Smile Politely

Building a Mystery

Bentley’s stage will be a sea of red on Saturday evening, as Chicago’s White Mystery come to town for a show with the Fresh Kills and Tiger Bones. It’s a 10 p.m. show with a $5 cover, and it’s 21+.

I spoke with White Mystery’s guitarist/singer Miss Alex White on the phone last week, and she expressed her undying love for “Bend Me, Shape Me,” among other things.

Smile Politely: You’ve played down here once before, with White Mystery?

Miss Alex White: Yeah, at Mike ‘N Molly’s in early March right before we went to South by Southwest. It was great. It far surpassed my expectations for playing outside of Chicago in Illinois for the first time. I’m born and raised in Chicago, and we had played Milwaukee, and we had played Detroit, and it was really cool playing Champaign. Our parents’ really good friends have a daughter who’s the station manager at the college radio station. And her boyfriend booked Mike ‘N Molly’s, and she’s like, “You’ve gotta come down here,” and finally it was like, “I’m graduating now, this is your last chance to come down here.” So we set up this show, and it was packed.

Smile Politely: Yeah, Mike ‘N Molly’s is a great place for a show.

Miss Alex White: We’re playing Bentley’s this time. You’ve been there?

Smile Politely: Yeah, it’s a good room. It’s small and it’s a good place to see a rock show, because everybody crowds in there and it’s fun.

Miss Alex White: So, do you have any questions for me?

Smile Politely: Yeah! My trick is to make it seem like I don’t have anything prepared, and then we just have a natural conversation (nervous laugh). Your website looks great, but it’s kind of lacking in biographical information. Alex White and the Red Orchestra was the name of your previous band? How did White Mystery come about out of that?

Miss Alex White: Sure. I’ve been playing music for years in various bands. One was called Cop Machines with a dude from the Ponys. I played in the Red Orchestra; it was an In the Red band, we put out two records and toured Europe and I graduated college and traveled quite a bit and time passed. Then I started a band with my brother and it’s called White Mystery.

Smile Politely: How sick are you of White Stripes comparisons and such?

Miss Alex White: My first two-piece was an all-girl two-piece when I was 15, so it’s been about ten years of that. But there are some other funny things, like I get to call my place the White House. So there are lots of perks to having that last name.

Smile Politely: Ah! Do you have a white room?

Miss Alex White: Do I have a white room? Yeah, totally. In the White Room, with black curtains. It’s a Cream reference.

Smile Politely: Ah, yes. I’m glad you spelled that out for me. Any comparisons to other bands that you get that you hate or that you appreciate?

Miss Alex White: One that I appreciate is Poison Ivy from the Cramps. She’s got big red crazy hair and plays guitar also. She’s definitely a natural red-headed guitarist that’s awesome. I love the Cramps, so…

Smile Politely: What’s your favorite album or song of all time?

Miss Alex White: Definitely “Bend Me, Shape Me,” by the American Breed (laughs). It was a band from Jefferson Park in Chicago. It was kind of a nationwide rock ‘n roll hit, but it really resonates for me. I went through a period of time where it was the only song that I listened to. I probably listened to it 4,000 times over the course of three months. Maybe more.

Smile Politely: You can still listen to it now? You haven’t gotten sick of it?

Miss Alex White: No, I love that song.

Smile Politely: Wow, that’s awesome.

Miss Alex White: We’re really excited to play Champaign. We have a new album that we put out ourselves, just to give you some background. It’s a total DIY partnership between my brother and myself where we make our own t-shirts, buttons, and all that stuff from scratch, book ourselves, and we’re embarking on a big West Coast tour at the end of July.

Smile Politely: Cool, have you played the West Coast with any of your other projects?

Miss Alex White: Yeah, I have. It’ll be my fourth time going on tour on the West Coast; sorry, third time. We’re really excited to play Champaign. It’s interesting to come in the summertime when school isn’t in session. The people we’ve met that actually live in Champaign, like the other band the Fresh Kills, are really cool, like cool people that are down with rock ‘n roll, and we see them at shows in Chicago. We hope to come down again. Yeah, I’m gonna go grab a beer.

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