The White Stripes Play Us a Little Number

Music Features The White Stripes

Jack and Meg White celebrate a decade playing together as The White Stripes by releasing yet another stellar album, Icky Thump, and taking the music of the American South to the far corners of the globe. They also prove that, contrary to pulp wisdom, two people can be a crowd… pleaser.

The bevy of light fixtures dangling from the ceiling of TC1—the largest studio in West London’s BBC Television Centre—contains at least 200 units. I know this because each fixture is sequentially numbered and those numbers are visible from the floor beneath. Granted, there’s plenty of studio to light: 10,250 sq. feet. That last number means huge.

The show being lit this particular evening is Later with Jools Holland, a popular British late-night music program that airs weekly on BBC2. The number of years it’s been on the air is 15. Each episode of Later features five or six acts. The bands set up their gear in different spots around the studio’s perimeter and take turns each playing one number. The total number of numbers each band plays for the taping is three. And the number three brings me to the featured act taking part in this evening’s taping: The White Stripes.

In the 10 years they’ve been playing together as a two-piece, Jack White (vocals/guitar/keyboards) and Meg White (drums) have achieved global notoriety, a pair of Grammys (for 2003’s Elephant) and multi-platinum sales for their stripped-bare, less-is-infinitely-more aesthetic. Between Jack’s penchant for detonating megatonic blues riffs and Meg’s tastefully insistent drumming, the pair manages to unleash a mighty ruckus that defies their self-imposed personnel limitations. And Jack White happens to have this obsession with the number three.

The band’s fastidiously observed color scheme has three parts—red, white and black (according to Jack, “the most powerful color combination of all time, from a Coca-Cola can to a Nazi banner”). When credited in the band’s liner notes or writing on the band’s website, Jack’s name frequently appears “Jack White III” (considering he took Meg’s surname when they were married briefly in the late ’90s, the “III” here is purely ornamental). Jack named his production company and label imprint Third Man, after Carol Reed’s film classic The Third Man. “Little Red Shoes,” a song Jack wrote for Loretta Lynn’s Van Lear Rose album clocks in at 3:33. Playing as a two-piece means each song has three dominant sounds: guitar, drums, vocals. Occasionally: piano, drums, vocals.

However, during tonight’s production—amid swooping crane cameras, dry-ice haze and dramatic spotlights—the universe’s precious equilibrium will be upended for several minutes. While stretching his arms wide and introducing “the fabulous, the sensational, the one and the only…WHITE STRIPES,” host (and founding member of Squeeze) Jools Holland steps briskly onto the band’s elaborate, peppermint-patterned set and camps out behind a flaming-red Wurlitzer piano. Meg bangs out the drum intro to “My Doorbell” and Holland’s fingers go skittering down the keyboard into a greasy blues figure. finally, Jack enters the mix with a funky bass-guitar riff and the spitfire syllables of his opening lyric. There you have it: drums, keys, bass, voice. A fearsome foursome, to be sure.

The White Stripes are willing to break their own rules, but only when the breach in protocol sounds this good. After the song ends, Jack gives Holland a grinning side-hug and the scattered pockets of studio audience clap till their palms turn from white to red.

The White Stripes are arguably the most compelling band in rock music today. For all the color-coded spectacle, animated Lego sculptures (Michel Gondry’s video for “Fell In Love With A Girl”), fisticuffs (Jack famously punched out Von Bondies lead singer Jason Stollsteimer in a Detroit bar after their friendship soured) and self-mythologizing (Jack and Meg still claim to be brother and sister, even though a Detroit newspaper reproduced copies of their marriage and divorce certificates several years ago), the band’s mission is disarmingly straightforward. Jack and Meg White value American roots music—the blues, R&B, gospel—and would love nothing more than to forever rid the world of indie rock’s cooler-than-thou, smirking, everything-ironic-all-the-time hipster detachment. Simply put, they believe that caring is cool. And the world has, in turn, grown to care about—even fall in love with—The White Stripes.

On a drizzly, biting-cold London afternoon—just weeks prior to the release of the band’s sixth studio album, Icky Thump, and the onset of yet another world tour—I sit down with Jack and Meg at the K West Hotel in Shepherd’s Bush, London. They’re in town doing a spot of U.K. press and taping the Jools Holland episode.

