Edmontons Whitey Houston can blow out speakers like nobody else
CD Release Preview by Jason Lewis
Fast Forward story link
[Fast Forward, Calgary, June 2-2005]
Saturday, June 4
The Hifi Club
In the music world right now, two-piece bands are all the rage. From The White
Stripes to The Raveonettes, bands are making more music with fewer members. Within
that specialized genre, the drum-and-bass rock combo may be less prevalent, but
as Edmontons Whitey Houston has shown, low-end rumbling and high-octane
percussion are just as effective a permutation.
The fact that Whitey Houston are two guys using bass and drums to rock out as
hard as freaking possible has garnered them many comparisons to another two-piece,
Torontos Death From Above 1979. Both bands have angry fuzzed-out vocals
and even wound up playing up at the South By Southwest music festival this past
March, but according to bass player and vocalist Lyle Bell, that is where the
similarities should end.
"To me its like saying that The Summerlad sound like Led Zeppelin because
there are four guys," says Bell. "Its just based on a fact that
there are two guys, which is just a novelty somewhat, although that novelty is
swiftly wearing off because there are a zillion two-pieces," says Bell.
If we are going to be fair to Whitey Houston, there are two other important facts
that differentiate the two bands Bell and his partner, Gravy, have been
doing it longer than DFA and they dont suck. Admittedly, the latter part
of that qualifier is a matter of opinion one not necessarily shared by
Whitey but that hasnt stopped a bit of a rivalry from cropping up.
"They seem kind of prickish. There is a high level of douche-baggery,"
says Bell. "I have been quoted in other articles saying that those guys are
assholes and I have never actually met them before. I actually really do like
the record that they put out. I think its good, but the thing I dont
like is people comparing us. Just because we are a two-piece bass and drums
I really think we sound nothing like DFA."
Bells right. Instrumentation aside, there is a world of difference between
the overblown DFA and the quartz-precision rock of Whitey Houston. The proof of
this lies in their explosive new self-titled full-length. At 35 minutes it barely
stops to breathe, and the fact that there are only two members making all that
racket would probably surprise the uninitiated. Recorded in several sessions with
Edmonton über-producers Nic Kozub and Jay Pratt, the resulting 12 songs rip
up your stereo with fist-pumping, foot-stomping abandon. Bell cranks up the treble
on his bass, Gravy pounds away at the kit and between the sharp vocal melodies
and massive rock riffs it doesnt feel like there is room for anything else
on the album. All this is made more impressive by the fact that it was recorded
under strict regulation.
"If left to my own devices I would put synths and all sorts of nutty crap
on top," says Bell. "Gravy kind of put his foot down. It had to be a
strictly rock record."
"I didnt want anything on the CD that we wouldnt be able to re-create
just the two of us live," says Gravy.
Though Bell and Pratt would interrupt late-night twist hockey games to lay down
some subtle atmospheric tracks behind Gravys back, Whitey Houston managed
to come to consensus on the final mixes. Besides the powerhouse bass playing and
thundering drums are so loud, you probably wont notice those little accents
the first time you spin the record anyway.
"The way I sum it up is, at any volume it sounds like it is going to blow
your speakers, which I really like. I think its awesome," says Bell.
Thats a hell of a lot more than you can say for Death From Above 1979.
WHITEY GETS SCREWED
One of the standout tracks on Whitey Houstons latest self-titled album is
an angry rocker called "I Got Fucked by Liberty Mutual." It has got
the singalong chorus of the summer, but more importantly this cautionary tale
gave vocalist Lyle Bell a chance to work through his corporate rage.
"Back in December 2003, I got my insurance cancelled, but they didnt
tell me about it," says Bell. "I was just driving without insurance
for a couple of weeks." If that wasnt bad enough, when Bell tried to
change insurance companies, he couldnt drive his uninsured car to take care
of business. "I literally had to trudge through waist-deep snow to go to
another insurance company
and they ended up fucking me over, too."
Bell set his tragic tale to music, but sadly the story doesnt end there
history is repeating itself.
"I got fucked by Liberty Mutual today," says Whitey Houston drummer
Gravy. "Today I got a call from a lady at Liberty Mutual saying, We
just wanted to let you know that your insurance has been cancelled and it was
cancelled on April 20, so if you are driving you should stop driving and get your
insurance looked after. So I said, Well, how much do I owe?
and she said $43."
"Basically, the exact same thing that happened today to Gravy happened to
me, and that was the catalyst for that song," says Bell. "The whole
industry kind of stinks. I really hate it."