White Mansion / Courtesy photo
As you all know, everything is weird right now. Everything. We don’t have to tell any of you why.
At times like these, at least for me, comfort has been hard to come by. I get a little bit from the time I am spending with my family. I feel a little bit better when I am working, because writing for the Flyer and doing our best to inform folks about what is happening, and how to stay safe, and about ways to help, feels like a good use of my time.
Other than that, man, things are tough all over.
Outside of those things, the most common sources of respite I have found these last few weeks, and I’m probably not the only one, have come from art, nature, or music.
Knowing that, I’ve taken a break from writing about things that are cancelled this afternoon to let you know that a group of local folks made a full-length album of original music, and it is available to listen to for free on streaming services, or to purchase on vinyl or CD.
We got in touch with locals White Mansion to talk about their new album, titled Human and released earlier this year, and they were nice enough to answer some questions for us.
First things first, how is everyone hanging in there these days?
We are doing as well as any. Everybody is healthy. Travis cut his hand but that’s another story. He’s healing up. We are in the same boat as every other band in the world. We’ve had to cancel shows and put projects on hold. Hopefully we can get out of this mess soon. I think everyone is ready to get back out there.
I can’t believe we’ve never interviewed you guys before. Tell us a bit about how you guys got started playing together?
We have been performing as a full band for about 2 years. Travis Keymer was writing songs under the “White Mansion” name for about a year before that and released an EP “Lonesome”. Travis performed all the music on that EP and wanted to flesh it out with a full band. Travis was already working with Andy Wade our keyboard player and he asked me (Dusty Domino) if I wouldn’t try writing some lyrics to some of the instrumentals. I had met Travis and Andy at a music festival the previous year that we were both performing and had kept in touch. The rest of the band filled out with Eli Barrett on Drums, Jim Looper on Bass and Logan Presley sat in a couple of times as a second guitar. We were practicing in the back of an empty Dollar General that was slated to be turned into a Mexican restaurant. Lots of fond memories in that space. The natural reverb in there was intense. We had our first gig at the now defunct Block Street Block party in Fayetteville. Allot has happened with the band over these two years.The lineup has changed a little bit over time, the current lineup is Me (Dusty) , Travis, Andy, Eli and Seth Hudspeth on Bass.
Human, by White Mansion
Released: January 24, 2020
Label: Cold Transmission
Available: Streaming services, limited-edition vinyl, and CD digi-pack.
You guys have a brand new album, “Human,” out on Cold Transmission. Tell us a bit about the recording process on this one, and how it came together?
The evolution of the album has been interesting. We had been playing allot of live shows and working on songs. We released a couple of singles about a year and a half ago that gained allot of steam on line. We were really surprised and excited at how they took off and found and audience not only in Arkansas but around the world as well. The power of the internet. I’d wake up in the morning to find us being tagged in all sorts of radio shows and DJ sets in South America and Europe mostly. Eventually a record label in Germany approached us and we signed with Cold Transmission to do an album.
At first we had a whole slate of demos that we were going to work on for the album. Eventually we decided that we should comprise the work from songs we had been playing live for the previous year. That sounds strange I know. Why wouldn’t you record songs that were already worked out? Well we had all these “new to us” exciting songs we wanted to work on but eventually thought it would be better to record the others. Beauty is, we have basically a whole other album of music that we can pull from when we get ready.
We recorded all the tracks at East Hall Recording with Chris Moore. Really great to work with Chris. East Hall has everything you’d want in a recording studio. Chris also had some good ideas and brought some flavor to the party. We went in really prepared. Eli and Seth are really tight as a rhythm section they laid a great foundation for the rest of us to work. There were some great improvisational “studio” moments that happened as well that made for a dynamic experience. There was alot of passion and creativity in there and I think you can hear it on the album. If you condense everything down we were in and out of the studio in a months time. But allot of after hours work took place to make it all come together.
We’re always curious to know how bands that perform original material write together. How does the songwriting process work with White Mansion?
The process with a few exceptions has been for Travis to write the instrumental demos then send them to me to work out the lyrics. I will then do a vocal take at home and send it back to Travis. Sometimes there needs to be a little further arranging but the song structure is usually there when Travis gets finished. The songs really start to take shape when the whole band starts working. Each person adds their own flavor and they start to take on a life of their own. Our songs have been evolving over time and we continually tweak them for live performance. The songs are what they are because of the individual performances that make them special.
It’s got to be tough trying to promote a new record right now with everything going on with COVID-19. Since you can’t really tour/perform right now, what are some other things you guys are doing?
Yeah this virus has thrown everything into a tailspin. For a band with a new album its very challenging not being able to get out there to promote. I’m not sure anybody has got a good handle on this yet. We are really relying as others on social media;. Promoting as much as we can, getting the word out.
Our label is pushing us as hard as they can and I believe there is some live streaming that may happen at some point. Cancelling shows has been the hardest thing. All performers want to be out doing the thing that they love. Hopefully soon.
Noticed you guys also have a limited edition vinyl on the new record, which is a huge deal. What is it like to hear something you created in that format, and tell folks a bit about how they can get their hands on the physical record?
We have a Digipak CD and a Vinyl edition of the album. We are extremely proud of the way they both turned out. The design was done by Artist Max Freeman. Max perfectly captured the aesthetic. The vinyl edition is really special. Mastering and Lacquers were done by the great Levi Seitz at Blackbelt Mastering in Seattle. They sound Amazing. I have been collecting records for years, and I know I’m biased but this pressing is amazing in terms of sound quality. I have been truly blown away by the fidelity on these. I can really tell the difference, after listening to digital versions of these songs over and over again, hearing the needle drop on the record for the first time was and continues to be a wonderful sonic experience.
The first pressing is limited to 100 and we have sold quite a few already. I would say that if you were waiting to buy one in person at a show you might want to order one soon as we are not sure when we will be out playing again. Anybody that has supported us and likes our music needs to have one before they run out. Both the CD and Vinyl can be ordered online at our Bandcamp.
What’s next for you guys? Any other cool projects in the works?
We hope to be out playing again soon. Promoting the album and getting out some more videos. There’s talk of a European tour but like everything else we are on hold. We just really hope that everybody stays healthy and happy and we get through this together, stronger for it. I think we should also be conscious of the fact that everyone that relies on the public, like small businesses and the self employed need support right now so do what you can.
When all of this is over I imagine there will be some epic live shows, people will be ready to cut loose.