Raw Power Writings: White Murder

On November 12, 2012 by Simon Weedn


If the walls of Harold’s Place in San Pedro could talk, they’d probably mumble something incoherent and then challenge you to a fight. Harold’s Place has been around for ages and because of that it’s got the kind of character that only an old bar can have: ceiling fans that seem like they’re about to fly loose and decapitate patrons, a cigarette burn pock marked bar top, tattered beer advertisements and sports pennants, and a wall painted like a tropical beach, as if somehow trying to convince you that the dimly lit, smokey room you’re sitting in is actually some kind of exotic paradise. To give you a further idea of the kind of spot Harold’s is, it’s the subject of debate as to whether Charles Bukowski used to drink there from time to time. However, it is exactly this kind of atmosphere, which only a place like Harold’s can deliver, that makes it such an excellent place to see bands play. It’s probably also what inspired Los Angeles’ own White Murder to write their first single, Harold’s Place, about the establishment.

Several weeks ago I had the good fortune of being introduced to the musical stylings of White Murder at the bar which apparently also serves as their muse, Harold’s Place. They were there as part of a stellar line up which included Todd Congelliere playing some of his solo material, Al Scorch, who essentially sounded like Pete Seeger on speed, and the return of San Pedro’s, The Leeches, who dazzled the crowd with their organ based punk rock beauty. White Murder intrigued me immediately when I noticed that they had not one, but two female lead singers who bounded around the dance floor wildly and frantically, once the music kicked in. The band also features an intimidating combo of Paul Gonzalez (of The Red Onions and Death Hymn #9) on drums, Mike D’Amico (of Neon King Kong) on bass, and Reuben Kaiban (of The Commotions) on guitar. The ladies, Hannah Blumenfeld (of Jail Weddings) and Mary Animal, make for a powerful vocal duo, channeling equal parts Kathleen Hannah and Exene Cervenka. The backing band churns out some of the meanest, thumpiest, garage/old soul inspired punk rock you’ve ever heard. I know, because the second they started playing, I couldn’t stop tapping my feet and bouncing along to the heavy groove that Paul, Mike, and Reuben were laying down, as the ladies screamed and jumped through the air. When the group wrapped up their set and finished loading out their gear, I found Paul over by their merch set up (which at Harold’s is always a commandeered pool table) and bought all three of their seven inches at once. Since picking them up, they all haven’t moved very far from my turntable. Their recordings sound well produced and do a fantastic job of capturing the band’s energy and appeal. Most impressively, the mixes are dead on and give the songs the perfect amount of low end to make you feel that rhythm section while still allowing Reuben’s guitar playing and Hannah and Mary’s vocals to shine through. As an additional bonus, two of their current seven inches feature some of the best artwork I’ve seen in some time, courtesy of Jacob Gaxiola.

Seriously, just check out the cover for “Harold’s Place.” It’s worth the $5 cost just for the hand screened sleeve. Right now, this is my favorite new L.A. band, and I’m looking forward to seeing them again soon and maybe (hopefully) some type of full length release in the near future. White Murder rips, and if you’re smart, you’ll go check them out at your first opportunity.

More information on White Murder can be found via their Facebook (www.facebook.com/tworedstars) and their Bandcamp (http://whitemurder.bandcamp.com). White Murder album art by Jacob Gaxiola. Live photo credit to Cheryl Groff!
Listen to White Murder!

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