Monday, 15 February 2010

Conversational | White Rose Movement

by Little Miss B, 13th Feb 2010...

If you have ears, any semblance of taste and have drawn breath in the last few years, you will have heard and appreciated White Rose Movement. A wonderful blend of late 80's synth, electro-clash, brooding melancholia and impossibly catchy melodies, White Rose Movement are set to return to the fore, with news of a second album, and a headline show at Hoxton Bar and Kitchen on the 18th February. Oh happy days!

Critically acclaimed, adored by loyal fans, and writers of one the most exceptional songs of recent times, this band have been keeping busy in the four years since releasing debut album 'Kick'. They've toured the world with the likes of NIN, Placebo, Bloc Party, The Kills and Gary Numan, withstood a line-up change and nearly driven two producers to mental illness during recording of their new album.  All in a day's work, non?

White Rose Movement
are Finn Vine (vocals/guitar), Jasper Milton (guitar), Owen Dyke (bass), Ed Harper (drums) and Poppy Corby-Tuech replacing original member Taxxi on keys.
Having played singles Love Is A Number and Testcard Girl practically every day since they first burst into public consciousness, The Girls Are, needless to say, jumped at the chance to grill synth wizard Poppy ahead of Thursday's show.

White Rose Movement

Hi Poppy: first of all, thanks for talking to The Girls Are!
You're playing in Hannut tomorrow, London next week and Istanbul shortly after: it would seem 2010 is off to a good start?

P: Yeah, it feels good to start the year on such a positive note. There's something about the new year that clears your brain a bit. I'm excited about 2010, it feels significant. I'm off to Hannut at 5am tomorrow and really looking forward to it, Belgium is always good to us. I need to start packing and not watching the top 100 greatest hits of the 90s though... 

(Editor: woman after my own heart)

News about the upcoming Hoxton show is starting to do the rounds, and is already causing quite a buzz. Are you looking forward to a more intimate gig, having just played a festival?

P: Definitely. We played at HB&G last year and it really was an amazing show, really rammed and with such a buzz. We feel like this time it's really a showcase for our new material and and that's exciting. Club gigs and festivals are so different and there's nothing like being up in front of a huge crowd but with this upcoming London show, it feels like an appropriate place.

You joined the band in 2008 after former keyboardist Taxxi (Erica McArthur) left to return to art college: how did your induction into White Rose Movement come about?

P: I received a rather ominous text message from Owen. I was in Spain at the time with my cancan troupe and he was being very shifty, he wouldn't speak to me on the phone about it so I had to wait until I got back to England a couple of days later. He ended up asking me to join the band at my aunt's 50th birthday party on a Norfolk beach in a drunken haze. I'm not entirely sure whether it was the alcohol but I couldn't really say no. I'd known the guys for a long time - Finn is part of my extended family - and I think that when Erica left they wanted someone who they knew well and who could fit in without catching up on years of friendship. The band set up is quite unusual; we share family, friends, grew up in the same parts, the same schools, it's really very close knit. The only one I didn't really know was Ed but it turns out we went to the same high school and grew up within a few miles of each other. It's a pretty incestuous set up you could say.

You were studying fashion at the time: did you ever see yourself becoming a full time, touring, professional musician?

P: Not at all. I'd had fashion in my mind since a very young age and never anticipated joining a band. I guess there's always a little part of you that dreams of being in a rock band but it never seemed a feasible scenario. I was at fashion college when I joined White Rose Movement. It was my final year and I'd had a worrying realization that this may not be my port of call. Being asked to join a band seemed like a thoroughly inappropriate idea - especially three months before graduation - but somehow  it made total sense to me. Finn likes to think he saved me. Without being dramatic I think it did in a way.

I'd never touched a synthesizer before I joined White Rose Movement. My background was classical; Chopin, Satie, Debussy. I've always been a big music fan but played classical piano. My grandmother was and still is an incredible pianist and really encouraged me to take lessons as I was always making up melodies and playing my favorite pieces by ear. When confronted with a synth for the time I was slightly terrified of all the buttons, especially when I started using a sampler aswell. Then I realized that playing a synth is just the same only it becomes a toy that you get to fuck around with.

When you joined, the band were recording a new album: what was it like to join during such an intensive, creative process?

P: Well I joined the band quite a few months before we began recording. When I started, the guys played me their demos, which were a various stages of completion. I remember Cigarette Machine practically being done but some of the others didn't have vocals, or were just bass and drums. There were so many, we spent a good six months in the studio trying out different things, changing the structures around, adding riffs, vocals etc. By the time we began recording, we had about 25 songs and some of those evolved massively in production. We didn't know which ones were going to make the cut so we just did them all. I also had to learn the old songs from 'Kick' so in fact it felt more like learning 40 new songs! I was finishing up my degree so it was somewhat intense but I found that intensity productive and it really made me absorb a hell of a lot of information.

How much creative input have you had on the new album, in terms of songwriting?

P: At the time I joined, I felt like a lot of the work had been done. In retrospect, a lot changed during those few months and I actually feel like I was more involved than I initially thought. I spent a lot of time in studio recording my parts for the new album and that was a real learning process for me and something I really enjoyed. Our producer Robert Harder really took that on board and asked me to work with him on a track, unknown to the others. We came up with our version of Icicle which is a stripped down electronic track that's on the new album. Possibly the most terrifying experience though was recording Small and the Witch's Revenge. It was this strange instrumental track that Jasper had been working on for a while and it didn't have much of a structure, it was really just a rhythm, a bit like Green Onions. He had an idea to record french vocals and being bilingual, it was my job to do so. I became Joan of Arc for the day and yelped and screamed to get that vocal. I was petrified and stressing like a maniac, making the others leave the room. I felt really pissed off that I was being told to sing(ish) as I'd signed up for playing keyboard. But yeah, in the end, it felt good to be involved in that creative process but a part of me is still fucked off I now have to get up stage and perform the damn song.

