The Whitest Boy Alive - White Is The New Black
Cool Krauts The Whitest Boy Alive kick it old school down Mexico way.
When you’re in a Berlin-based live dance music outfit and looking to record your follow-up album, clearly you have to move as far away from your roots as possible. At least that was the case for bass player and feted DJ Marcin Oz, the soul behind The Whitest Boy Alive. “It was clear that we had to escape cold Berlin in winter, if we were to make a sort of summer type record,” he explains, “and we spent a whole year looking for a new space.”
Towards the beginning of 2007, the band played a tour in Mexico, upon which the natural thought progression would be, “Wouldn’t it be great to go there again and set up a studio on the beach-” Luckily, these White Boys have friends in high places, most notably singer Erlend Oye, whose friend’s mum owned a Mexican beach house and was persuaded into constructing a recording unit in the garage. “It was a very nice lifestyle, we got to go surfing and then get together and play, I’d love to go back sometime soon.”
While the golden sands of Mexico beckon, The Whitest Boy Alive are getting stuck into touring to promote their finished album, Rules. For Marcin, who cut his teeth as a house DJ for almost ten years prior to the joining the group, it’s a welcome release. “I spent the majority of my life spinning records, and I always though that would be the best job in the world,” he says. “But once I realised that I could actually make the same kind of music, in [a] club, on the spot – it was very magical.” Öz, like many closet instrumentalists who hit the decks to make some cash, notes that the difference between dropping someone else’s tracks and dropping fat bass lines is indescribable. “But we still get to do some DJ stuff, you know; sometimes we mix songs into other songs and we play sets without stopping in between tracks, so we can almost recreate the idea.”
It hasn’t always been this easy for the band based on an imaginary character, stuck inside singer Erlend’s brain. “The Whitest Boy Alive is actually a made up figure and then Erlend becomes him and our albums are actually about this Whitest Boy Alive.” Marcin stresses that it’s got nothing to do with four white men playing particularly black art forms, like funk and soul; “No, we like to leave things open to interpretation.” That’s partly what happened with the group’s first record, Dreams, cut when nobody in the outfit had any idea of how to get the groove out of raw studio recordings – so they just let it be. “This time around, it’s kind of different,” Marcin laughs. “We’ve played something like 150 shows in six months so now we know what we can do.”
Just like the album name implies, The Whitest Boy Alive have set themselves a number of rules when it comes to making music. The most pertinent of these is that “everything has to be recorded live. The situation [layout] from the stage is rebuilt in the studio and then we, um…count in, hope for the best!” It is this old school approach to the art form that gives Rules such a live jam feeling to it, despite being as tight as a Stevie Wonder single. After all, it’s a pretty simple premise: “record electronic dance music with instruments. I actually can’t believe nobody in Berlin came up with that idea first.”
It turns out somebody in the forward-thinking Modular camp (see: The Presets, Cut Copy, et al.) saw the potential in the boys, as they soon were signed to the label’s UK imprint and whisked down to Australia for the Nevereverland tour last year. “I was always waiting to come to your country,” Oz confesses, “and I was just waiting for someone to organise it. When the invitation came we were very happy about it.” Marcin cites the festival as a rare experience for him. “In Europe, you don’t really get to travel with all the bands from one place to another. That’s because we have festivals every weekend. But on Nevereverland all the bands that came from overseas spent all the time together, so that was really nice.” He’s quick to compare hanging out for two weeks straight with Klaxons and Hercules & Love Affair as “something like a school trip,” especially the final shows in Perth where his band bum-rushed Klaxons’ set with Van She and the Bang Gang DJs and started dancing on stage. “I guess that’s something,” he chuckles, “that doesn’t happen very often.” Ah, innocent German kids.
Fresh off the back of great reviews of the new album, Oz is already making plans for world domination. “We’ve never been to the US, so that’s definitely being planned.” Considering that it’s so close to Mexico, and the band aren’t rushing back to record in a big hurry, maybe The Whitest Boy Alive should host private beach parties at their pseudo-studio- “Well it’s always there, so I guess we should use it, shouldn’t we-” says Marcin. Just don’t talk to him about DJing for a while: “Oh I’m kind of over that whole scene, you know- Right now the best things in life are playing and travelling with my band. That’s the most fun.”
WHO: The Whitest Boy Alive
WHAT: Rules through Pod / Inertia
WHEN: Out now
MORE: inertia-music.com / myspace.com/thewhitestboyalive