McHank #16 – White Murder is Amazing. McHank #16 – White Murder is Amazing.

wmEd. Note: This piece is actually called, “Jesus Fucking Christ, White Murder is Amazing” but we haven’t had profanity in our titles since Charles decided to review Fuckface because he is a jerk. Also, we’re not actually sure if this is the 16th edition of the McHank Column or not but we’re just gonna go ahead and say it is. Also, McHank took the photo of White Murder you see here. Thanks.

So, on December 2, 2012, I drove up to Long Beach to see a matinee show, headlined by Hot Snakes, supported by Night Marchers, with openers, White Murder. I didn’t know White Murder, but I knew Warren from the bands The Valley Arena and American Males lived right around the corner from the venue. So, I thought I’d go to his house and hang out until closer to the time The Night Marchers would play.

I was at Warren’s house for about fifteen minutes before he and his fiancé said, “Oh, White Murder is opening? You CAN NOT miss them. You will LOVE them” and as close as they lived to Alex’s Bar they still insisted on driving me to make sure I didn’t miss a minute.

So I walked in right as they were setting up. I wasn’t sure what to expect. There were three men and two women in the band. I knew the women were the singers, but that’s about all I knew.

White Murder started and I was right up close. What happened next was nothing short of a fireball of energy. I have seen them, at least three, if not four times as of this writing.

The band plays with the urgency of a young, early 80’s punk band. Singers Hannah Blumenfeld and Mary Animal are so dialed in vocally that their voices are sometimes hard to discern from each other.

“Mary Animal” is about as appropriate of a name for a performer as you’re likely to find. She is a speeding train into the audience. All power, fury, aggression and frustration. When I try to evoke her performance style in conversation the names that come up include David Yow and Guy Picciotto.

Hannah Blumenfeld mostly stays on stage but doesn’t stay still…think of Ian Svenonius circa Nation of Ulysses, or Kathleen Hanna in her very prime.

Now I don’t want to reduce this band to a series of comparisons, because they have a totally unique sound. To say that the singers’ performances remind me of other great performers is ONLY to give you a hint of the extraordinary power of their live show. But not one thing about this, not a word I have said already, none of it would matter to me at all, if their songs weren’t so well written. Their songs burrow deep into your cerebral cortex and plant hooks and grow and take you over until you are only living as a servant to your craving to hear more White Murder and see them play live again.

There is no dead weight in this band and the songs on their three and a half (one is a split) 7 inch records show that, while maybe they’ve tightened up and sharpened their sound to that of a finely ground prison shank, there was never any question they were astounding from the get-go.

You know when you love a band and get everything they have and go to see them every time you can when they play even if they’re playing two hours away, and they’re so good but they still get better? That’s White Murder.

One of their 7 inch records is BRAND NEW. As in, they might still be folding the covers as I am typing this. But it’s up on their Bandcamp site and iTunes. The songs are “Arteries are Flexible” and “Shutter Speed.” The combined sides come out to just about four minutes. Drummer Paul Gonzalez stomps the shit out of his bass drum and sounds like he’s trying to break his cymbal the entire time. Mike D’Amico’s bass parts propel the band in a clear and concise tone. Reuben Kaiban plays guitar in a spare but deliberate way — as though he would be able to take the guitar off, smash you over the head with it, and be back in time to not miss a beat.

I asked singers Hannah and Mary Animal to tell me about how the band came together and how they write songs, specifically the newer track, “Arteries are Flexible.”

“Early 2011 (March?), Paul and I were hanging out. I fronted an avant-post-punk band in Cleveland called Terrorist Other and played that stuff for Paul, and he loved it and we decided to start a band. He had Mike picked out for bass, which I was stoked on because we were friends in Cleveland. Paul wanted Reuben to play guitar. We had our first band meeting at The Pike in Long Beach, which was right across the street from Reuben’s old apartment, and he just brought Mary Animal with him. We all got pretty wasted and figured we might as well just have two singers! We didn’t really have a goal, other than make music that felt real to us. Our practices started that week, and it was pretty magical right from the start,” says Hannah. “Mary Animal described our songwriting process in your zine [Perpetually Twelve] — the guys jam out a song together, and she and I write lyrics and melodies together. To give a pretty extreme example, we had a practice a few weeks ago that Mike couldn’t make it to, and the four of us fought out this new song for over an hour, not liking the vocal melodies, trying them on different guitar parts, really not hitting it. The next practice, with everyone, the guys pulled the song together in about ten minutes, and Mary and I sat there thinking about vocals, then we spent another ten minutes trying them out over the music. She nailed one part and I nailed the other, and we were done! Usually our writing is like that, super fast, and we all know right away when we’ve finished a song.”

Mary Animal confirms: “Yup…. also we argued a lot on the title because even though H and I wrote it together she was thinking more about the corruption in the medical industry and I was thinking more about ontological terrorism. So her title was “Your Doctor Lies to You” and mine was “Your Sentence Is Up” – a kickback to Grant Morrison’s The Invisibles so Reuben came up with the title that works for both. But both songs are about control, in a way….one as knowledge as sensationalized entertainment as a means for controlling masses and the other is about blacking out and being compelled by inner noise we never have access to when we are conscious. And where the hell do those impulses come from?”

So, friends, I am telling you, if you’re not listening to White Murder right now, you’re doing yourself a disservice. Don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t, DO NOT miss them live. You’ll be telling your friends about them, too.

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