“Academics on My Mind”: Elation and Drone with WV White

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It’s a hard trick, writing songs that are at once elating and sustain a complex state of unease. The Grifters did it a whole lot in the mid-to-late 90s; Archers of Loaf did a similar thing with White Trash Heroes. Columbus, Ohio’s WV White achieve a similar feat on their new album West Virginia White: it gets its hooks into you, but there’s a howl of discontent that runs through the album. Writing about them in Still Single, Doug Mosurock noted, “In a time where the vox populi indie rock calls for warmth and safety, here is a peal of defiance, a refusal to take the medication prescribed in order to bask in the sickness of the self.”  Curious to know more, I checked in with with singer/guitarist Tyler Travis via email.

There’s a drone element to a couple of these songs, which I found really compelling; where in the songwriting process do elements like that come up?  

I think the drone element comes from our interest in psychedelic music in the vein of Spacemen 3, really like how every song on Sound of Confusion is only one or two chords that have a certain mind-numbing aesthetic.

Does the presence of “WV” in your name lead people to assume that you’re from West Virginia?

It might but that was never the intention.

Even before the song is heard, “Alison Lapper, Pregnant” is an immediately arresting title. What first pointed you in the direction of the Marc Quinn sculpture in question?

I saw a picture of the sculpture in a college text book and wrote the song feeling very melodramatic about my life and things that were going on at the time and expressed my grievances through this vehicle of a pregnant woman without limbs.

Do other works — whether art or fiction or something else — often inform your songwriting?

 Yes very much so, with the exception of JC’s Song, I wrote the album while at college and had academics on my mind all the time. A lot of the songs are responses to something else, like a character in a book, or a painting or song whatever happens to be on my mind at the time.

I was looking at the interview you did for The Agit Reader, where you discussed your musical dynamic over the years. Would you say that it’s changed at all in the time since that interview?

The aim is still the same. I don’t think we really had a good idea of what we were going to be doing now back then and now we dont really have an agenda for the future. It’s always been pretty open-ended. We just do what we would want to listen to and try to have a good time.

What is the Columbus music scene like these days? 

Columbus music is great right now. You will no doubt be hearing more and more about Columbus bands in the coming years.

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