We've often touted Chicago's White Mystery as a shining example of a professional and creative independent band, and with good reason. The rock 'n' roll sibling duo – guitarist Miss Alex White and drummer Francis Scott Key White – has released five full-length albums, earned plenty of critical acclaim from major outlets, and even landed a campaign with Levi's. They're on the road about 10 months out of every year, yet they maintain a stellar social media presence and regularly deliver a newsletter to their fans. Somehow they even squeezed a movie in all of that – it's called That Was Awesome.
Alex is at the helm of all this. That's not to say Francis doesn't help, because he certainly does. But Alex is the band's nucleus, a powerhouse organizer and creator. She books the tours, handles the band's press and – as if she wasn't busy enough – is now the vice president of the Chicago chapter of the Recording Academy.
The gusto Alex has for making White Mystery a success is impressive, to say the least. Is she some kind of rock 'n' roll robot? Of course not. All that zeal can be intimidating, though – especially if you're just beginning to chart your own path as an independent musician.
We spoke with Alex just ahead of the band's Japan tour and asked if she'd share a few confessions about her life as a full-time DIY musician. Despite wondering how she even had time to chat while prepping for the trip, we now we have concrete proof that she's really, seriously, not a rock 'n' roll robot. (But she's definitely an incredibly impressive human.)
Just like everyone else, she needs the occasional break
"I'm, like, catatonic sometimes, where I'll just work all week, then I cannot get up physically. Anyone who thinks that I'm seven days a week: sometimes it's six," she says.
She has to keep her public image separate from how she actually feels
White Mystery is constantly referred to as a super upbeat, enthusiastic, and perpetually positive duo. That's mostly true, but just like anyone else, they sometimes get the blues. And that's okay.
"I guess another confession is that I might seem happy all the time, but I get severely depressed, like inconsolable, really bad anxiety and stuff like that. You definitely want to present your best face to your community and to your fans. Even if you're playing a show and you feel like shit, you have to put your best foot forward and be thankful to your fans – but you're allowed to be depressed," she says. "I guess I'm just admitting that things can look really great on the outside but...it can be very challenging emotionally to handle the stress and everything you're putting out there for people."
DIY is more like DIT
We're not saying Alex doesn't put in a ton of work, because she totally does. But not only does she believe in DIT – Do It Together – instead of DIY, but also she had help from White Mystery's former record label.
"One thing that also comes to mind is that 10 years ago when I was on In the Red, they hired a publicist for me. I wasn't doing my own newsletters back then," she says, referring to the White Mystery mailing list she now regularly meticulously compiles. "I definitely was getting a ton of support from In the Red, so anyone who thinks I just came out of the hatch swinging: I had a publicist for those albums. I had started a label before that called Missile X Records.... I wasn't making press releases though, that was a totally underground thing. But I would say that, again, there's a lot of support systems out there that have helped me, that have allowed me to [achieve the things that I have]."
Get more tidbits of wisdom from Alex White:
- What a Full-Time Touring Musician's Daily Schedule Really Looks Like
- 3 Misconceptions About Being a Full-Time DIY Musician
- What These Full-Time Musicians Wish They Knew Before Quitting Their Day Jobs
Jhoni Jackson is an Atlanta-bred music journalist currently based in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where she juggles owning a venue called Club 77, freelance writing and, of course, going to the beach as often as possible.