photo & text by nacrowe
i came across THE WHITE STRIPES during my sophomore year in high school, which was spent at a boarding school in western MASSACHUSETTS. friends of mine that were massive INDIE ROCK heads saw them play small clubs in nearby NORTHAMPTON and AMHERST as they were promoting their self titled THE WHITE STRIPES (SYMPATHY FOR THE RECORD INDUSTRY, 1999) debut and follow-up DE STIJL (SYMPATHY FOR THE RECORD INDUSTRY, 2000) albums at turn of the millennium. to me they seemed like one of many celebrated but firmly UNDERGROUND groups at time like NEUTRAL MILK HOTEL, THE FLAMING LIPS, THE DELGADOS, THE MAGNETIC FIELDS or PAVEMENT. the most noteworthy aspect of their band was their UNCONVENTIONAL, MINIMALISTIC presentation and sonic aesthetic. two players with three basic elements: guitar, drums and vocals.
i had moved to KUWAIT my junior year to live with my family when WHITE BLOOD CELLS (SYMPATHY FOR THE RECORD INDUSTRY, 2001) blew up behind the single "FELL IN LOVE WITH A GIRL," and i had the damnedest time trying to figure out why. to me that song and the record as whole was not entirely different than that of its two predecessors. there was FOLK / BLUES hybrid thing going on with plaintive ballads and introspective stompers in "HOTEL YORBA," "DEAD LEAVES ON THE DIRTY GROUND" and "WE'RE GOING TO BE FRIENDS." maybe it was the fact that MICHEL GONDRY sprayed his INVENTIVE cinematic pixie-dust all over the LEGO-animated "FELL IN LOVE WITH A GIRL" video or maybe it was just good timing as their seemed to be a whole slew of like-minded 2000s ROCK REVIVAL bands bubbling up and gaining popularity at the time like THE STROKES, THE YEAH YEAH YEAHS, MGMT, THE LIBERTINES, INTERPOL, THE ARCTIC MONKEYS, TV ON THE RADIO, LCD SOUNDSYSTEM, THE DARKNESS, BLOC PARTY and ARCADE FIRE among many others.
what has really knocked me sideways in the years since is how their unconventional yet lean and highly potent two-person format has gained popularity in the years since, most famously with bands ranging from THE BLACK KEYS, DEATH FROM ABOVE 1979, SHE & HIM, PHANTOGRAM, CHAIRLIFT, NO AGE and LIGHTNING BOLT to JAPANDROIDS , THE KILLS, CULTS, PURITY RING, BEST COAST, SLEIGH BELLS and ROYAL BLOOD. someone out there is more knowledgable than me could probably name a precursor to this format, but i cant name or think of one. its pretty stunning that THE WHITE STRIPES got the ball rolling with the idea of ROCK N ROLL duo.
like all their records, WHITE BLOOD CELLS is a THOUGHTFUL, heavily BLUES-based album that brings together the best of GARAGE ROCK and INDIE ROCK in a SPARSE, MINIMALIST package by design. also like their whole discography, this record is an INTERESTING experiment in creating MEANINGFUL art from imposed LIMITATIONS that force the artist to transcend their CONSTRAINTS. that aspect of their work i will always find COMPELLING. definitely worth checking out.
photo manipulation & text by nacrowe
ive come around recently to the AUCKLAND DJ and former long-time BBC RADIO 1 RADIO PERSONALITY ZANE LOWE, especially with regards to his current THE ZANE LOWE INTERVIEW SERIES on APPLE MUSIC. ive watched and listened to his interviews for years and while he always came across as INFORMED and an ardent fan of his subject, there were times his PASSION seemed to stray into straight-up adulation. or so i thought. i believe the dude is fully aware of his role in the wider ecosystem of modern culture as a bridge of sorts for the global public to access emerging and established musicians, and i feel his ENTHUSIASM is a reflection of such. his queries are often the types a hardcore fan would want answered by a favored artist if given the opportunity and the nerve.
and that perspective of LOWE from that as a stand-in for the public was how i judged him until recently. i began to realize that, like HOWARD STERN, he is a great listener. and i think such may be an outgrowth of the long-form format of THE ZANE LOWE INTERVIEW SERIES of podcasts as it gives him time to weave and contextualize competing narratives and informed takes on his subject's career. in essence he isn't necessarily flattering his guests, instead he's creating a SAFE ENVIRONMENT for them to open up. and post-pandemic he is doing such physically as well, often meeting his subjects on their home-court. at their favorite spots. in their cities. sometimes even at their home or recording studio.
i've also noticed that he is shrewd in his interviewing style as he allows his subject to TAKE THE LEAD, with him interjecting only to clarify or contextualize a point he found interesting or needing of clarification for the average viewer. LOWE is the type of interlocutor that is comfortable not being "in the know" at all times and lets it known when he finds something genuinely UNEXPECTED or COMPELLING. i've also noticed he is not afraid of silence. it reminds me of my teaching days where there were sometimes pregnant silences were students or myself were conjuring a response to a BOLD question hanging in the air. the silences in his interviews are ones where people are fully contemplating and thus fully ENGAGED.
it took me a while to come around to the fact that the guy is just a fan of music and art and the processes/ALCHEMY from which such rise from the ether. in that sense it is almost inconsequential who the subject is, from DAVID BYRNE to MILEY CYRUS. i look forward to seeing where his long-form interview series leads him. hopefully he can interview some of my heroes like Q-TIP, JOHNNY MARR, SHANE MCGOWAN, JUSTINE FRISCHMANN, HUGH CORNWELL, MARK MOTHERSBAUGH, MIKE PATTON or even transcendent emerging artists like DRAB MAJESTY and CHELSEA WOLFE.
one can dream.
parodies by nacrowe
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