White Devil
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White Devil

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published Tuesday, May 13 2008, 7:00 pm PDT

No Words: The White Devil Interview


White Devil is a 3-piece instrumental rock band from Chicago with a fierce and unrelenting sound. Started in 2006 with ex-members of Passenger and Sleeper, this trio, consisting of drummer David D’Antonio, guitarist Dustin Covert and bassist David Mata just released a 5 song EP titled “How To Kill A Lion With A Slingshot”. Complex and imaginative, the music sans vocals is transcendental, creating a space for the listener to form whatever they want in their heads. No lyrics here to tell you what the songs are about, just you and the music. Moody and at many times surprising it takes you to myriad places with its brash and aggressive guitars and the striking blows of D’Antonio’s drumming. But somehow in the throws of its chaotic sound there is room for peace, almost a humble approach that reflects how this band is aligned with the truth, the art and the purity of music. I had the opportunity to chat with guitarist Dustin Covert about the awesome album title, their relatively unique sound, their tour and more.



CT: Describe your sound in 3 words.

Dustin Covert: Three words: In Your Face.

CT: Why no vocals?

DC: I guess sometimes when people bring this up we like to follow it up with asking them a question, why vocals? There's nothing wrong with having vocals in songs, but if you look at the bulk of musical history it is predominately instrumental music. Now, this isn't really our reason, but we just find it strange that today's musical audience finds instrumental groups peculiar, or odd. Personally, I think that most people like being told what to think through lyrics when they hear music, because it simplifies it, it makes it much easier to understand. But when there aren't any words, the listener is forced to assign a meaning to it themselves, and that is the reason we have decided to be an instrumental band. It can mean one thing for one person and a completely different thing to another, because its not constricted by lyrics about our ex girlfriends or something. It is hard to write good lyrics, it is hard to write lyrics that we think would match the intensity and dynamics of our music so we just simply don't. I don't know, this has happened to me a few times listening to heavier bands, like metal bands where you can't really understand what the vocalist is saying. I find that the first few listens through when I haven't looked up the lyrics yet are a lot more intense for me, because it just sounds like raw emotion, just crazy abrasive sounds, and I don't know what its about. So my brain might make up words that I think that the vocalist might be saying, or I don't make words up at all, I just take it in as a screaming voice, and I have no idea what the song is about. Sometimes I look up the lyrics and it enhances the intensity of the song because I connect with the lyrics, and sometimes the lyrics aren't that great, and limit the broadness of meaning that I felt before. I like those first few listens when my interpretation is unhindered by the lyrical content of the song, and no one is telling me what the song means. We want our band to feel like that.

CT: The music is very intense and layered. How does the writing process go for you guys?

DC: The writing process for us usually starts with a guitar line and we go from there. I usually have a specific idea in my head of what I think the bass and drums should sound like, but I'm not a bassist or a drummer, so what I'm thinking is usually a lot less cool than what Dave and Dave can actually do. Although it usually starts with a guitar line, my favorite songs that we write usually end up being the ones that we write together. A lot of times we start off rehearsal just screwing around on a few chords, and sometimes it takes shape into something really great, and that’s why the title track "How to Kill a Lion with a Slingshot" is probably my favorite. We always play with room in our brains though, by this I mean we have to accept that the first thing we write may not be the best, and there always has to be room to go back and adjust and experiment with a chord or a rhythm to see if there isn't anything better. Sometimes we'll play the same 1 or 2 bar phrase over like a hundred times and it eventually evolves into something that just feels right.

CT: The title for your EP is pretty clever, what is the meaning behind it?

DC: There's a lot to say about the title of our album. As a band we have been playing together for almost 7 years now I think, so we've had our share of basement shows and battle of the bands and all of the usual garbage that bands have to go through. Being in a band is a constant struggle, and there are a lot of bands that go through so much drama with their own band members. We consider ourselves really lucky because we've all known each other for pretty much our entire youths, and we wouldn't ever want to play with anyone else. "How to Kill a Lion with a Slingshot" basically is just a metaphor for the odds that are stacked up against us specifically to do anything with the music that we make, and also for bands in general. There are so many reasons why we should give up and find a steady job and stop wasting our money and time on equipment and gas and our van, and repairs for our equipment and repairs for our van and whatever else, but we still decide to go at it. I mean we're really nobody, and we're not playing really popular sounding music, so for us to try and make a living off of playing our songs is kind of a ludicrous idea, but we still want to try. Obviously music means a lot more to us than just making a living, but as you get older you have to start putting things into perspective. It took a lot out of us to start playing music again since our last band Passenger. We had a good friend Sam that played drums for us, and he passed away a few years ago. To start playing music again meant taking on quite a beast. It was really hard to start playing without him on the drums, but eventually things started to feel ok again. This record is definitely about that too.

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CT: Who and/or what are your influences?

DC: Influences. Those are always tough, because sometimes something could be really influencing me at the moment but I don't even know it. Obvious things for us are bands that structurally don't make much sense like Yes - Tales From Topographic Oceans or Black Sabbath's Paranoid. We've never been huge into intro - verse - chorus - verse - bridge, you know, that type of formulaic thing. Bands that just sound heavy and dirty. There is a lot of over-produced and polished "heavy" music out there now, and we've never really enjoyed that. When we wanted to make a record we all knew that it meant throwing our gear in one room and playing everything live. Bands that sound like bands actually playing in a room. That’s a big influence. Take Converge, they sound like a band made out of humans, not a band generated from Protools, they're an influence for us. Other than that, the way it feels to be driving the crappiest car on the road. Hiding in a closet from your landlord. Climbing trees. Those are all influences too.