The band’s sharply dressed road manager (black suit, red tie, naturally) escorts me up to the fifth floor and into the band’s corner suite. The overhead lights are switched off, and Meg has obviously been smoking. The hazy room is faintly illuminated by what little sunlight has managed to penetrate the heavy cloud canopy outside and the sheer drapes covering the windows. Meg sits, legs crossed demurely, in a red floral-print skirt and white scoop-neck top. She rubs her bleary eyes and notes that her jetlag is worse than usual. Jetlag medication is spread out on the coffee table in front of her: a highball of scotch, a bottle of Beck’s and a pack of Camels.

Jack, on the other hand, looks wired and hyper-alert, eyes darting about behind the curtain of stringy black hair framing his face. My tape recorder on the coffee table might as well be a cocked 9mm. He’s shifty, seldom makes eye contact. He leans back into the couch when he talks, crosses his legs and raps his foot nervously on the edge of the coffee table. He gestures broadly for emphasis, eager for you to get his meaning. Even though he clutches a bottle of San Pellegrino the whole interview, he seldom drinks from it, just absently pokes his finger into the top of it while speaking. Jack’s laugh is guttural and fierce, rattling out in short bursts. And in case you suck at remembering names, his die-cast iron “JACK” belt buckle is there to help.

Paste Some of the most influential rock bands to emerge from England during the ’60s and ’70s—Cream, the Stones, Zeppelin, etc.—absorbed the blues tradition and expressed it in a really powerful way. It seems like you’re carrying on that tradition. Do you feel a special connection to this place as a result of those artists?

Jack White All those bands were looking towards the American South. We’re from the North—Detroit—and they’re from very far away from the South. But all of our heads are in that same space. The music coming out of the American South was so real and truthful that you can’t help but have it be a destination in your head.

Considering all the countries in the world and all the different styles of music, it’s so bizarre how many of the dominant ones over the last century have all come from the American South. It’s very interesting.

P The struggle of the slave population in America—that pain was so emotionally universal.

JW There’s something all-encompassing about it because there’s obviously struggle in places like India and China as well. Why is it that the struggle of the American South has captivated so much of the world? The poetry and the emotion of the music have all bled together into something that people can instantly relate to. I’m speaking of the blues, you know. This one-man-against-the-world ideal is almost a selfish notion from a songwriter’s standpoint, but as a listener it’s very easily relatable.

P Speaking of the South, you recorded this album in Nashville at Blackbird Studio. That’s a very different setup from the lo-fi home recordings you’ve done in the past. Did you take any conscious measures to maintain some continuity with your previous work?

JW It was a concern of ours—that it would be a bad move to go into a modern studio, be on a major record label, all those things. For years we always thought those were the things that were going to mess it up, and any rawness and emotional intent in the music could easily be turned plastic if we were in those environments. And we’re probably right about that. I don’t think that it would have been a good idea for us to be on a major or be in a modern studio while recording our first couple albums.

But now is just about the right time for us to try that out because we have enough experience behind us, and people perceive the band differently than they would’ve in 2000 or 1999. We can get away with what we need to get away with.

A lot of times when you’re a youngster it doesn’t matter how good your band is or how great your sound is. You can have the most brilliant ideas in the world, but if you walk into an environment where someone else is the boss and their whole head is in this world of plastic, you’re going to fall under the wheels of that truck.

We were always just trying to figure out ways to get into these little nooks and crannies in these uncomfortable environments and try to work under those conditions and make something beautiful out of it. Every album we’ve done has been recorded in the winter, and usually in studios that don’t have heat. This studio is the first one we’ve recorded in that still has heat.

P It’s also great motivation to stay in the studio and get work done, knowing it’s even less comfortable outside.

JW Yeah, and that’s the thing you have to watch. Blackbird has two lounges and old pinball games, and it wasn’t as distracting really for me and Meg. But I just went in there for three weeks with The Raconteurs—it’s hard to keep four guys in the room at once because someone’s overdubbing a mandolin and what are the other three guys doing? That’s when the other three guys start wandering off and it’s like, “This is why I don’t like being in places like this.” You have to really have willpower. Who wants to hear “Oh hey, they’ve got wireless Internet here?” I mean, we’ve got work to do. So, it’s a toss up.

It’s all about distractions. That goes down to all the technology—the ProTools, the trickery that’s in those rooms. You’ve got all these “opportunities,” but they’re mostly distractions. In a lot of cases, they can be the easy way out. Back in the day people used to say, “If you don’t know how to play a guitar solo, just get a wah-wah pedal.” That kind of thing. It takes a lot of restraint and a lot of discipline when you’re in that environment to try to get something done properly. I just saw a survey that said 60 percent of people think music sucks nowadays.

