Say Psych: Interview – White Hills

White Hills were formed in 2005 in New York and have since become one of the psych scenes most prolific names, offering up some 40 separate releases including 7 studio albums. The duo have just announced that their 8th album Stop Mute Defeat will be released on Thrill Jockey Records on 19th May, so backseatmafia decided we need to know more about these two and what to expect.


Hey guys, thanks very much for speaking to us! Can you tell us a bit about yourselves?

DW: I’m Dave W, I play what ever is necessary to get the job done.

ES: I’m Ego Sensation! I play bass and synths. Though it’s not my dedicated job in the band, I play around on the drums a bit and wrote many of the beats on the new album. I’m also a video artist and make most of our music videos.

DW: Ego and I write the songs together.


What inspires you; musically or otherwise?

DW: Lately, I’ve been listening to mostly dub, James Brown and early NYC hip-hop. The art work of Barbara Kruger, Bruce Connor, Robert Heinecken, and Survival Research Laboratories have been inspirational to me lately as well.

ES: Noir films, Coney Island, The Wolfgang Press, Liars, Public Image, Amy Sedaris, Freddie Mercury, Iggy Pop, Bob Fosse, Surrealism, velvet, boldness.


Great! A lot of variation in there! And what about aspirations; what’s the overall goal, or is there one? 

ES: Flow.

DW: To grow as an artist and never be stagnant. To be free enough to let the moment take me wherever it will and to be open enough to follow new creative paths that were not seen beforehand.


So now we know a little bit about you, lets get to the important stuff – the music… You have become somewhat household names within the psych genre now, how did you come to be involved with this kind of music? 

DW:  We just make the music we make. The fact that we’ve been lumped into the vast pool of what people term as “psych” is beyond our control.  We never set out to be just another “psych” band per-se.

ES: It’s just a happy accident. Back when we started White Hills, the word “psych” wasn’t really being used for current music. People didn’t know where to put us in the genre spectrum. We still don’t know!


Last summer you played Eindhoven Psych Lab as White Hills and also as part of an experimental piece, can you tell us a bit more about that, how did it fruition? Do you plan to do more such performances?

DW: We’ve performed as a duo, whether as White Hills or its alter ego Black Valleys, on and off over the years.  First time we did it was for an in-store performance at Aquarius Records in San Francisco. The people who run Psych Lab were aware of these forays and approached us about doing one at the festival. At the moment, we don’t have any plans to perform as Black Valleys.

ES: We will likely start incorporating some of those “experimental” elements into our live White Hills performances. Both of us like the idea of creating a set with peaks and valleys- something more like an opera than a standard rock show.


New album Stop Mute Defeat sees a change in tact for you and is somewhat different, how did it come about?

DW: The change in direction was a natural progression for us. Neither of us care to make the same album over and over again nor do we care for trends. Our main concern is making something that the two of us are proud of and feel is a strong artistic statement.

There is a universe of possibilities and so much to explore within the world of constructing sound. On this record we decided to focus on aspects of our composition that we normally don’t focus on. We opted to cut up, deconstruct and build up again instead of writing in a linear fashion as we’ve done in the past. We were more interested in the skeleton of each piece verses dressing them up. The foundation was the focus.

There were no self-imposed boundaries. All was open nothing closed off. Any road was the right road to take. The words “no” and “wrong” did not exist in our vocabulary while composing this album.


We know the release date, what formats can we expect?

DW: It will be available on vinyl, CD and as a download.


Any tour plans?

DW: We will be touring Europe & the UK from May till July. US dates will start up in the summer.


And finally, what’s next? 

DW: Coffee.

ES: More music. More art. More coffee. Repeat!


Thank you very much for your time Dave and Ego, we look forward to hearing the new album.


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