CT: You guys are traveling now supporting your album, how's that going?

DC: We are so excited about our tour. We've never gone on tour before because we've really never put the pieces together. God bless the internet and all of our friends that have helped us scrape together a bunch of shows from Chicago to Brooklyn. We're not going on tour with a label or another band or anything, we just booked all of the shows ourselves, and we're really happy to have the opportunity to just get out on the road and play music for a few weeks. So hopefully we all make it back in one piece, but I'm not worried.

CT: Where do you see this in 5 years?

DC: I think we all really want to see something fruitful come from all of the years we've spent writing and playing music together. I'm not really sure what that means anymore, but I do know that we all have no intention on giving up. In 5 years we could have some sort of financial comfort from our band, that would be great. But if that didn't happen I wouldn't doubt that we would still be meeting maybe once a week and writing songs in somebody's basement or a studio space. We would really like to do a European tour, and a Japanese tour too. Being in a band kind of gives you an excuse to see a lot of places you have not been before. Although it doesn't really show too much through White Devil, we all have a passion for film scoring as well, that’s kind of been a dream job for us. We just want people to listen to our music and get something out of it. Hopefully in 5 years a lot more people have.


Check out the tour dates and cities at myspace.com/whitedevilchicago and download "How To Kill A Lion With A Slingshot" for free at www.howtokillalion.com. - Carlos Torres with Flux Core Magazine (fluxcore.org)


Discography

Passenger - "Alive" - (passenger's debut 8 track album. "Alive" explores a disturbing view of love and romance and included vocals by David Mata.)

Passenger - "The Owls are Restless" - (passenger's second release, 20 tracks, two discs.) A two hour and forty minute concept record based on the fairy tale describing an ancient war between owls and rabbits written by Passenger's former drummer Samuel Vincent. Tracks range from 2 minutes to 32 minutes creating a spacious, dynamic, and emotional audible journey. (www.myspace.com/theowlsarerestless)

In The Depths - Streaming tracks performed, produced and recorded by Dustin Covert. Ambient solo guitar, solo acoustic, shoe gaze, singer-song-writer. (www.myspace.com/devive)

Sound&Fury - Streaming tracks performed produced and recorded by David D'Antonio. Experimental, Emotronic, Rock. (www.myspace.com/daviddantonio)

White Devil - "How to Kill a Lion with a Slingshot" (White Devil's 5 track debut). The powerful, energetic instrumental rock debut by White Devil. 5 tracks that condense roller coaster dynamics into tight, gritty guitar, bass and drum compositions. (free download www.HOWOTKILLALION.com , streaming tracks www.myspace.com/whitedevilchicago)

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Bio

The boys of White Devil (ex Sleeper, Passenger) have been haunting Chicagoland for years with their disturbingly beautiful and epic pieces that force imagery on the brains of listeners with no relent. Chaotic 3 minute pieces of hammering drums and guitar and bass onslaught side by side 12 minute ambiance is not atypical of the trio, obsessed with creating specific moods, characters, and places by way of sound. The band picked up in 2006 where Passenger, the 4 piece post-rock instrumental concept band with drummer Samuel Vincent and David D'Antonio on a second guitar, left off (myspace.com/theowlsarerestless), but leads Passenger's adventurous and sometimes euphoric melodies down a much darker alley that has seen the face of death and pain. This is surely a result of the merging of Passenger's more melodic sound with Mata, Covert, and D'Antonio's side project Sleeper ( a metal/thrash band including vocalist Jon Moreen ). Moreen parted with Sleeper summer of 2006 and White Devil took shape as a three piece instrumental. From 2006 to 2007 White Devil performed sporadically throughout Chicagoland managing to bring both the spacy, atmospheric feel of Passenger and the abrasive, chaos that was Sleeper to the stage, but no recordings were made until the release of the 5 song e.p. "How to Kill a Lion with a Slingshot" in 2008.

The release of "How to Kill a Lion with a Slingshot" in 2008 prompted White Devil's first tour through the Midwest and East Coast. Upon returning to Chicago White Devil continues to play their hometown and have begun writing their first full-length album which should be created and released by early 2009.

Aside from White Devil, D'Antonio, Covert, and Mata also specialize in film scoring which began when Passenger adopted silent film to accompany it's live performance. While playing rock shows will always be a part of their musical career, film scoring is their dream job. The three members also release tracks individually under their separate solo projects giving them the freedom to explore sounds that might not be heard on their collaborative projects.

The sounds produced by these musicians are distinct due to their passion for vintage equipment and the arsenal of vintage synthesizers and instruments they have collected over the years. Moags, Rhodes, Wurlitzers, Farfifsas, Oberheims, MPCs, space echoes, and plenty of vintage guitars and amps allow them to create sounds that have been forgotten by the mainstream.

The spectrum of tones, moods, and images produced in their recordings and live performances is as broad as comparing heaven and hell, but similar in the fact that it will always evoke emotion, and never ceases to capture an audience. D'Antonio, Mata, and Covert believe in a musical language as distinct as any other spoken language. If there is a place, a sight, a feeling, a smell, there is a note, a tone and an overdrive pedal for it.