Since the days when it doubled up as a sandy-floored arena for monthly skirmishes between Mods and Rockers Brighton has always produced a constant stream of nascent musical talent. The latest set of Brightonians to catch our eye are quintet White Room – Jake Smallwood (vocals), Jacob Newman (lead guitar), Tristan Sava (guitar), James Bryman (bass), Henry Sava (drums). The relatively fresh band have already garnered plenty of hype, not least from Paul Weller and Miles Kane (Modfather and Mod Prince respectively). Weller was so impressed by the band he invited them to his studio where he had a hand in producing several of their tracks. The list of influential fans grows. With an acute ear zeitgeist-tapper Hedi Slimane has also taken a keen interest in the band, featuring hollow cheeked vocalist Jake Smallwood in the latest Saint Laurent FW14 ad campaign.
By only putting two songs online they aren’t giving away too much too soon, however those two tracks, Delay and Back Again flaunt bags of potential. White Room fix their gaze on adolescent romp, reciting their tales with the lexicon of youthful joie de vivre, suave croons and lyrics that verge on the literary. Sometimes their sound seems like a condensed version of British alternative guitar music seeing as how there are traces in them of all the main indie movements, from Madchester and shoegaze through to Britpop. They beneficially cast their net wide, recognising an era when knuckle blood coloured guitar strings and tambourines came standard with mic stands.
With a twangy opening riff reminiscent of Paul Weller’s The Changingman (and therefore redolent of ELO’s 10538overture) recent track ‘Back Again’ builds gradually, layering step by step to form an accomplished sound that culminates in a ballzy guitar charged finale. A quiet-loud-quiet pattern runs throughout their sound, verses saunter, reviving the infectious bounce of early Charlatans, before effervescently breaking into arena-worthy anthemic choruses, with no little élan.
Alex James Taylor: Tell me about how you all first met each other…
Jake Smallwood: Most of us went to school together when we were kids so we met there. We met Hen through Tristan; they’re cousins.
AT: Have you all been in bands previously?
JS: Well we’ve all been playing together since we were young – couple of school bands here and there. Stuff like that. Its pretty much always been us lot though.
AT: I’m guessing that your band name is taken from the Cream song?
JS: Partly, but it came about because we called our rehearsal space the white room and that’s where our sound began to develop, at around the time we wanted to change name from the original name we had.
AT: Have you seen the documentary Beware of Mr Baker? It’s so good, he’s such a manic genius.
JS: Haha. Yeah I watched it a while back. He’s a nut job but one hell of a musician and it’s mesmeric to watch him drum – I would love to see him live.
AT: How’s the music scene in Brighton right now?
JS: Yeah Brighton’s always had a good music scene. From all the young bands just starting out like ourselves to the bigger bands and artists that visit, there’s always gigs going on and that. We have a lot of friends in local bands and we all help each other out.
AT: Have you noticed a fan base emerging?
JS: Somewhat yeah… We’ll see familiar faces popping up at gigs… stuff like that really.
AT: Paul Weller seems to have taken an immediate shine to you, how was it opening for him on his recent tour?
JS: It was nerve wracking, but also amazing. His fans are so open to listening to new bands and the reaction was fantastic. Paul was sat at the side of the stage the whole time but we quickly got used to that and just had a great time on stage.
AT: And he’s helped record a couple of your tracks right?
JS: Yeah we’ve been up to his studio a few times now to do some recording. He’s been a huge influence on our development. The two tracks we have out now are both recorded at his place. Charles, the engineer there, is a boss too. On the first visit we were all a bit apprehensive but we were made to feel really at home and vibe at the studio is great; there’s so many interesting instruments and pieces of equipment to experiment with.
AT: You’ve just done your second video, for Back Again, is this a part of the job you enjoy?
JS: Yeah filming’s a good laugh but Back Again was filmed in November and it was freezing; it’s all filmed in two shots so it had to be done over and over to get the timing right. We were lucky enough to be allowed to film at Glyndebourne and because of that Jake’s brother Ben, our kind of art director/co manager, thought of the idea of having us all in tuxedos at the beginning, sort of in reference to a photo of an old couple by Tony Rae Jones dressed for the opera having a picnic in the Glyndebourne gardens.
AT: The video for Delay looks like you had a laugh, chucking paint everywhere…
JS: Again it was cold and wet and we were in a disused lumber yard but we all got involved and the smashing of the drum through the windscreen was hilarious…. didn’t exactly go to plan but kept us all amused and warm for quite a while. Tristan drove the car through a space that was too small-so literally smashing through a wall-not many people get to do that. We were actually there for 3 days, painting it all white the first day, then Ben painted the black and white pattern and we filmed that part. The third day we all got to throw paint around and smash the car up.
AT: I’ve noticed that you guys are pretty into Fat White Family at the minute, you had a chance to see them live yet? It’s quite an experience.
JS: Yeah we saw them down at Concorde 2 a while back and I also saw them at Field Day. They’re mad, proper punk energy, so being part of their audience is a real experience.
AT: What other current bands are you?
JS: We’re getting really into Childhood at the moment their album is wicked; seen them a few times now. Wolf Alice as well; saw them for the first time at Bestival and they blew us away. Jungle were unreal. We also have some great support slots for some good bands coming up – the next one is with Exit Calm.
AT: You’re working closely with Hedi Slimane and Saint Laurent at the moment, how’s that relationship helped you?
JS: Hedi is a huge fan of new music, and he takes a great interest in the bands he likes so we’re very lucky. We played a stripped down set at the after show party in Paris this summer – Jack White was there and Jacob ended up playing with the guys from Franz Ferdinand. Saint Laurent have been really supportive of us so far and we are so appreciative; they sort us out with clothes too which is a huge bonus.
AT: Being fans of bands such as The Rolling Stones, The Jam, The Stone Roses, I’m sure you hold an appreciation for the relationship between fashion and music. Do you see a band’s aesthetic as essential to their appeal?
JS: We could talk about this all day. But yeah it does matter. Obviously the music is the most important thing, but a band needs a cohesive image for people to relate to, and that is as important today as it always has been.
AT: Both Delay and Back Again have amazing, anthemic choruses, is this a prominent feature in your sound? Can we expect more of this?
JS: Those are two of our first songs as White Room and they’ve definitely had an influence on the direction our sound has taken. We wouldn’t say the anthemic quality is a huge feature in our music as such, but yes you can expect more and hopefully you will find them amazing.
AT: Can we expect an EP or single anytime soon?
JS: We’ll be releasing new material in the near future so keep your ears peeled and your eyes to the ground; like us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, all the usual lot, so when we drop some new tracks you’ll know about it. In the meantime we’ve got gigs coming up in London and Brighton, where you can hear plenty of stuff that’s not online.
White Room play 18th December at Birthdays 33-35 Stoke Newington Rd, London N16 8BJ Follow White Room on Facebook.