Explaining the exact nature of what you'll hear when you listen to a White Laces album is a challenging exercise. Imagine discovering a thirty-year-old LP, caked with grime and dirt, and popping it onto an old, red plastic turntable. Picture the needle wobbling as it finds the groove and you’ll start to get a sense of what this band is about. White Laces encompasses that specific notion of seeking, expressed through the washed out chords of an indie rock dreamscape.
Founded in 2011, the band has had its ups and downs. Struggling with the painful dissolution of a previous project, guitarist/vocalist Landis Wine chanced upon drummer Jimmy Held at a random party where the two formed an immediate connection. After officially forming White Laces, they would go on to produce several studio albums and EPs, as well as book a 2014 coast-to-coast tour with Philadelphia favorites The War on Drugs. Now signed to the Richmond-based Egghunt Records, they've got a new sound and a newer album. Released on September 30, No Floor offers a redefining moment for one of the city's most interesting bands.
"We were on a bit of a break, really. We sort of re-activated this past spring,” explained Wine. “This record was a little weird for us. We came from a period where I'd been doing demos for the follow-up to our last record. We got to a point where we had tried recording the new songs live as a band and realized that where the demos were pushing us was in a more electronic direction.” While unafraid of exploring new sonic territory, the transition did leave Wine in the awkward position of not knowing exactly how to describe the band’s new sound. “Some were calling us 'synth rock’ for a while. I didn't really know what to think of that. Sounds like something Flock of Seagulls might get labeled, you know?"
Make no mistake, these guys sound nothing like Flock of Seagulls. Musically, White Laces have a tendency to build songs around a central, almost dream-like groove. While they started out as a more-or-less by the numbers psychedelic rock band, their current roster of more seasoned musicians has evolved their sound into what might be described as "deeply distressed" pop music. Wine still struggles when it comes to describing their genre, but that's partly because he's always noodling somewhere in the back of his head about what he wants to sound like tomorrow, but has yet to reach. This is a band that deeply desires exploration, the ultimate goal of which is to surpass the idea of boundaries altogether.
Discerning audiophiles might notice a definite Kurt Vile influence. "Oh yeah, there's a bit of that in there,” Wine said. He also cited their time on the road with The War On Drugs as another major influence. “It was a great opportunity and it absolutely informed how we worked on the new record. I'm a big fan of what they do, complex arrangements built on simple chord structures."
The process of recording No Floor over a two-year period was an iterative one, such that there wasn't a moment when the full membership of White Laces were present simultaneously. “Everything shifted so that instead of just playing in a room, one of us would bring the files over to another's house, have a beer, play it over the speakers, and then talk about how it was sounding. We really nerded out about refining the details." Wine elaborated, "It really started to feel like a virtual band as opposed to flesh and blood.”
After nearly finishing the mastering of the final tracks, Wine took a step back and reconsidered. "I decided that while I thought what we had was pretty good, we could do better." This lead to extended sessions and eventually a road trip to Philadelphia where Wine drilled deeper. The group ended up re-recording nearly all of the vocals at Spacebomb Studios in Richmond. They then made another trek northward to work with noted producer and sound engineer Jeff Zeigler. The final partner in the journey was Egghunt Records, the Richmond-based label that has been solidifying their relationship with White Laces for some time now. In the past year, Egghunt has re-released all of the band’s previous discography, and is currently offering No Floor on CD and vinyl. Speaking of the label’s CEO and co-founder, Wine said, “I'd known Adam Henceroth for a few years and there was a good relationship there. They've worked so well with us."
"All they'll remember is whether the records are good. That's all that matters in the end.”
Wine is enjoying his return to Richmond, but White Laces hasn't always fit in perfectly with their surroundings. "I think the Richmond scene is going through a really exciting period right now. I don't want to say it's not always been. Not to slag on anyone who was here before, but a few years ago when we were playing constantly, all of our records were recorded in other places. It was hard to really understand where we fit into this city, but now I'm working with Egghunt on a new project. They're letting me put together a compilation of local bands that's going to be awesome. I'm so excited for it. There's so many facets to this scene, it seems like whatever genre you're into, there's some really great stuff happening here."
When asked about what comes next, Wine enthusiastically described getting back on the road to tour full time behind No Floor, also reeling off a list of producers that he'd like to work with. He described a manner of interacting with the world wherein you always try to take what's offered and transform it into an unexpected opportunity. As he spoke, there was hope in his voice for the yet-to-come. It's refreshing to experience the optimism of his viewpoint. At the end of the day, Landis Wine knows full on what he's about: Writing songs and crafting records. "It's great to hang out with the band. I enjoy them, I do. We all get along really well. But I know that when all is said and done, people won't remember any of that. All they'll remember is whether the records are good. That's all that matters in the end.”
Listen to No Floor on the White Laces website at whitelacesmusic.com.