Run for the Hills
by Shane Miller
May 14, 2010 | 18281 views | 0 0 comments | 814 814 recommendations | email to a friend | print

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It's a music critic's job to “genre”-lize, and even if it's not their job, most can't help themselves. This label - and the more genres and adjectives they can string together, the better - will generally be disdained by the artist, who prefers to see themselves as multi-dimensional and impossible to pin down. Dave W. of Brooklyn's White Hills, however, figured if you can't beat 'em, join 'em, and beat everyone to the punch.

“People who refuse to say what their band sounds like, I feel, are doing themselves a disservice,” he said in a recent interview. “People are going to compartmentalize you in their brain, so you might as well do it for them with a term that you put out there.”

And the term that Dave W. chose was “space rock,” littering early promo materials for White Hills with the phrase to make sure the tag stuck. And stuck it has, but not necessarily because of Dave W.'s persistence, but because space rock is the perfect way to describe the band's psychedelic take on 70s fuzz rock and improvisation, combining elements of both Hawkwind and Can with an updated take.

White Hills was born out of Dave W.'s frustration with his music career, playing in various band in New York City, but not necessarily playing anything he actually wanted to hear. So he holed himself up in his apartment and recorded an album. (Dave W. and the rest of White Hills have since put out numerous homemade recordings, many of which are impossible to find these day – even Dave W. admitted to being unable to track down some of them.) Bassist Ego Sensation quickly joined the band, and the core of White Hills was set.

That was during the middle part of the last decade, and their first album, They've Got Blood Like We've Got Blood, caught the attention of Englishman Julian Cope, who re-released the album on his British imprint. In 2007, Heads on Fire was released on Rocket Recordings, and Glitter Glamour Atrocity quickly followed.

Earlier this year, White Hills made their debut on stateside label Thrill Jockey, releasing the self-titled White Hills. The album was recorded in Oneida's Brooklyn studio, The Ocropolis, and even features Oneida's Kid Millions on drums.

While Dave W. personally termed the music of White Hills “space rock,” their music is actually hard to pigeonhole. While the band does dabble in long free-form jams, they are also capable of locking down a heavy riff, and every album the band has released has its own flavor.

“I'm very conscious about making the records sound very different from each other,” said Dave W. “I don't want our albums to sound the same.”

White Hills is probably the band's most far-ranging album to date, and represents a huge leap in defining the White Hills sound – a rare combination of heavy, powerful music that manages to meander and ramble and explore more far-flung concepts.

Because many of White Hills albums were released on labels overseas, the band has spent a considerable amount of time touring Europe, where Dave W. says audiences are generally more appreciative of live music, explaining that even if you play a small city in a European country, there's a good chance the entire town is going to come to the show.

“If you have the choice of playing Columbus, Ohio, to 25 people, or playing a small town in Italy that is the equivalent of Columbus, Ohio, but know that 250 people are going to come see you, you are of course going to play the podunk town in Italy,” he said. “There's just a very different attitude to the arts in Europe.”

That said, Dave W. said he is looking forward to playing in front of more American audiences. In fact, White Hills will be playing a show in Brooklyn on May 29 at Glasslands.

And according to Dave W., a White Hills concert is all about entertainment. While some bands prefer to play live versions of their records, Dave W. prefers to paint his face silver and put on a real show, expanding on the recorded versions of the songs and providing an experience for the audience that is separate from listening to their albums.

“There are things that you can do with an album that you can choose to either do or not do in a live show,” he said. “I think the album and the live show are two separate things; the live show should be entertainment.”

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