P What about you? Do you think music today sucks?

JW I don’t know, but I will say this: Gone are the days when you came into the studio and you had your act together and they turned the tape-machine on and it was one track. Some of the greatest recordings ever made were done under those circumstances. And it’s almost like, what do we need all this trickery for?

P You recently moved to Nashville from Detroit after having experienced a lot of jealousy and pettiness from other bands. Do you feel like that ordeal made you gun-shy about participating in Nashville’s music scene?

JW At this point, I don’t think either Meg or I want to be part of a music community in any sense. But I think that if there was one to be around, it would be the country-music community because they’re almost the complete opposite of hipster, underground, cynical garage rock—all that jazz. Country-music people aren’t obscurists in any sense. They’re of the moment. You don’t hear words like “sellout.” To them, it’s an achievement to be on the side of a billboard.

In Detroit, it was so tough to figure out what was happening to us compared to how everyone else was perceiving it. And I think this happens a lot. It happens to the folk artists that broke out—Dylan and Peter, Paul, and Mary, etc.—their scene. You can’t figure that out. Nobody can figure that out.

Who’s going to sit and decide whether you’re selling out to put your song on a video game as compared to, you know, performing live in front of people and charging them money for it. What’s the difference? Those battles take too much time.

I remember when Get Behind Me Satan was about to come out and we got offered to sell the record at Starbucks, and I remember a couple roundtable discussions with people we knew. It was sort of like, “Well, what do you think of that?” And I was there, and I don’t know. In one sense, I could care less where people buy stuff. What’s it matter? OK, you bought the record at McDonald’s, does that mean it’s no good? I highly doubt anyone in the country-music community gives a darntootin’ about being sold at a point-of-purchase at Wal-Mart. Who cares?

When you’re just trying to create and make music and perform, you shouldn’t have to worry about all that stuff. That just makes your job so much more difficult.

P It seems like the journalistic community is partially responsible for the cycle of building up rock stars and then ripping them down. Like a kid who makes a bunch of sand castles and then gleefully stomps all over them.

JW I’ve never understood it. I’ve always thought it was strange what happened with the underground and punk publications that really championed us when we were in our early days making seven inches. It just seemed like as soon as two other people heard of us they could care less. It’s ridiculous to champion underdogs and once they succeed to abandon them. That’s a whole lot different than building them up and knocking them down. There’s this abandonment that happens.

Where’s your sense of longevity with the things you love? If you abandon a band as soon as other people like them, then you don’t love it for the right reasons. You like music for identity. You have an identity problem. [laughs] That’s not loving music. Loving art for its own sake means you don’t care what people think—which is exactly what they’re supposedly standing for. Somebody explain that. I don’t get it, man.

P Meg, do you share Jack’s idealism?

Meg White I don’t know. We’re very similar and very different. But I think I’m very idealistic, too—in a slightly quieter way, I suppose. I’m not able to express those thoughts as well.

JW Meg, she’s more polite. And in the case of people’s feelings, my brain operates on this kind of level where the point of the matter is more important than if someone gets their feelings hurt. What I was saying earlier about the garage-rock scene, I have tons of friends that still exist in that world. By giving those opinions out, I risk hurting those people in some way. Meg doesn’t want to hurt people’s feelings at all so she’s a little bit more reserved about it. And that’s commendable.

MW I’m not very judgmental.

JW Yeah, that’s the point I’m trying to make—when judgment about ideas is perceived as judgment about people. I think Meg’s worried about people and my brain isn’t worried about that, but I suffer the consequences of it because when people hear my judgment about an idea or an ideal, people will connect it to human beings.

Like I was telling you about Detroit, I’ve gotten in trouble in the Detroit media saying, “How dare you say this about the city,” when all I was discussing was my environment, the people all around me. People take the words and make what they want. And if people don’t want to like you, they can very easily take your words as judgment against them.

If I say I like to record on analog equipment, someone will say “Well, I recorded on ProTools and my album sounds great. So f— you.” No, no, I wasn’t saying you shouldn’t, I’m just saying this is how I work. That kind of thing. That’s always been the difficult part for me. I don’t want to have to throw a disclaimer out for everything I say, and I’ve caught myself doing it a lot more as we got in the public eye. I had to start being careful about it.

So then you’re in a position where you’re afraid, you’re going to start lying about what your real thoughts are on things. You see people who are really famous—super-famous people—they can’t say anything without getting in trouble. You have to keep it so clean and so middle-of-the-road and so easily digestible that there’s no point. I feel bad for those people.

