Mickey Church of White Arrows talks psychedelic pop, voyeurism, and blindness
One thing is indisputable after watching White Arrows’ music video for “Get Gone”— the opening track off of the band’s Fireworks of the Sea EP, released in April—either you failed to pay attention during your high school’s D.A.R.E program, or the director and film crew certainly did.
As the quirky Los Angeles psych-pop quintet jams in an empty studio, the most trippy of visuals take over: flashes of light, similar to those in a starburst galaxy, blurred faces, kaleidoscope shapes, and entrancing swirls, all tie-dyed in the most muted of patriotic colors. Though this stoner vision may draw you further into a fantasy world, it is more of a flashback for frontman Mickey Church.
“I was legally blind and could see shades of colors and blurs,” Church says of his childhood. “It was a like a Monet painting—very impressionistic, everything very fuzzy. Definitely what the ‘Get Gone’ video looks like.”
Over the years, however, the singer-songwriter’s eyesight has become more defined. “By the time I was 11, my eyes grew to the point that I could see with glasses and contact lenses,” says Church, now 25 years old.
Luckily for fans, whether or not Church decides to go through with Lasik surgery in the future, his surreal vision is forever captured within White Arrows’ lo-fi wonky pop rock tunes and videos.
Though once a solo endeavor for Church, while he was studying Shamanistic Ritual at New York University in 2008, the lineup has since expanded to include Church’s younger brother, Henry, on drums, Andrew Naeve (keyboard and sampler), Steven Vernet (bass), and J.P. Caballero (guitar).
The mind-altering effects continue in the music video for “Fireworks of the Sea,” which contains distorted, rainbow-colored flashes and blooming flowers, in addition to an Australian commercial for the Hyundai ix35, which features White Arrows’ heavy-hitting electronic track “City Boy (K.K.S. Remix).” The latter shows a darkened city landscape illuminated by smudged rainbow lighting.
Despite their constant use of color, the band is self-described as “the blackest ‘white’ band,” at least according to their Facebook page. Church believes it’s a fitting description for the group.
“I just like our juxtapositions,” he says. “Our songs are psychedelic and pop-y, but our lyrical content is the opposite of that—kinda darker. The blackest white band is the yin and the yang.”
The darker lyrics to which he refers can be found in emotionally invested songs, like “The Voyeur”: the opening stalker anthem on White Arrows’ eponymous EP, released in August 2010. Though the title might suggest a more overt perversion, Church’s sourly sung lyrics are only mildly sexual—“There you go, walking out with your boyfriend/There you go, ruby-red-stained lips again”—and that’s precisely what adds a dark and obsessive element to the carefree sampler beats, bitter-sounding drums, and Church’s raspy and strained vocals.
“I definitely people-watch all the time,” admits Church. “There’s a voyeuristic quality about that. I like to observe in a crowd, on the streets, just sitting—soak it all in. It’s all new to me, so I don’t feel uncomfortable.”
While on their first tour abroad, Church’s thoughts on people-watching shifted drastically, however. “I don’t feel comfortable anywhere, [because] I don’t want to be an intruder. … I can be sleuthy though. People don’t necessarily know I’m watching—I have a lot of hair in front of my face,” he laughs.
So what’s next for the covert rocker and his bandmates? Their highly anticipated 10-track LP, Dry Land Is Not a Myth, is soon to be released on Votiv. Though most fans will have to wait until June 19 to snag a copy, Church has good news for those who stop by the band’s merchandise booth after their show at The Catalyst Atrium on Friday, June 15: “We will be selling hard copies—some special, pre-sale copies.”
As for the show itself, Church promises, “A lot of visual, a lot of fog, a lot of haze—sensory overload. Just turn your brain off.”
White Arrows opens for Beat Connection at 9 p.m. Friday, June 15, at The Catalyst Atrium, 1011 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. Tickets are $10/adv, $13/door. For more information, call 423-1338.