White/Light Weekend

Live @ Lincoln Hall on Cinco de Mayo 2011 by White/Light

What a weekend.  Now that Matt Clark is a lawyer, we don’t have as much time to work on music as we used to, but when we do it’s as good as it ever been.  We have more than one projects right now, but our two favorites are our collaboration with film maker Alexander Stewart and the original meeting of Disappears & Steve Shelley.

Years ago when Steve and I were working on our other band we ended a little early one night and I took Steve over to The Hideout to see the best band in town play their first show.  Needless to say, he was impressed.  Sonic Youth was going to play two shows in Chicago later that summer and Steve was going to have Disappears open one night and White/Light open the other.  Only one of the two worked out, and I think it only because of my birthday.

I tried to make it up to the Disappears guys by booking a couple days with everyone in the studio.  The only recording from this session that has seen the light of day is this 7″, but we have been working on it again lately.  Check out this classic Matt Clark trick in my kitchen.

White/Light also preformed at Lincoln Hall (the best sounding venue in Chicago) on Cinco de Mayo with a short version of Alexander Stewart’s film.  Headlining the night were Del Rey.  I thought that we had a great show until they hit the stage.  Preforming a live score to the film Fantastic Planet, they must have been working on this for months!  Foley effects, dialog pulled from the film, musical cues, and a kick ass soundtrack with MANY different themes.  So much better than I had ever imagined.  If they ever do this again, this is something not to be missed.

The next night White/Light played a show at the Empty Bottle with Disappears.  It’s not the first time we have played with them and I know it won’t be the last.  I love all of these guys on and off the stage and hope work with them for many years to come.  I’ve also realized that the Ekdahl Moisturizer is the perfect synth for to play with those guys.  Add a dash of Malgorithm and Buffalo Trace and your all set.

I wonder what will happen next weekend??

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Day trip to Madison

As most of you know, I have a few weaknesses.  Things that make strange sounds, coffee, and fancy clothes could be my top three.  After a weekend of a lot of music and recording I needed a road trip.

I’m a huge fan of Context Clothing’s mailing list and thought it would be a fun drive drive up to Madison, WI to check out the store in person.  I talked my brother (who used to cover men’s fashion) and my friend Doug McCombs (who also knows a thing or two about men’s fashion) and off we went.

Well, not so fast.  We had to stop at Lula first.

We grab our iced coffee and hit the road.  Led Zeppelin 2, Obits, and Wipers get us most of the way there.  We were making amazing time (almost under two hours?) until we came up on an accident on the road.  A 8 squad cards and an ambulance surrounding a flipped minivan.  Yikes.

Brady effortlessly navigates us around Madison (he used to go to school here) and we find the place.  Looks pretty nice from the outside, let’s go in!  Oh, hello to you also.  Did I know that you are having a sale?  Really?  APC half off you say?  ts (s) as well?  This could be a problem.  I went a little crazy, while the other guys tried stuff on and talked leather belts with the guys in the shop.  The vest I found fit me like a glove, and they had some great Gitman Brothers ties too.  Score!

Time for some lunch.  We walked around the capital building and found one of our recommended joints over looking the square.  Graze looked like my kind of a place, and was I right.  My standard opening question to bartenders is “what beer do you have on tap that’s made closest to where we are standing?”  They all were.  Fried pickles?  It would be wrong not to.  Doug had a crazy looking bahn mi sandwich (in a good way) and Brady had a sick (in a good way) hamburger.  All local meat and produce.  Huge window with sunlight streaming in.  I could stay here all day, but we need to get back in Chicago!!

Trying to beat rush hour traffic we zoomed by Bradbuy’s Coffee for an espresso, or “shooter” if your Doug.  They had a Kickapoo blend and a single origin espresso.  Yum.  Got caught in a hailstorm on the way out of town, and bogus rush hour traffic back near Chicago too, but was worth it.

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Face The Strange series at the MCA Chicago

Face the Strange
New Music from Chicago and Beyond

Co-curated by White/Light and MCA Curatorial Assistant Michael Green

Fourth Tuesday of the month
October 2010 to April 2011, 6-7 pm


Oct 26: White/Light preforming with Alexander Stewart
Nov 23: Implodes
Dec 28: Toxoplasmosis
Jan 25: John McEntire and Shea Ako
Feb 22: Leroy Bach
Mar 22: Disappears w/ Steve Shelley & White/Light
Mar 29: Emily Lacy
April 26: Joan Of Arc

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Is it rude to accept your upgrade when flying with the band?

It’s happened more than once…  I fly a lot for work, and because of that I’m often one of the first people to get upgraded if a flight is full.  It’s one of the perks about staying loyal to an airline.  I could go on and on about how much I love frequent flyer programs and how easy it is to get obsessive about airline points, but not here.  The problem with upgrades is when you’re working with a band that flies in coach.  (This all goes out the window if you work for a band that flies in business class, and at that point you probably won’t be on the same plane with the band anyway.)

Iron & Wine just played two killer shows at the Wiltern Theater in LA (and KCRW Morning Becomes Eclectic, Conan, an AOL session and an impossible [turns out, actually possible] Amoeba in store with the 11 piece band, all in three days.  Tiring?  Yes.  Feeling good about who I work for this year?  Quite.

