on the piano at 15,” White explains. She grew up in Fort Bragg, an isolated community which helped form her musical and poetical sensibilities.  At UC Santa Cruz, White majored in American Studies with a focus on gender studies. In college, she was able to break into the music world and played in a couple of different bands. Spending a year in France after college was what steered her towards being a musician, after so much encouragement by enthralled French audiences.
 
Her attachment to France, and European audiences, has enabled her to keep a lower profile in her home state. “In France, they are receptive and rewarding, it’s such an appropriate, idyllic and supportive environment,” White raved. But she does feel very indebted to her musical compatriots in the Bay Area, “I am grateful to have people working with me to explore the thing in life that I've decided to pursue. Connecting with people is great, and the community of it. It's like a whole different world, I get to examine this other part of myself all the time, that otherwise might not be examined. Getting to explore one part of myself deeply is interesting.”
 
It is no wonder that White has such a perceptive and sensitive eye towards herself and others—she was working at an organization that dealt with cases of domestic violence before she became a musician full time. “I am very interested in psychotherapy. So I might still end up doing that someday.”
 
Her studies at Santa Cruz still influence her songwriting, particularly her focus on mythology, “I am very into literary gothic imagery, and exploring facets of suffering. Folk music is a great medium to explore mythology.”
 
To enhance White’s already amazing songs, check out a few of the beautifully shot music videos, for the song “A Shot Rang Out”, from her newest CD, or “Wild Tigers I Have Known”, the title track for the film of the same name. All videos are directed by fellow Santa Cruz alumni Cam Archer. “His videos are really sweet. He comes up with ideas randomly. He’s very spontaneous. We used props from the movie, and Aaron Platt, the cinematographer from the movie, filmed the video. Cam takes all the official photos of me as well, and produces the videos.”
 
Another interesting video by Archer is for the song “Dagger” off her first record, which she explains, “Was made using footage he already had of an actress. He edited it well to suit the song. I do have certain images in my head whenever I play a song, and it’s nice to know that the songs have an essence that is associated with them.”
 
The great thing about White’s raw songwriting style is that she certainly maintains that matter-of-fact attitude in her offstage persona as well. While she is completely sweet and approachable, she still plainly admits, “There are drawbacks to being a musician, I mean I think that people underestimate how hard you do work, even though you get to do something you love. There is the time, and the traveling and exhaustion.”
 
White is certainly engaged with the creative minds surrounding her, with her current band, “They are very tasteful. We come together and do free form. We’re all in a similar range, with how we’ll imagine a song would sound. They have a good grasp of what works for me in songwriting.”
 
After listening to her music on repeat for the past couple weeks, the line that always resonates with me is from the song “Dark Undercoat”: “And if I was a deep bathtub, would you sink down, to the bottom of my love?” Yes Emily, yes we certainly would.

Emily Jane White's new album "Ode To Sentience" will release in Europe on November 8th on Talitres Records and in the US early next year.

 

 

 

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Emily Jane White
"Ode To Sentience"

 

 
 
 

 





Weekend Warrior, October 22 - 24

Local psych-pop Creepoid continues to impress with fuzzed out chants like “Stranger”. Substantially lo-fi and gritty, this new-ish number plays out warm with meticulous reverb and laidback riffs. Moody guy-girl vocals swell while shaking cymbals meet tambourine, resulting in the same caustic calm The Kills exude. As heard on both sides of their debut vinyl EP Yellow Life Giver, Creepoid’s songs sound out chill yet urgent, settling somewhere between overt emotion and playing it coy. Balanced might be the word for it, or perhaps precise emphasis. Whichever, Creepoid does it well, making tracks like “Pink Tag Sale” a must have with its snare based dreamy tempo and washed-out vibes. However, expect to hear tonight at Pilam some new songs that they’ve been working on for their upcoming full length Horse Heaven currently scheduled for release in January 2011 via Ian Records. You’ve probably also been hearing some hype about The Homophones. Well, believe it! The big stage awaits them, and you have the opportunity to say, “I saw them back when…” (Now all that they have to do is record an album.) Oh, did we forget to mention the jangly pop of The Pains of Being Pure at Heart? Pretty sweet, right? Exactly and certainly Weekend Warrior-worthy! See you there. BTW: We’re very happy to see our favorite fraternity back with a bang! Pilam. 3914 Spruce St., 9pm, $8 - $10, All Ages
 
Other things to do this weekend, but hopefully Game 7 will be one of them…Go Phils!
 
