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Q & A: White Summer

White Summer teeter on the borderlines of shoegaze and intense indie-rock. They fill the moments in between moments with gazey, thick guitars. There’s so many moving parts to their debut album, ‘Soul Breaker’. With a little help from Burke Reid, White Summer have grown into their sound. We flicked some questions over guitarist Michael Barnsley to discuss playing guitar until his hands hurt, different sonics and priorities for the album.

The album goes in a bunch of different directions, sonically. What were some ideas you actually couldn’t bring to the album?

When we started writing the album, we had a different vision than we’ve had in the past. Many parts of the process are unpredictable and you never really know what the finished product will sound like but we had a pretty good idea of what we were after. Each song really has a life of its own once the process has begun and the feelings behind the inspiration is really what determines where it goes. Sonically, we really were after broader, thicker and more expansive musical environments and I think we managed to achieve everything we wanted in that regard. There were many song ideas that wouldn’t have fit with this repertoire of songs and therefore weren’t included in this album. The next album will probably take on different vibes and different paths, that is inevitably going to be determined by the songs themselves.

What were your biggest priorities to achieve on the album?

We had some clear things we wanted to do differently than before. Layered guitar parts was a big one—to expand the soundscape and to allow more expression in the vocals. We also had a much stronger focus on the chord progressions of the songs—sometimes this was pushed forward in a more obvious way with double-tracked acoustic guitars and sometimes this really just meant stripping back the songs to their bare bones to work on them acoustically and then re-building from there. Basically, when we played the song acoustically and it hit the spots we were trying to hit, we knew it was right for us.

You’ve been known to whip together tracks fairly quickly. Was the album process a little more calculated?

As always, some songs just seem to write themselves really quickly. Others require a much more delicate approach. An as example, Rattle My Cage all came together very quickly and showed itself to be best kept simple. Whereas Talk Me Through really needed to be approached gently because it is an intimate track—the balance between everything needs to be carefully maintained to keep it where it needs to be.

Burke Reid has his name stamped on the album. What did he bring out of you guys in the studio?

Burke is an absolute champion. His abilities in engineering, mixing and producing really are next level. He has a way of being able to coach you, discuss ideas and advise you that really separates the work from your ego. It always feels like you are just focussing on the task at hand and discussing things from a professional vantage point, egos and defences are left at the door, because while he is able to be very precise and informative, it is impossible to not get along with him and have a lot of fun at the same time. He managed to help us simplify things when we were over-complicating things and just made things really clear. We recorded the album over two weeks and he pushed us to beyond what we thought we were capable of in such a short amount of time. My hands were completely destroyed from playing guitar at the end of every day, eventually I would just have to call it a day because they wouldn’t move anymore.

What were the most important takeovers from his studio sessions?

Preparation is always key. We’ve always tried to be as prepared as possible—it’s always really handy to have extra ideas or tricks up our sleeves. I think being as ready as possible to be able to try new ideas with a fresh mind at the last minute or when everything is exhausted, to come up with something else that might work. Whatever works for training us to be ready for that mind-set is what we’ve learned that we need to do in the lead up to the recording sessions. Also, being as physically fit with our instruments as possible.

Personally, how do you think you’ve built upon your other releases with the album?

Our previous releases were a lot more ‘riff-driven’ and we took a much more minimal approach. We don’t feel like we ever changed identity or anything working on the new album but we definitely wanted to expand from where we left our last work. It meant standing back and looking at the songs from a different perspective and essentially taking what we knew and what we could do and expanding it outwards.

Collectively, what’s the favourite track on the album?

I would say that Talk Me Through would have to be our favourite. It’s more challenging to perform than the other songs and we really feel like it is worth the work. It was the same with writing and recording it. It covers many different things that we love to do and we genuinely enjoy listening to the final product. The vibe of the track was definitely one of the ones which set the mood for the album, early in the writing process.

White Summer are playing three launch shows before June ends. Scope the dates below.

White Summer Live Dates

The Toff, Melbourne
The Lass O’Gowrie, Newcastle
Frankies Pizza, Sydney

Written by Jake Wilton