White Dove: “The Gothic Byrds”?

White Dove are one of those bands that it would be dangerously misleading to listen to anything anyone has said in an attempt to characterize their sound (including myself). ...

White Dove are one of those bands that it would be dangerously misleading to listen to anything anyone has said in an attempt to characterize their sound (including myself).  They’re sort of a new band, but sort of veterans… It’s clear that they’re well-schooled in Americana, but they’re also obviously fans of the most poignant kinds of pop… they even draw goth and psychedelic references… I can say that none of these are completely out of line… but they’re all but useless in trying to paint a sonic picture of the LA trio.

White Dove photo 1

White Dove began in 2002 in Sierra Madre, CA, as Monster, the solo project of singer/songwriter Alex Johnstone, which came to include guitarist/dummer Jack Long and bassist Carl Harders.  However, White Dove signifies a succinct trio, equally comprising the input and output of the three members.  July 16th will see the release of their latest LP, The Hoss, The Candle, produced by Dave Trumfio.  I recently got a chance to chat with the three members of White Dove about their current state and their plans for the rest of 2013.

Izzy Cihak: So you recently changed your moniker from Monster to White Dove.  What inspired this shift?  And is there any substantial difference in your current musical mindset?

Alex Johnstone: I think what inspired the shift was just growing up and needing to move on a little bit. I started Monster when I was 17 in Sierra Madre with my best friends.  I just kept thinking about the words “White Dove” and they just kept popping in my head over and over. I couldn’t stop thinking about it and there was part of me that was trying to forge ahead, because music is really hard to continue on sometimes and I needed there to be something like a White Dove. It wasn’t supposed be spiritual in a traditional way, but maybe just in a Beach Boys way.

Jack Long: Yeah, I think also as a band, we had really gotten to a place where we sounded like the sum of our parts, this new thing.  Carl and I joined Alex’s band, Monster, but the three of us became White Dove.  It just felt right to give it a new name, and White Dove had that ring to it for us where we were like yeah, that sounds like how we sound!

Carl Harders: We were seriously wracking our brains, ‘cause we felt we needed a new name. It seemed like such a chore until Alex suggested White Dove.

IC: What were the biggest influences and inspirations behind your latest album, The Hoss, The Candle, whether they were musical or not?

AJ:  It’s hard to answer that without getting too lengthy, but I remember around the time we recorded this particular set of songs, specifically, we listened  to a lot of The Byrds and I remember thinking I wanted to try to get some of that rolling sound, which I think The Byrds pretty much do like nobody else can do.  For “Dust on the Water,” I remember wanting that up-and-down lilt to the melody, almost like The Small Faces, something like that.  I also remember writing “Sister” after hearing “Congratulations” by MGMT, which would have no audible relation at all to most.  We definitely got into a bit more country, like Waylon Jennings, and we were heavily into The Flying Burrito Brothers.  We were also getting really into the Beachwood Sparks again.   I had listened to them when I was a lot younger, but didn’t quite get how awesome they were until I was older.  Jack and I listen to the Beach Boys definitely more than any other band.  I remember listening to that album Carl and the Passions almost every single day for a pretty long period of time. Off the top of my head, Tom Petty, Harry Nilsson, and Alex Chilton also come to mind for that time period when we were recording.

JL:  That sounds about right. I guess other than bands, we just all had the common mindset or goal of keeping it straightforward and trying to make it as melodically pure as possible. Anything that was too ornamental would get vetoed, ha.

CH: Definitely a bunch of Gene Clark solo stuff, along with the Byrds, at the time of recording.  Lee Sklar’s bass playing on Gene’s album No Other is definitely something to aspire to.

IC: Have you had any favorite reactions to it, thus far, whether from critics or friends and family?

AJ:  There’s been so many nice things said. I’ve been really taken aback.  We have all been playing music for a really long time and we’re not a bunch of 20 year olds, so it really means a lot to me.  I really enjoyed what Amoeba said about our song “Sister,” because I felt that they got that we were going for simplicity and it almost felt like a weight off my shoulders that they acknowledged that.  It’s so easy to get lost in the rambling landscape of LA.

JL:  Our friend Danny, from Rainbow Arabia, said we sounded like “the gothic Byrds,” which I thought was awesome, haha.

CH: I overheard some kids in the bathroom after a recent show saying, “White Dove is my new shit,” haha, which was pretty nice to hear!

IC: The album was recorded with Dave Trumfio, who has quite an impressive (and diverse) catalogue.  What was it like working with him?  Do you feel like he significantly influenced your sound or your process of recording?

AJ:  We came to Dave with a specific sound in mind that we wanted for the album and it wouldn’t have been possible at all without him.  He has just worked on so much music and seen so much that he really can’t be phased. It’s really interesting to watch someone work on the technical side of recording for me. I really would like to learn more about it.  He’s also a really fun and awesome guy.

JL:  Dave was awesome. As a band, we’re really good with demoing out our songs and being prepared with our parts when we go into the studio, but it was nice to work with someone like Dave, who could say, “You should try that through this amp,” or, “Use this guitar for this song.” That was great for us.

CH:  Yeah. It’s nice working with someone who is technical and can nerd out about gear, but who is also a musician at heart, because with that comes taste and that’s a hard combo to find.

IC: For that matter, do you have any particular favorite records he’s worked on?

JL: I’m going to go with his Pulsars records.  After working Dave for a long time and getting to know him, it was cool to go back and listen to The Pulsars because you can just hear how much of his musical personality is in there.

CH: I really like the Wilco/Billy Bragg recordings.

AJ: I pick Summerteeth by Wilco and the Handsome Family.

IC: What are you most excited for in the second half of 2013?

JL: Well, we worked on the album for a really long time, so I don’t think we could be more excited for people to actually get to hear it.  We’re also going to work on another video or two, so that should be really fun.

CH: I can’t wait to get on the road.

AJ: I’m going to roll down that road so far that I’m just going to be a little speck in your rearview mirror.

Band Interviews

During the day Izzy Cihak teaches transgression, subversion, and revolution at Temple University. At night he haunts Philthy's best venues to cover worthwhile acts for Philthy Mag. Morrissey is everything to him and, in their own heads, all of his friends see themselves as Zooey Deschanel.