Edmonton’s Whitey Houston can blow out speakers like nobody else
CD Release Preview by Jason Lewis
Fast Forward story link here
[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 Edmonton’s 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, Toronto’s 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 it’s like saying that The Summerlad sound like Led Zeppelin because there are four guys," says Bell. "It’s 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 don’t suck. Admittedly, the latter part of that qualifier is a matter of opinion – one not necessarily shared by Whitey – but that hasn’t 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 it’s good, but the thing I don’t like is people comparing us. Just because we are a two-piece – bass and drums – I really think we sound nothing like DFA."

Bell’s 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 doesn’t 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 didn’t want anything on the CD that we wouldn’t 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 Gravy’s 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 won’t 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 it’s awesome," says Bell.
That’s a hell of a lot more than you can say for Death From Above 1979.


One of the standout tracks on Whitey Houston’s 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 didn’t tell me about it," says Bell. "I was just driving without insurance for a couple of weeks." If that wasn’t bad enough, when Bell tried to change insurance companies, he couldn’t 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 doesn’t 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."