I stumbled upon Glaswegian five-piece White on day two of Portmeirion’s Festival No.6. Fifteen hours of rain meant that I was on my second change of clothes. The shorts I’d optimistically worn were peeled off and discarded back in the tent. I’d ingeniously repaired my burst welly by swaddling my foot in a binbag. We were trying to forget our crumpled tent, the casualty of a marauding jakey the night before.
Determined to make the best of the festival, we sought a venue with a roof. That’s how we found White – seeking somewhere NOT WET to eat some pizza and dry out.
At first glance, they look like a typical guitar outfit (albeit with a woman on drums), with obligatory fringe-tossing frontman. But these guys aren’t making wallpaper music – there’s serious talent here.
It’s hard to pin down their sound. Despite having two guitarists and a bassist, you can’t define them as a straightforward guitar/indie band. There’s an electro quality on some tracks that’s reminiscent of LCD Soundsystem. Lead singer Leo Condie’s vocals are ambitious and similarly hard to pigeonhole, switching from snarling to soaring. The band released Future Pleasures last year, and I get the impression they’re proudest of this track. But I prefer I Liked You Better When You Needed Me, due for release this autumn. It kicks off with a meaty riff that revolves through the track, while there’s a nicely acerbic touch to lyrics. I’m not sure who takes the creative lead in the band, but someone is seriously good at writing bridges. There’s a big songwriting talent here.
In terms of performance, they sounded very tight. The risk (and reward) of smaller music festivals is the varying quality of the lesser-known acts. For every budding alt-j, there’s a dodgy counterpart (this festival also featured a scarf-waving warbler who thought she was a succubus). But for a band that hasn’t played a lot of gigs in their current guise, White are seriously slick. According to NME, this is because the band hid themselves away for most of last year, refining and rehearsing their material.
Leo Condie remarked that the band “wanted to have the songs in place, have an image and a sound in place, so that we’d be like a spaceship landing from out of nowhere.” Based on the set I heard at Portmerion, I’d say they’ve gained that point.
Image should always come second to sound, but they’ve got that nailed too. As a unit, they’re eminently watchable. Condie clutches the mikestand somewhat coyly, bearing a more-than-passing resemblance to Jarvis Cocker. But these aren’t borrowed feathers – there’s a charisma and joy in performing that’s all his own. On drums, Kirstin Lynn takes no prisoners, which is presumably why she’s known as ‘Glasgow’s hardest snare-hitter’. There are no passengers here: everyone is contributing to the sound.
Since Festival No.6, I’ve been hoarding and repeating the band’s few Spotify tracks. With more singles to come and a tour underway, I‘m rooting for them to get the success they deserve. As it is, I’m grateful to them for turning a soggy afternoon into a festival highlight.
Check out White on their current tour.