P Were your parents pretty outspoken?

JW I think everybody in my environment was. Some people had opinions that had no foundation at all. When I was younger, if other kids were obsessed with tennis shoes, I might make the mistake of saying “that’s ridiculous.” And kids on the playground don’t like when you say something like that. “Well, you might think it’s ridiculous, but we kinda like these Adidas shoes.” I don’t even know why I kept up my opinion about it. Why it didn’t just sink in, why I didn’t swim with all the other fish. I almost spent a lot of my life hoping for something better, looking for something, something deeper—even as a child. The cost of that is, of course, friendships.

P Was it that search for something deeper that led you to consider attending seminary?

JW There is a fantasy in my head. I like films where people all go to the same school together and everyone gets up and eats breakfast at the same time and everyone is told to get up, go out in the courtyard. Part of my brain likes that structure that everyone can show their own personalities at times but, for the most part, we’re all a family here, etc. etc. And I think part of that might have been an influence on some calling I thought I might’ve had to be a part of that—Redemptress Catholic. It’s more of a brotherhood and is more involved in poorer communities and things like that. I like those kind of things.

Everyone in our band’s crew is required to wear a black-white-and-red suit, but everyone’s allowed to wear whatever style hat they want. And I think that’s great because that’s where their personality comes out. We’re all a team, but their personality comes out through their hat. I think hats are really important things.

P You don’t see them much anymore, not in the way you did in the early part of the 20th century.

JW Right. John Kennedy, they say he killed the hat in a lot of ways because he didn’t wear one. Those things happen. Clark Gable didn’t have a T-shirt on in that one film, he wore his button-down shirt with no T-shirt underneath it and it killed T-shirt sales for a decade.

P What have The White Stripes killed?

JW [laughs] I don’t know. There are a lot of red-white-and-black bands out there nowadays, that’s for sure.

P I’ve always sensed some kind of moral outrage or indignation fueling the louder and angrier material you’ve written. Do you feel like those feelings have any roots in your Catholic upbringing?

JW I don’t know because I abandoned all those man-made kind of beliefs when I was a teenager and adopted new ways of looking at everything. I never stopped believing in God, but the environment I grew up in was very rough and things weren’t the way they used to be.

Post-riots in Detroit was not the heyday of Detroit. It was the abandonment and the decline of a beautiful town, and when you’re in that environment, when you’re growing up and everyone is saying how it used to be—the way things used to be—it just permeates your existence. You go to the bus stop and the bus doesn’t show up. You take the trash out and last week’s trash is still out there.

It just infuriates you at times to think that there are other places in the world where no one even thinks twice about these things and we have to struggle with them all the time. That kind of stuff permeates your entire day, your entire existence, your entire life. You just don’t know where to get away from it. And in that same time you’re supposed to be positive and proud of where you’re from. It’s tough; it’s very tough. I lived there for 30 years, and it was tough. I’ve gotten flack for not being positive enough about it, despite the fact that I’ve tried to be helpful to Detroit.

That moral outrage comes from so many different places. Every song is different. “The Big Three Killed My Baby” [about the effect of the automobile industry on Detroit] is totally different from relationship-based outrages.

P And sometimes the outrage is pointed back at yourself.

JW Yeah, I always want to blame myself first. I always have to cleanse the palate and take some responsibility. It’s so easy to sit back and accuse everybody all the time. But if you don’t take any responsibility and include yourself in the process then you don’t learn anything in life.

P You mentioned dismantling your faith in organized religion, stripping all that stuff away, and finding your own path. What have you learned through that process?

JW I just think that everyday, whether it’s finding a good place to eat breakfast or reading a good book, you’re trying to experience beauty in some way whenever you get the chance. But I’m not looking for so-and-so’s opinion, not even my own opinion. I just want to know what the truth is. I mean that’s what I’m looking for. In my opinion, there’s no way God looks at things from 14 different angles. I see God as knowing only one truth, and that’s it. There’s no other opinion about it. And I want to know what that one truth is. Everyone can sit around and have their manly and earthly opinions about things, but I doubt there’s much debate going on in heaven. I’m trying to find whatever that singular truth is in any particular topic. It’s interesting because as humans we’re so stupid, there’s no way we can figure out most of these things. So the question makes for good protagonists and antagonists in stories. It creates those characters.