Poppy: photography by Elementaki: Flickr here.

Your sound is multi-faceted and many-layered: how do you achieve this? Describe your songwriting process.

P: It totally depends. Primarily it's Finn and Jasper who write the songs, specifically the lyrics. Sometimes they can be fully formed songs, other times something much more vague. A a band we're pretty democratic and we all like to have input, I think even more so with this new record. As we've spent so much time in the studio over these past two years we've had a lot of time to jam and naturally that has resulted in the creation of new songs. I think as time goes on and you get to know each other more, the music evolves into something that's much more coherent and honest. I feel like this record is pretty honest. Our influences are varied but we somehow get each other's tastes and understand what the White Rose Movement sound is so there' s usually a good balance to have.

Finn has been quoted as saying that your presence not only positively affected the sound of White Rose Movement, but also the way in which you approach things as a band, yet it must have been tough to feel as though you could really make your mark at that particular time?

P: I'm not sure how things were before! It's nice to think that I've brought some positivity into the band, that probably derives from the fact that I'm a pretty optimistic person and counteract some of their borderline goth tendencies! Having a new presence in a group that's spent so much time together must change a lot of the dynamics and I guess that must have been refreshing in a way.  I suppose I did initially worry about making my mark and not just being a replacement but over time and as we got got busier and I more involved, it didn't seem a concern. I certainly threw myself into as much as I could, from the management to the creative side, so I felt a part of the band in that way too.

At the time you joined, the band were also still playing the old set across Europe: did it feel strange to be playing someone else's parts, or could you view it as useful live practice?

P: Yeah, definitely strange but quite amazing! I'd been a fan of the band for a while so being in my first rehearsal and playing Love is a Number with them felt good more than anything. And it felt even better playing it on stage. The fans love those songs and it's nice to get some love when you play them. Hopefully we'll get that with the new record too.

Finn has also been quoted as saying of Taxxi's departure, "it can't have been easy travelling the world with a bunch of blokes". How have you found touring?

P: Touring is probably my favourite part, I really love it. I love going away, gigging, hanging out with these guys and having a laugh. I'm not particularly girly and certainly not prudish; my sense of humour has become considerably more filthy and twisted but that can only be a good thing. I've spent ten days on a tour bus with 13 guys from Ulterior and Romance and had the best time ever. People always ask me how I cope being with blokes all the time but it's never even been an issue. I can imagine that being in a band with a bunch of girls would be far worse!

Magazines like Wears The Trousers were born out of the desire to correct the under-representation of women in music: do you feel that women are under-represented? What importance, if at all, does gender play in your identity as a performer?

P: Men are easily seen as musicians whereas women have to struggle for that recognition. Especially those with a strong image. Having style seems to undermine you as a female artist, it might confirm you as a fashion icon but rarely a music icon. I think that comes from that very old fashioned view of women being judged purely on aesthetics and men for their artistic merits. There have been many incredible female artists yet somehow they get grouped together purely because of their hair colour or the fact that they play a synthesizer. I think it's important to assert yourself as a female, whether you're a sexed up diva or a tomboyish crooner, and celebrate it. Gender plays an important part of White Rose Movement. We've always felt of androgyny as a factor of the band but I think it's the morphing of androgyny that makes it interesting, the unclarity of gender and fucking around with it. The boy/girl aspect of the band plays a part in it too, it affects the sound and the perception, the way we don't fit in to a typical indie rock band nor a pop band. 

The majority of journalists mention A Flock of Seagulls, Joy Division and 80's electro-clash in the same breath as White Rose Movement. If you were forced to genre-identify your music, where do you feel you most comfortably sit?

P: I think that's really lazy journalism. Just because a there's a hint of flamboyance to a band doesn't mean you're channeling The Human League. People always feel the need to compare a band to another in order for it to make sense. I think those labels were often thrown around without people actually listening to the music, they were just looking at it. I'm not sure what our genre is plus I think the musical style has evolved into something quite different with this new record but I certainly wouldn't compare it to A Flock Of Seagulls!

What is 2010 going to bring for White Rose Movement?

P: Our new album! A Chrismas number one!

What current bands do you rate?

P: Dave I-D, the new Usher stuff

And now for some questions we ask everyone:

Describe your sound in 5 words:
P: Sound like White Rose Movement

What are your guilty musical pleasures? 
P: I have severe R&B tendencies

What the world needs now is:
P: 'Love, sweet love'

What's next?
Bed! I'm still watching that 100s greatest dance hits of the 90s and they're playing 'Good Life'

You are headlining your dream, all-star tour: who would your tour mates be?
P: I'd love to be a backing dancer for Justin Timberlake

White Rose Movement: Helsinki

White Rose Movement will be headlining Hoxton Bar & Grill on Thurs 18th Feb. For tickets, click here.

White Rose Movement are currently putting finishing touches to their as yet untitled follow-up to feted 2006 debut ‘Kick’, scheduled for an early 2010 release.To get a taste of White Rose Movements’ forthcoming electronic opus, download Helsinki here.

No comments:

Post a Comment