w/ Beat Connection, Teen Daze and If Jesus Had Machine Guns.
Free, 8 p.m., July 4. BAR, 254 Crown St., New Haven, manicproductions.org
"Tropical crunk" is not a "real" genre, which is to say that it is not — and will almost surely never be — as culturally legitimate or renowned as hard rock, funk, hardcore or even the contained plague known as crunkcore. But that hasn't stopped White Arrows from embracing tropical crunk in tongue-in-cheek fashion. Google "tropical crunk" and the first four results refer to the Los Angeles five-piece who formed in 2010. Bandleader Mickey Schiff (alias: Mickey Church) and company have talked up this term so frequently that it's gained a lot of traction, even though they didn't come up with it. "It was kind of a silly thing. At this point, there are so many eclectic bands coming out, there's so many people writing about them that every band kind of has its own genre. What's the point of even having genres anymore?" the guitarist-vocalist says. "I've always found that [ours is] a statistically driven society. Because of that, people need to categorize something, so it's been a theme of ours to say a different genre when asked what kind of genre we think we are in every single interview we've had, just to not be so pigeonholed as to be played one thing because [genres] are all so fleeting. Chillwave was a huge thing that happened, and witch house was a huge thing that happened, and then you expect something from those bands now. They can't do anything but that for their follow-up record."
In a more incisive example of White Arrows' system of self-identification (tropical crunk barely makes sense if you've done your headphone homework), they've also created and grown comfortable with "psychotropical." Really, the group's sound is not deeply fixed in any of the angles of the pun — they're too focused on linear structures to be psychedelic, too inspired by music made in American cities to feel truly tropical, and too bound by reality to feel psychotropic — but the broad stew of those concepts makes sense as a whole. This is a band that are big on the power of punchy drums (in what is probably not a coincidence, Schiff's dad studied African percussion), and they use decisive beats to give their bright sound a joyful physicality. "Getting Lost" off White Arrows' recently released full-length debut Dry Land Is Not A Myth is a thrilling quasi-dance track that shows just how much fun they can have. "Our songs are inherently poppy, but they're left of center, and when something's not so obvious, it's askew, but it's considered psychedelic," Schiff says. "There's been some things that people have said that are pretty funny. When we released that seven-inch for 'Get Gone,' someone's written that we sound like the Tarzan soundtrack on acid or Paul Simon in space, which is all welcomed. I always ask people and am never offended by the answer of what they think we sound like, so feel free [to share] if you have any ideas."
Schiff's open-mindedness also comes through in the questions he can't easily answer. He's a thoughtful guy but not so thoughtful so as to analyze something too much. Take his response to a question about the ocular disorder that left him legally blind until he was 11. That detail has been bandied about in many a White Arrows press release and story (this one being no exception), but does that have any connection to the music? "The only thing that maybe contributes to us now is the fact that we play as the world was in my eyes. We play with heavy fog and projections and stuff that would kind of look like the impressionistic blur that I used to see," he says. "To be honest, I just never really thought about [the impact my condition had on my worldview] until people started asking questions. When you're living it, you don't think that it's unique until someone else weighs in perspective on it."
Unsurprisingly, he isn't the sort to seriously dig into thinking about his group's future. "Well, since you mentioned that our sound is kind of ethereal and floatatious, it could be cool to be the first band to play in space," he says. "But other than that, it's kind of just take it as it comes."
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