René Recommends “Birthday” by White Mystery

White Mystery, photo by Diane Alexander White

Big cities call for big voices to cut through all the noise, and birthdays call for big songs to celebrate being alive. Chicago birthday boys and girls are lucky then. Not only do they have a homegrown band with a powerhouse singer and sound, the band even has the perfect birthday song for rocking up another lap around the sun.

White Mystery is a double-ginger, brother-sister garage band born and bred on the north side of Chicago. They still live there, God and Lemmy bless ’em, despite having played all over the world, everywhere from roller rinks to Riot Fest, from church carnivals to Carson Daly, and even modeled for a Levi’s ad campaign. The brother half, Francis Scott Key White, plays drums like the love child of Keith Moon and Animal from the Muppets. On the sister side, Miss Alex White plays guitar and sings lead vocals with a voice that carries from a mountaintop. Or, since this is Chicago, from the top of the Sears (you heard me, Sears) Tower. Alex and Francis played in bands separately before coming together to form White Mystery on April 20, 2008. Since then, they’ve played over 1,000 shows and self-released eight albums with memorable titles like Fuck Your Mouth Shut and That Was Awesome.

What I love about White Mystery, apart from their music, is their dedicated DIY style and community spirit. As if writing and releasing all their music isn’t enough, they also do all their booking, branding, and licensing. I follow their page on Facebook, which is just as likely to feature posts of Alex and Francis selling pastries or handmade jewelry or their own coffee blend at some local cultural event like a Greek fest or a craft show as well as photos and videos of their latest gigs. Their Bandcamp site includes an “audiobook” of Alex reading the entirety of Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air to Francis in what sounds like a moving vehicle, and Alex even published a terrific series of how-to-DIY articles for the Riot Fest blog. The range of creativity is inspiring, to say the least.

This is a band that doesn’t know the meaning of half-measures. Which is what I also love about their song “Birthday” from their 2011 album Blood & Venom. More than just a birthday anthem, it’s a life anthem. Loud and pounding and powerful and monumental, “Birthday” sounds like what all life celebrations should be. It sounds like Chicago and it sounds like rock ’n’ roll and it sounds like the creative energy that keeps this brother-sister duo going from year to year and the life force that got us all here on Earth in the first place. When Miss Alex sings “I dig all the things you create,” it’s a life affirmation. And I want to say to Alex and Francis, I dig all the things you create too.

(Song recommendation by René Ostberg)

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