For his third solo album, Jack White is stepping away from the strict two-toned, analog lifestyle and reaching new sounds. The long time blues musician and vinyl-aficionado, graced the intimate stage at HD Radio Sound Space at KROQ in all black with his new all-star band to break into the genre-bending first singles off his third solo album Boarding House Reach.
White began his eclectic set with new track “Over and Over and Over” that buzzes heavily with his signature guitar and incorporates a flurry of drum beats with an ominous chorus repeating the track’s title. White now spends less time hovering over three microphones as his third solo album sees the guitarist leaning into a more instrumental and digital sound. The guitarist and his band, made up of keyboardists Quincy McCrary and Neal Evans, bassist Dominic Davis, and Autolux drummer Carla Azar, are backlit by built-in bulbs designed to resemble active sound though speaker cones.
In an interview following the performance, White spoke to KROQ DJ Stryker about the song, stating “That song goes back to 2005. It never felt right. I worked on it with the White Stripes, with the Raconteurs. I recorded it with the Dead Weather. I recorded it with Jay-Z. I recorded it with my first solo album and I recorded it again. I don’t know why I kept doing it. It’s ridiculous. Finally it worked and felt like something.”
The track is an outlier on a new album that sees the Detroit-native move away from old routines. White follows “Over and Over and Over” with his surprise 2017 single “Battle Cry” that features mainly distorted guitar with the occasional shouted “hey” into one of the three microphones set up at the tip of the stage. “Battle Cry” is succeeded by one of the first singles released off today’s Boarding House Reach, “Respect Commander.” The fast-paced track launches with a steady electronic beat then careens between rhythms, never allowing the listener time to settle into a single stride before changing course.
“This album was a little different because I know the songs are a lot more complicated. They’re not first-listen kind of songs. They’re third, fourth-listen kind of songs,” White told Stryker. White added, that in the instant internet age “there’s so much coming at everybody all the time. You hope that if you’re going to connect with people that they are going to give something a chance. You can only do so much. You can say it feels right to you and hopefully other people will get something out of it. If they don’t, try again some other time.”
For the new album, released today via White’s Third Man Records, that guitarist stepped out of his comfort zone to work in new spaces with new artists. Boarding House Reach was partially recorded in Los Angeles and New York, two new recording destinations for White.
“I’ve recorded in Memphis, Nashville, Detroit, with not that many people around. It feels less claustrophobic for my brain,” White explained to Stryker. “But I thought this time I want to work with strangers and I want to work with musicians who played live in the hip-hop world with Kanye and Kendrick and Jay-Z. Musicians who are from that environment that can reproduce on stage live what’s recorded in a studio like samples and drum machines and drum beats.”
Those collaborations led to the next two songs played during the KROQ session, “Why Walk A Dog?” and “Connected By Love.” The latter of the two harkens back to White’s first solo album Blunderbuss and the White Stripes.
“In the White Stripes it was just two instruments so that was different than six instruments. The arrangements of the songs and the editing of the albums was different. They are very complicated, lots of drum loops, samples, triggers, synthesizers, lots of tones I’ve never used on stage before. It took a lot of memorizing,” White told Stryker when asked if there was a difference between playing the new and old material. He added “It’s also memorizing so that we can forget it. I want the songs, by the end of the tour, to sound completely different than they did today.”
White closed out his raucous set with Raconteurs hit “Steady As She Goes” and the title single from his second solo album “Lazaretto.”
Finishing up the performance with the interview, Stryker asked White about a recent Rolling Stone interview the musician gave in which he told the magazine that the stylistic freedom of this album came from Chris Rock joking with him about how people don’t care about how something is made, just the product itself.
“I very much care about how things are done, maybe too much. I want to be able to defend knowing what microphone was used,” White said. “You start realizing, yeah, a lot of people don’t care about that kind of stuff. This album I thought, for myself and from what (Chris Rock) told me, that I want to have the sound that I am imagining in my head on this recording. I don’t care how I get there, if it is analog, digital, computer, or a real person. I want to get to that sound. We got there in a 100 different ways.”
Boarding House Reach is available now and you can stream Jack White’s KROQ session below.
All photos by Chelsea Lauren