Published in Drum Media (WA) | 26.07.12 | Issue # 298
Imagine being blind until age 11, then one day being able to see a world that, up until then, you could only dream. For White Arrows’ Mickey Church, such a childhood was a reality,Daniel Cribb finds out how it has shaped their success.
On tour and walking around the sweltering heat of a Texas summer, vocalist/guitarist Mickey Church poses a question to begin: “Drum Media, does that have to do with drums? Because I have my brother right here if you need any questions about drums. I am not equipped to handle them, but he is,” he jokes. With nothing more than a 7-inch and three-track EP under their belt, the Church brothers and co have been travelling from one corner of the globe to the other, and throw a recently released debut album into the mix, and they finally have a reason to book their first Australian tour.
They’ve obtained a fairly impressive tour log for a band that formed in 2010, fresh from school with no lag time to secure a day job. “Things started progressing rather rapidly. We’ve only been a band for two years and I look back at it – how many amazing bands we’ve played with, how many amazing things we’ve got to do and achieved in just a two year period, and now our first full-length record is coming out. It’s all kind of surreal. It’s kind of hard to take a step back from it when you’re doing it. I mean, we’re on tour right now, in El Paso, Texas and we’re going to be gone for six weeks, then we’re home for four days, then off to Australia.
“We have no friends out there and it’s just uncharted territory for us,” Church shares. While they’ll no doubt leave with a few, to avoid feeling like loners on their first trip down under they’re teaming up with New Zealand’s Opossom and Sydney’s Jinja Safari. Originally The Blind Date tour was indeed what it promised, a tour that would bring musicians who hadn’t met before together for a tour, but serendipity got in the way of that concept. “What’s funny is, we’d been offered the tour and we were figuring out if we could make it work and we were sitting at a hotel in London at the Columbia Hotel, where we were about to start a Northern European tour at The Great Escape music festival and we were about to take off, sitting in the hotel of the lobby and this guy, who clearly looks like a musician, walks in and I started a conversation with him and asked him if he plays in a band and if he was playing Great Escape.
“He said, ‘Yeah. What band are you in?’ and we said, ‘White Arrow’ and he said ‘Oh, no way! We’re Jinja Safari. We offered you a tour, we’re waiting to hear back from you’ and I was like, ‘We’re about to tell you ‘yes’,” he laughs. “But we only met one of them, so I guess it’s still a blind date,” he reassures the tour’s premise is still intact.
But the tour could have quite easily been reference to Church’s childhood blindness. Although, had his vision not corrected itself, such a tour name may have been mildly inappropriate. Growing up Church was legally blind, until at age 11 his eyes somewhat corrected themselves and he began seeing blurry lines, cloudy shapes and shadows, which is when medical attention gave him vision for the first time. His vision still isn’t 100 percent, but is nothing a little surgery shouldn’t eventually fix up. “I don’t think that, that necessarily shaped my [music]. I grew up in a really musical family, so I might have been just as into music without an affliction like that. One thing that I can say is this it definitely helped my imagination, because I was alone a lot in my head and my view of the world was different to everyone else’s, literally speaking. So I got to be in my own world a lot of the time. I just assumed that since I couldn’t see people, they couldn’t see me.
“Someone could be standing three, four feet away from me and I’d assume that they couldn’t see me, so I would dance and pick flowers or sing a song and not feel self-conscious about it…It was a gradual [improvement] and then it got to the point where I could see with prescription glasses. But as soon as I put on prescription glasses it was totally different – like I could see a straight line, which I had never seen before and I got physically nauseated and threw up the first time I put on glasses. I became obsessed with straight lines, I’d see the straight lines in everything and I would take rulers and draw airplanes out of straight lines and trapezoids. It was really weird and intense looking back on it.”
His obsession with shapes, colours and lines hits overdrive when White Arrows take the stage. “We like to be completely visceral, like a sensory overload; a lot of visuals, a lot of smoke, a lot of colours and geometric shapes. We have a lot of strobe lights. We don’t like it to be a show where you sit there and you just kind of watch songs in succession. We want it to be a full experience,” he emphasises.
But the psychedelic imagery associated with the White Arrows stage show doesn’t end there. It also appears in the music video for their song Get Gone, which caught the eye of a heavy hitting pop singer on Twitter one morning and saw the tune compared to Phil Collins’ Take Me Home. “I remember I logged on in the morning feeling very tired and saw that and I was like ‘Oh, god. What kind of spambot is this?’ Like some [Justin] Timberlake spambot Tweeting about our video. Then I clicked it and it had that blue checkmark of verified. As if things weren’t surreal enough, we had some megastar Tweeting that our song and video reminds him of Phil Collins – that’s pretty insane.”