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INTERVIEW: White Dove

Los Angeles-based trio White Dove are bringing us stirring psych-melodies that are not all just doom and gloom. Rest assured, there is a pot of gold at the end of this LSD-trip.

I caught up with lead singer Alex Johnstone to discuss their new album, tour rituals, and spirituality.  Yep. It happened.

Cori Spelling: Let’s start off with the nuts & bolts- how did White Dove begin to create this potent slice of psychedelia? Have you known each other for a while? Did your mom’s get together and set you all up on a blind band date? What’s the scoop?

Alex Johnstone: No, haha although they probably would have tried to had they lived in the same town.  In fact, our moms have never met each other, which is sort of a pity. I’m from Sierra Madre which is a town near Pasadena. Jack Long (guitar/drums) and Carl Harders (bass) are from the East Coast originally, but have been here for over seven years now. I was playing in a band called Monster and writing songs for a new album around 2008 and Jack liked my songs. Jack and I sort of bonded over wanting to write melodic songs and all three of us liked a lot of the same music and shared similar ideas about where we wanted to go musically. Jack and Carl officially joined Monster before a short tour to France in 2009, I believe, which was organized by a really sweet guy named Fabrice at Le Jardin Collectif that basically took us all around France and we got to stay in these beautiful historic places for free.  We went back into the studio to record songs with Carl on bass and I changed the name to White Dove and here we are in 2013.

CS: The band was previously called Monster but has now emerged as White Dove, one can argue the name harkens someone (or something) coming out of the dark and into the light. Was it intentional to evoke this train of thought with your fans?

AJ: No it wasn’t intentional to evoke that from fans, but I was trying to evoke something in myself.  I was giving myself hope and reminding myself that there’s a future, it could be bright, and to not give up.  Music is hard- I have respect for anyone that continues on. It’s tough and a lot of people don’t realize how much work is actually put into everything.  I guess it was my way of being hopeful and having a “Beach Boys” type of sentimental spirituality about music.  It doesn’t have anything to do with spirituality in the traditional sense like God or anything like that.  It was a personal hope, a personal white dove that kept occurring in my mind.  I also just liked the idea of the word “White Dove” embroidered onto a jacket.  I thought of White Dove as like a country band name.  Not that I think we are a country band.

CS: A few songs on this new record reflect the sun and clarity of Los Angeles, whereas others have a darker undertone. What are a few of your influences on this record?

AJ: Thanks for saying that. It gets me a little down when people only focus on the darkness of my songs.  Sometimes I think that has a lot to do with my voice, which is something you can’t really change.  I won’t deny there’s a darkness in those songs, but I wanted some bright colors to come through as well.  It’s tough especially as a female singer, people want to pin you down right away and say, “oh you sound just like this or that” or they tell you to play with another girl singer immediately just because of your vocals and sometimes its like, “did you listen to the song at all?  I wrote that song.”

As far as influences, oh man, that’s always such a hard question. I got into Gram Parsons again during this recording.  We definitely started listening to more country. I listened to the Beachwood Sparks a lot again including their unreleased demos which were around before their first album which probably accounts for the pedal steel.  Started listening to Power Pop a bit more and maybe some of the moodier stuff did influence me.  I guess I was looking for a particular cohesive sound or whatever.  We were very particular about how we wanted everything to sound which Dave Trumfio was very helpful with.  It’s hard to explain this kind of stuff sometimes.  I was listening to the Byrds a lot and wanted some of that “rolling” sound to come through in “I’m the Air”.  I like how on a lot of recordings from the 60’s 70’s the instruments sound “small” if that makes any sense.  Like they are loud but their not all “big” sounding.  There’s been a pretty heavy Beach Boys rotation at my house for a long time now.  We listen to that album “Carl and the Passions” a lot.  I have to follow down the path of what affects me.  I try to keep up and all that but only recently do I have a better grasp of newer bands.  There’s a couple I really love. We’ve got other influences as well, obviously that aren’t as related.  Jack would probably listen to E.L.O. all day long if you left him to his own devices and Carl has two of the same Dinosaur Jr. T-shirts- one for when the other gets too worn out.

CS: Do you feel touring behind previous recordings affects the final product of a record?

AJ: I think yes it does certainly.  Well for one thing, you learn how to sound good.  The bad thing about only playing in LA recently is that we always sound so much better when we play a couple dates in a row so I really can’t wait to go on tour for that reason and about a thousand others.

CS: While on tour do you have any pre-show rituals?

AJ: Try to not throw up.  No, not really although I definitely cannot drink before I play.  I think I sound better but I really don’t usually.  I prefer the raw terror to having a buzz anyway.  Not really but I do think its a necessity for me.  Now that you mention it I think I’m going to develop some more rituals.

CS: Is there an artist(s), past or present, you’d like love to have a major jam session with? If so, who would they be and what is your instrument of choice?

AS: I can only think of Gerry Rafferty and I have looked at this question a number of times now so I’m just going to go with my gut here.  Actually though, that’s like just not even a fair question but I think Gerry Rafferty would be so cool to jam with cause I think I could learn from him how to get a really mellow awesome groove going.  I’m not being sarcastic.  I don’t know, that’s too hard to answer.  I also pick Dennis Wilson.   From the present I would pick The Soft Pack, Haunted Graffiti or the Beachwood Sparks but that’s just because I like them but I’m not really a “jammer”. I’d play guitar.

CS: Finally, describe your live show in one word:

AJ: Dovetastic!

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