MUSIC

Letting Her Light Shine

Chicago apostle Miss Alex White of garage-blues duo 
White Mystery preaches the gospel of DIY

Alex White (left) and Francis Scott Key White are White Mystery.  
Diane White
Alex White (left) and Francis Scott Key White are White Mystery.  
Diane White
Francis Scott Key White (left) and Alex White are White Mystery.  
Diane White
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Posted

9 p.m. Dec. 4

Shanghai Nobby's, 10 Anastasia Blvd., St. Augustine

Tickets: $6

547-2188

Calling all devotees of the DIY garage-rock lifestyle — prepare to worship at the feet of Miss Alex White, the 28-year-old singer and axeslinger who, with her brother Francis Scott Key White, comprises primal punk-blues duo White Mystery.

There's far more to this band than just brick-thick rock riffs, fiery shocks of red hair and an avowed love of April 20, which marks the band's anniversary and annual release date for new tunes. Four hip-shaking, head-banging White Mystery albums have graced the world in the last four years, a feverish output that speaks volumes about the White siblings' commitment to a 100 percent self-sufficient artistic and commercial approach.

Folio Weekly: Will this tour really mark White Mystery’s first trip to Florida?

Alex White: We’ve played something like 39 states and, yes, this will be our first time in Florida — the 40th state that White Mystery has performed in. We’re really looking forward to St. Augustine, too, because we’re Greek and there’s a big Greek population there.

F.W.: When you started playing music more than 10 years ago, did you set out with the goal of controlling every facet of White Mystery's destiny?

A.W.: You hit the nail on the head. The whole White Mystery philosophy is DIY: We book our own shows, license our own music, do our own press. … I started my first label, Missile X Records, in the early 2000s, when Myspace and Napster were happening and the whole music industry was crumbling. I found that there was space for entrepreneurship — especially if you were bringing something interesting to the table. It's been a fun ride.

F.W.: You graduated from DePauw University with a degree in entrepreneurial studies, right? How has that helped you turn White Mystery into a successful band and business?

A.W.: Right. When I first started the record label, before Francis and I started White Mystery, I didn't know what entrepreneurship was — as a teenager, it just sounded like a really long word. But coming from a family of self-employed people, I wasn't scared to embark on a self-motivated journey where you have to take risks and save money to fund your projects. It's interesting, because a lot of people think that there needs to be a separation between business and art — that it's punk to keep those two things sacred. But I think it's punk to do exactly what you want to do, when you want to do it. I'm a full-time musician that pays my bills with music, so I've found a way to artfully run my business. It's cool to feel invested in your work like that.

F.W.: Do you feel like operating in the garage-rock realm, which is sometimes viewed as sloppy, boorish or amateurish, is difficult for you and Francis, who obviously run a very tight ship?

A.W.: Somewhat. At the end of the day, we're just trying to have the best time possible and stay positive no matter what. The best advice I ever got was from Buddy Guy, who started his career during a time of segregation and faced many challenges. He basically said, "Do you know how to drive?" I said, "Yes, of course." And he said, "You know how you hit all those bumps in the road? 
Keep driving."

F.W.: What was it about punk, blues and garage rock that originally appealed to you — and, four albums into White Mystery's career, still does?

A.W.: That's the mystery. What is it in that music that's so primal and moving, creating that Dionysian frenzy of energy? Rock 'n' roll just has that. It's a very American tradition to bring together blues, punk and even heavy metal into what's called garage rock. But what is "garage rock"? I think it's more of a mentality than an actual genre: Have fun, play well, bring people together and spread your energy wherever you can.

F.W.: Do you think your commercial and creative output has influenced other musicians, particularly young women who might look up to you?

A.W.: I'm 28 years old now so, yes, in recent years I've taken on a more active mentoring role for young women in Chicago. I've developed a six-week program about the music industry: how to publish your music, how to book shows, how to manage your own prospects. But I'm just sharing my experience, not enforcing my agenda on anybody. This whole start-to-finish DIY thing isn't for everybody, but rock 'n' roll has a great network of people who all want to see each other succeed. Maybe that comes back to the whole garage thing … I don't know. I'm just onboard with spreading a little more love and happiness to the world. You can be aggressive and assertive and like black metal — and still want to share a message of positivity through your music. 

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