[HEAVINESS] For most bands, the rehearsal space that White Orange uses would be more square footage than they could ever need. The huge room, tucked into the back of a nondescript building in North Portland’s industrial corridor, boasts 20-foot ceilings and a massive stage for live-show practice.
White Orange, however, has filled up almost every inch of it. A large silk-screening station sits in one corner. In the middle of the room, two trap kits face each other practically begging for a drum-off. A bong sits prominently on a cluttered coffee table. The walls are covered with original art and posters—among them, a framed copy of the band’s first 10-inch record.
“We put that out before we even had a band,” shaggy-haired singer/guitarist Dustin Hill says with a raspy laugh. “We just figured, ‘Fuck it. Let’s get these songs out there.’”
“Fuck it” pretty well sums up the overriding philosophy of this psych-rock outfit. Not that White Orange lacks ambition. Hill and his bandmates (drummer Dean Carroll, bassist Adam Pike and guitarist Ryan McIntire) love big projects, especially where vinyl is concerned. The band’s last 12-inch was a picture disc decorated with all manner of demons and religious iconography, and its new self-titled album is housed in a triple-gatefold cover. The band likes its cover art—an expansive psychedelic image in orange and blue, reminiscent of the cover to Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew—so much that it plans to buy the $40,000 Raul Casillas Romo source painting.
Of course, pretty pictures aren’t the only reason people are starting to pay attention to White Orange. The new record is a logical step for the worlds of psychedelic, stoner and heavy rock, pulsating with an inescapable energy and white-hot intensity. The band doesn’t shy away from its influences, either. Expansive jams “Dinosaur Bones” and “Color Me Black” feature clear nods to deified groups such as King Crimson and Pink Floyd—though Hill is just as quick to note Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr. as influences.
It’s a lot of backstory for a band with such humble roots. Hill started writing material for White Orange after failed attempts to create some new music for one of his other projects, the slinkier, sexier rock outfit Black Pussy. He pulled in his buddy McIntire to lay down demos (found on the out-of-print 10-inch) and, inspired by the output, started to build a full band.
“We didn’t even tell Dean he was auditioning to be in the group,” McIntire says. “We just jammed with him for a few weeks to make sure it was the right fit. It’s gathering the pieces and getting ready for battle.”
Despite that combative language, what marks the band as a high-functioning collective is the bond the members obviously share. It’s a friendship born out of jam sessions and the occasional use of psychedelics, both of which, Hill says, helped White Orange to “sever from this dimension and not care and just be honest.
“It’s true with any kind of art,” Hill says. “You just have to do it.”
SEE IT: White Orange plays Saturday, Sept. 17, at the Ash Street Saloon with Ancient Warlocks and Brokaw. 9:30 pm. $3. 21+. White Orange also plays an in-store at Music Millenium on Sunday, Sept. 18. 6 pm. Free. All ages.