Woke up early on day four to fly to NYC and conquer the east coast.  Soho Apple store tomorrow and then Radio City Music Hall on Saturday night!  The only problem is that New York City is covered in snow.  Again.  Stuck in LAX waiting at Baja Fresh (is this the only place to eat in LAX?) until our flight can leave.  After a few hours and more than one beer at the Karl Strauss Brewery we get our announcement that we actually will make it to New York today.  The tour manager is running around trying to see if the gear will make it in time for the Soho Apple Store gig.  (It probably won’t.)  Then I hear my name over the PA.  Why are they calling me?  I walk up to the counter and the attendant hands me a ticket.  Seat 5B?  That’s great!  LA to NYC is a long flight and now I can stretch out and have a nice dinner! (and maybe write this blog post?)

But then, I start to think…  There are 14 of us flying to NYC…  Should I be the only one to get upgraded?  What about, ahem, the singer?  The manager is on the flight with us too?  All Coach.  The poor horn players are carrying on saxophones!  Can you even transfer a ticket like that?  Should I just keep my mouth shut?  Out of the 14 of us, I have certainly flown the most in the past year.  Most band members only get to be in one band, but I can travel with three different ones in a year.  Should I just put my head down and accept the little comfort allotted to me and my frequent flyer status?  If the manager or the singer really wanted to be in business class shouldn’t they have just paid for it?  I board the plane with a carry on mandolin, I figured it was the least I could do.  I’m seat 5B, so I’m the seat right in front of the door where everyone boards the plane.  This means that EVERY band member and roadie can give me shit as they pass by.  Is it worth it?

I took a flight home with Stephen Malkmus once and I got upgraded and he didn’t.  We walked on the plane together and as I peeled off and sat in the front, he gave me a little jab an I thought “the guy headlining a stage at Coachella is in the back of the plane and I get in the front?”  I felt so dumb, I told myself I would never do that again.

But I did.  And the vegetarian chili in a bread bowl was really good.  And the hot fudge sunday bar was pretty killer too…

Oh man, when they read this I’ll never hear the end of it.

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My favorite object from 2010

Seeking, seeking. Whether it’s the perfect papaya salad (Pok Pok), an amazing winter coat (Gloverall), or a great place to have an English pint (The Carpenter’s Arms) I’m always seeking out the “thing”. I was thinking about what my favorite object was from 2010, and nothing compares to my travel pen from Kaweco. It’s been in my pocket every day since I found it in the shop of the Ace Hotel in New York. There is a tiny room that sells small items like soap, stationary and travel items and that day I just happened to need a pen. It’s kept up it’s end of the bargan on many flights (unlike what the saleswoman told me) and you can feel a little classier when you sign for the check. I went for the royal blue, but if I ever did it again I’d go with classic black.

a great little travel pen

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Why I love the Shure KSM9

When I started working for Iron & Wine a few years ago I needed to get a microphone to help me with such a quiet singer.  I would always see the Neumann KMS105 when fancy singers were on TV so I decided to get one and try it out.  I worked wonders for the sound of his voice, but we had to stop using it because of the bleed.  The spill from our drummer 15 feet behind him would be so loud it would distort his in-ear monitors and if he moved his head from the mic it devolved into a really terrible sounding drum mic.  I started using the Neumann only when we were doing solo theater shows.  One nice thing about that was I never had to add any reverb to his voice or any ambient mics for the recordings because that mic would pick up so much of the theater we were in already.

The next year we picked up a KSM9 for the Swell Season, and I really loved the sound of it.  So much more of a studio vocal tone than a “live” sound.  Glenn sings very loud so the issue of bleed never came up.  When Pavement asked me to do monitors for them, I jumped at the chance to try the KSM9 now that I could be on the other side of the snake.  This microphone made my job so easy all year, I couldn’t believe it.  If you use the KSM9 with any “modern”* wedge you will have an easy time getting loud and clear vocals.  Our Belgian tech described the KSM9 as “a microphone for a woman”, but I think you could only say that after a lifetime of only hearing dynamic vocal mics. Though it is the only vocal mic where I’ve had feedback at 12k!

If you need a new mic for your singer, give this a try and I’d be surprised if you didn’t love it after your first sound check.

* The D&B M2’s needed almost no EQing and were very, very loud.  (Not “proprietary wedges”, the phrase on any tech rider that gives me chills.  Most of the time they work out, but 1 out of 10 times the “proprietary wedges” are so weird and unwieldy you could get fired no matter what mic you use.)

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White/Light at The Empty Bottle, Chicago, IL


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White/Light March 6th-28th at the MCA in Chicago

White/Light has an installation up for the month as a part of the 12×12 series. Performances and guests every Tuesday and Saturday!

Here is a really great article from the Chicago Reader.

There is also a video about our piece below.

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Shelley / McCombs / Daniell / Lemos at The Empty Bottle, Wednesday, December 16th 2009

A four piece with Steve Shelley, Doug McCombs and David Daniell.

D. Rider and Phantom Works are also on the bill.

Jason Fredrick made the greatest poster of all times.

There is a multi-part video as well.

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White/Light + Sonic Youth at The Vic Theater

We played with Sonic Youth in Chicago on my birthday. For Real.

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