Kung Fu Necktie (1250 N. Front St.) FRI Serpent Throne, SUN Women
 
The Fire (412 W. Girard Ave.) FRI Japanese Sunday, SAT Toy Soldiers and Satellite Hearts, SUN (Early) Everyone Everywhere, (Late) Free Cowmuddy Recording
 
Tritone (1508 South St.) FRI Surgeon and Leiana, SAT Da Comrade! And The New Heaven & The New Earth
 
Danger Danger Gallery (5013 Baltimore Ave.) FRI Your Children is Beautiful, SAT Algernon Cadwallader, SUN Hop Along and Motorcycle Maus
 
Millcreek Tavern (4200 Chester Ave.) FRI Ominous Black, Wizard Eye, Clamfight
 
The Rotunda (4014 Walnut St.) SAT Giovanni's Room Benefit w/Sweatheart and Sgt. Sass
 
The Ellen Powell Tiberino Museum (3819 Hamilton St.) FRI Goddess Night Benefit for City of Hope w/ Lisa Sunshine, Anti Emz, Radio Eris
 
Fergie’s (1214 Sansom St.) FRI Dan Collins Songwriter Showcase
 
The El Bar (1356 N. Front St.) SUN Far-Out Fangtooth
 
Connie’s Ric Rac (1132 S. 9th St.) SAT Early Ape and The Lawsuits
 
Triumph Brewery (117 Chestnut St.) FRI The Once Was
 
The Trocadero (1003 Arch St.) SAT Blood Feathers
 
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New Video from Grandchildren for “Saturn Returns”!

While the Danger Danger Gallery crew from Grandchildren are on tour warping audiences’ minds in support of their impressive full length debut Everlasting (The Deli’s October Album of the Month), they’ve premiered a new tripped-out video (of course) this week for “Saturn Returns” via Spinner. You can check it out below. Enjoy! - The Deli Staff

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The Spooks Haunting Making Time’s Ruby Lounge at Voyeur Oct. 22

Dave P’s Making Time parties have been consistently delivering free-wheeling if not drunken sloppy concerts/dance parties of joy for over 10 years now, and his brand only seems to be picking up speed. Tonight he is upping the ante at the Making Time hotspot Voyeur by putting two different concerts on for us lucky folks in attendance with the upstairs hosting indie rock wunderkinds Surfer Blood and Brooklyn’s delightfully nostalgic pop act The Drums (and I also heard Surfer Blood’s buddies The Dewars will be joining the lineup), while downstairs local natives The Spooks will be raging a party of their own. The Deli has been preaching the gospel of The Spooks’ surfer boy garage rock for a while now, and for good reason. Their songs are fairly traditional, energetic rock and roll tunes covered in fuzz and sung with a Devendra Banhart-esque quiver. I hope these guys take full advantage of the free Sparks to fuel their performance to the next level (hopefully without us having to see what their drummer had for dinner). Either way, this Making Time is one those that should not be missed. Voyeur, 1221 St. James St., 9pm, $15, 21+ - Adam G.
 
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Rocketboys' Wellwisher Release Party @ The Ghost Room 10/29

It is revealed to us by mysterious forces that the six-piece indie pop band The Rocketboys will celebrate the upcoming (Nov. 2) release of their EP Wellwisher one week from today, 10/29, at The Ghost Room, accompanied by Dignan and The Eastern Sea.

Track list: 1) A Narrow Space 2) Southern Light 3) Brothers 4) On the Other Side

(photo by Sean Berry)

 

 

 

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