P Especially in the song “300 M.P.H. Torrential Outpour Blues,” the narrator says, “There’s all kinds of redheaded women that I ain’t supposed to kiss.” He then resolves to swallow his lust, hold on to it, and use it to scare the hell out of his lover. It’s a very dark, antagonistic idea. Where do you feel like that image came from?

JW The redhead idea has always permeated everything I’ve done, just as the number three has. It’s sort of angel-demon, good and evil all wrapped up into one creature, one soul. The preacher-gambler. Those kind of characters, you can learn a lot from them. Sometimes I know exactly what that lyric means, and sometimes I have no idea what it means, which is good. It has a life to it. The other day we were rehearsing with the new crew, and we have a couple of redheaded people on our crew now. And sometimes I wonder what they think when I’m singing those lines.

P While we’re discussing songs, I was really fascinated by “St. Andrew (This Battle Is In The Air).” Meg, did you compose those spoken-word bits, or was that improvised in the studio?

MW It was very much in the moment. We had the bagpiper [Jim Drury] there for “Prickly Thorn” and at the end they had that little bit that’s “St. Andrew.” And so we were kind of working on it, trying to do something with it and Jack basically went around the corner and wrote random words and lines for it. And we just went and did it, and he would just point randomly to different lines when we were recording it, and I would just say them. That’s how that one came about.

P At what point in the recording process did you have the idea to get a highland piper in the studio?

JW Well, I was trying to make “Prickly Thorn” as Scottish as possible, differentiating between American folk music and Irish folk music and it’s a tough line. That song is about Scotland and I was writing on a mandolin. I thought the best way to make it as Scottish as possible is to try and get bagpipes involved. That’s the first thing anyone would think. It’s tough. I also wrote in the key of D, which is not the key of highland pipes, so we had to find a bagpiper in Nashville who had bagpipes in the key of D, and that was not easy. Luckily, we found a guy.

P Jack, on “Rag and Bone” you inhabit this Tom Waits-ian snake-oil salesperson/Pentecostal minister persona. Do you feel like your confidence in that kind of delivery has grown?

JW To be honest, we put that on the album at the last second; I was really sort of like, “Eh, I don’t know, man. I just don’t know if we can release this because I don’t know if people are going to take it in the right way.” I’m very scared about mixing humor and music. At times I do it, and I always worry about the longevity or timelessness of it. Because a lot times people are like “Ha ha ha, that’s funny” but the next time they hear it, they think “OK, I’ve already heard that joke.” So it’s scary territory for a songwriter.

We had three different versions of that song, and we were going to release them in three parts on different 45s. The one that made it on the album was the “Dusty Dialogue” version. There was a “Musty Monolouge” version and there was just “Rag and Bone.” But at the last second I just thought, you know, I’m just going to put it on there.

Sometimes a song like that gets made that’s so off the beaten path that everybody—everybody who’s around or stops by or even the engineer—starts to formulate an opinion, and it causes a stir. You don’t know if you’ve got something amazing or something bad because you get to the point where you’re like “Well, if we’re talking about it this much, it can’t be good.” It should just hit you like that. Still, right at the moment of putting out the album we didn’t really know. It was like, my eyes were closed and I was just putting it out there, but immediately people were finding it really interesting. So I’m glad I included it.

P It also feels important to the album because it underlines your mission as a band, reclaiming something—in your case, a musical tradition—that others might consider antiquated and reasserting its value.

JW I think with all creative people, that’s basically what we do. We’re art-junk collectors.

P In “Icky Thump” the song, you comment on the immigration debate. Were you nervous about airing those feelings?

JW No, because I think it’s a timeless debate. Somebody said to me recently that they thought that song was very of the moment. And I said, “No it’s not, I think it’s very of the last three, four centuries.” And not just America, everywhere in the world they have this same ongoing debate about “them dang foreigners” and how life would be so great if we could just keep everybody else out.

P Do you worry about the song getting co-opted for political purposes?

JW I don’t mind because Hispanic people, Latin people, are close to my heart in a lot of ways. [ED: Jack grew up in Mexicantown, the lower-middle-class Mexican district of southwest Detroit.] But I have no right to champion their problem for them, and that’s why a lot of times I don’t like to get involved in political issues because, number one, I’m too bored with the news to pay attention. I just don’t find much interest in it at all. I don’t have time to weed through all the bullshit to find out what’s really happening; I’m just too busy to even try.

I’ve formed opinions from very small amounts of information. Sure, I’m against the war, but if I write a song about it, can I back it up? If we sat here and talked about it, maybe I don’t have the figures in my head or the knowledge of what battles are going on to fully defend my position. I can say in general, “Yes I’m against it,” but I don’t think I’m a person who knows enough about it to preach it. With the song “The Big Three Killed My Baby,” I knew a lot more about that issue because that’s where I’m from.

