Tackling Coachella with White Arrows

It’s the week sandwiched between Coachella festivals and White Arrows is rocking out to a young audience in Orange County, California when something mistakenly becomes unplugged; they handle it like champions, playing a prolonged surf rock jam to pass the time. It was easy to tell from their demeanor that they were all shot from the previous weekend’s events but they played through it such like a band with many more years behind them.

I met Los Angeles-based White Arrows at The Observatory to exchange pleasantries before accompanying the group on a whirlwind weekend that would feature many ups and downs which I quickly found out is just part of everyday life trying to make it as a band today.

If you are unfamiliar with the band they play a catchy take on California pop music with a hint of psychedelic vibes. Wikipedia calls it Psychotropical Pop, but even I as a music journalist do not know what the fuck that means. It is basically the perfect type of music to listen to on a hot sunny day with a drink in hand. Lead singer Mickey Church has the type of voice that gets stuck in your head (in a good way). Unique in many ways, it’s one of the multiple reasons that I can see this band going on to much bigger things. Keyboardist Andrew Naeve, bass player Steven Vernet, drummer Henry Church and guitar player JP Caballero round out the group of young musicians who call themselves White Arrows.

Fast forward to the night before their performance at Coachella. I am driving out of the band’s compound in the Hollywood Hills with lead guitarist JP Caballero. For JP this has all been done before with his previous band Dios. As we drive up he tells me stories of past and describes the scene in a way in which only a veteran can. His professionalism is seen on the stage as well as in conversation.

We pull up to a mansion in Palm Springs where the band will be playing a couple of songs for The House of Creatives. Looking straight out of a porn shoot the house has everything from an oversized Jacuzzi to a streaming waterfall. As this was my first time attending a shoot for an online media source, it was totally bizarre. Imagine an empty house with a full rig set up inside and nobody there. Anyways, the band powered through their single “Get Gone” multiple times and then proceeded to hang out and drink until it was felt that we were not welcome anymore and headed towards the Holiday Inn.

While many would like to believe that “Almost Famous” is rock and roll and that it is a constant party and 5-star accommodations, in reality it is not. Fitting 7 men into a room at the Holiday Inn in Palm Desert is more what you should become accustomed to if becoming a rock star is your end game. Picking on their manager Christian Coffey seemed to be a hobby of the band, especially when it came to accommodations. Joking aside, it seemed like the positive relationship was mutual between all in the group.

It is the morning of their show at Coachella and it is already damn hot. Swigging out of a bottle of Jim Bean in the artist parking lot the band waits for a van to take all of their stuff to the stage. They take to the Outdoor Stage and sound check before some poor DJ who has the job of getting the crowd going at noon at a festival in the middle of the desert takes over.

Both Andrew’s and Mickey’s parents make an adorable entrance with the former’s mom filming them on her iPad during sound check and the latter’s rocking out to the set in the VIP area. Mickey’s mom would later be the subject of a happy birthday shout out that won an award in Spin Magazine’s coverage of the festival.

By this point it’s obvious how down to earth the entire band is. They are just a bunch of cool guys playing music that they enjoy. I think we have this preconceived idea of rock stars in our heads that makes us overlook the fact that they are just young adults like you and me trying to make a living.

Their set was nothing short of incredible. The sun had no bearing on the amount of energy that the band displayed and they played through their hits like it was just another show. As their set went on the stage became more and more populated by people wandering over. Amassing what must have been over 1,400 people by its conclusion, the set was sure to make fans out of many attendees-as it did for me.

After completing their set their workday was far form over. Interviews, media shows, radio shows, artist signings— Coachella is a full weekend of work for every band in attendance.

Before jetting off to another stripped-down set we chilled in the artist compound where it was a pleasure to get to be a fly on the wall so to speak and listen to them exchange pleasantries with all of their friends in other bands. From fellow rock band The Neighborhood to Los Angeles based DJ Schlomo, it seemed like the guys were on good terms with everyone, which further goes to show the type of people that they are.

Later in the day we jet off to some set for Baeble Music. Located in a gated community the house had owners who looked more like retirees than your typical music aficionado. As we walked in the backyard Yannis Philippakis of Foals fame was playing a heartfelt, striped-down version of their latest single “My Number.”

A couple songs and an interview later the band was shuffled quickly back to the festival grounds for a record signing. A group of three eager fans waited in line for the band to show up. It did not matter how small the group was who showed up for the signing because it was easy to tell that the band appreciated their fans more than anything. A much more egotistical group of fellows would have seen the 300 people queued up an hour early for an Alt-J signing and just throw their hands up and say, “fuck this!”

More interviews and off-site shows would be to come for the weekend which sort of was the theme for the most part: radio show, interview, private party, online media show, interview, record signing, ect…. One thing I learned about playing Coachella and any festival for that matter is that you are going to have to sacrifice a lot to play as many events as you can possibly play. The band missed a lot of acts they were hoping to watch but just took it in stride and were happy that they had the opportunity to be invited to such events.

This is not to say that the band did not have any fun, but after going through the ringer it gave me a much different perspective on the weekend. This being my 6th year going to Coachella yet my first in the eyes of a performer, I walked away with a completely different take on the event and festival season as a whole. Festivals, while great, are a lot more than meets the eye.

Spending the amount of time I did with White Arrows made me excited for the future of music. Too often the music media (myself included) are so skeptical about what is coming out that we don’t take the time to actually give these up-and-coming bands a chance. White Arrows are as excited as they are passionate about music and after my time with them it is easy to see that they are in it for all the right reasons.

So thank you to all of the guys of White Arrows and The Coachella Valley Music Festival for making this happen. Pick up their debut album “Dry Land is not a Myth” and check them out on their upcoming tour with !!! or their headlining gig at The Constellation Room on May 31st.