P How does it strike you when you hear musicians using their art as a political statement? Do you feel like that cheapens the art at all?

JW Well, number one, I just wonder how much they’re getting from it, how much their ego gets a boost from it, and how they’re benefiting from it. I’m the kind of guy that thinks, “Hey, so-and-so wrote a million dollar check for this homeless organization. Hmm… wasn’t it tax-deductible? Oh, it was tax deductible. OK, so would you have written that check if it wasn’t tax-deductible? And on top of it, you got your picture taken giving the check away so your ego got a boost from it there, too.” All these side effects that circle around seem to taint the motive a little bit. That’s the stuff that scares me. I don’t ever want to come off like a guy who’s doing that for the wrong reasons.

Especially with music, and with rock ’n’ roll music too, those worlds, when they meet, great things can happen at times—I’m not saying that they don’t happen—it’s just a little leery for me.

P Do you feel any pressure as an artist—especially as your profile continues to grow—to leverage your influence to effect some sort of change in the world?

JW We said early on that we’re not a political band, and we really aren’t. And that’s not a cop-out, that’s just, like I said before, there are people—Neil Young, etc. etc.—who do a way better job than we would. It’s kind of the same thing. Should we use our power to write a brilliant Broadway show? Should we come out with a great sitcom with the responsibilities we have. It can go a million different ways. I feel responsibility in a lot of ways to children who listen to music. We’ve never had an explicit label put on our records. And I’m not sitting here trying to pretend like we’re goodie-two-shoes—I’m just saying.

The thing is, you can’t be all things to all people. We’re The White Stripes, too. We’re trying to share with other people what we do and putting records on shelves, putting shows on for other people. We’re attempting to share but we’re not at the service of the people like a politician is. We’re still artists; we don’t make records for the benefit of what people expect. We just can’t live like that. There’s no way to live like that.

P When your band gets to this level, how badly does it mess with your brain? Do you ever feel like you’re playing the part of Jack White or Meg White when you walk on stage?

JW Yeah, something definitely changes when we walk on stage. Especially for this band, because we don’t have a setlist and we don’t talk about what we’re going to do. So we don’t know what’s going to happen ’til we get out there. So yeah, as you’re approaching the microphone and putting on your instrument, sitting down at your instrument, something has to change. It’s like you’re clocking in at work—you can’t just do the things you were doing at home, 10 minutes before. Time to go to work.

I imagine anyone who goes to a factory and clocks in has a different mindset take over. When you’re at work and you’re on the clock, everyone has certain unease. There’s things you’re not supposed to be doing. Even the most relaxing job you could have, you’re still under the gun a little bit. You’re under watchful eyes, and we’re definitely under watchful eyes on stage.

P It’s crazy that you guys have been doing this for a decade now. Has that milestone been on your mind at all?

JW Oh yeah, definitely. It’s part of the reason we named the album “Icky Thump.” Who’da thunk we’d still be around doing this? It’s shocking to us. We always felt like the mainstream had lost an appreciation for the music that was closest to our hearts. To us it was always like, “Oh well, it still means something to us and we can go around and we can play in clubs and play to 50 people or whatever that is and we’ll be fine.” No lofty ambitions.

We never sent demos out. By the time White Blood Cells was out on the charts in England, I mean, we had no manager, no lawyer, no booking agent—we’d just gotten a booking agent for America. When White Blood Cells hit, when everything first exploded, it was basically just me and Meg. That goes to show where our heads were at.

We were asking ourselves, “What does this mean? How can we come back to playing the clubs? How can we go back to putting out 45s? Now they’re going to make us into a one-hit-wonder for the mainstream. Come on, there’s no way people like this kind of music. There’s no way.” That’s what kept occurring to us. It still boggles my mind.

P Do you feel like everything is still feeling fresh and you’re going to be making music together for a while?

JW I guess so. 10 years, it feels like it’s been a year to us. It works, you know? It feels right in the end. And that’s the same thing that goes for relationships and for things people purchase. If you’re buying a car, you sit in it and it just feels right. And I think the same thing with this band. It just feels right; I think that’s why it keeps going. There’s never been a point where we thought, “Aw, man, we’re struggling. We got to think of something. We’ve got to come up with something.” We’ve never had that feeling. We’re fortunate that we haven’t.

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