With kinetic performances that have been the stuff of Pittsburgh legend, White Like Fire has expanded its reach beyond the Steel City. But as the band gears up for the release of its LP, Apocalypstic, bassist Tyler Clawson, guitarist Blake Clawson and drummer Joe Killian are reminiscing as well as looking forward.
At the band's conception, "The scene wasn't very accepting," Blake Clawson recalls. "People didn't really like us. It was good, though; it was sort of a trial by fire."
He also points out how much the band has grown in the past two years: "Having to stick up for each other and tough out lots of disappointment together. At some point, you've got to say ‘Fuck it,' and look to the guys that are right there beside you, up onstage."
Preserving Tyler Clawson's feverish vocals, White Like Fire takes a more ambient approach to its instrumentals on Apocalypstic. The listener is treated to several moments that work — such as the bridge bass line on "Don't Care, I'm Not Sorry" — and channel the energy toward a new maturity in composition. More than ever, the guitar riffs confidently move through drum lines and hand claps, making White Like Fire sound more like a fuller band, without losing any of its rock heritage.
Much like the band's video for the song "See How Far," each performance feels black-and-white, stripped down and unabashedly emotional — on purpose.
"We try to be as rowdy as possible, to keep the crowd involved," Blake Clawson explains. "We have music ADD; we're paranoid about making people bored. It happens so easily in Pittsburgh. People get so bored so fast, so we've had to do everything in our power to keep people's attention."
Toward that end, the band focuses on particular moments in individual songs for inspiration. Killian cited "Bovine Public," by The Cribs, "Lust for Life," by Girls, and "Away From You," by Oberhofer, with whom the band has played previously.
"The important thing for us," Tyler Clawson says, "is to not get lost in the technical aspect of the music. It's more of the emotion that's elicited by us as a band, and as friends. It's really whatever you're weaving into that moment, or feeling, that's important."
With their integrity, White Like Fire members carry a vision of what they don't want to be. "Not that we have anything against laptops, but we like drums and guitars," Blake Clawson explains. "People that cut records in studios in L.A. with laptops, I'm not gonna feel anything from that."
"It's like glorified karaoke," Tyler adds. "There are a lot of performers who do that, and we made a decision to stay away from that sort of thing."
Killian jumps in: "When we write our songs, we're trying to channel an experience we've had before, where we did get into a bar fight or something, so we're trying to emulate that anger we had."
What does the band want fans to take from Apocalypstic?
"I want them to forget about college, and people around them, and whatever else they're going through," says Tyler Clawson, "and feel like they're riding a motorcycle in the summer, through the desert, and they're wearing a leather jacket, and it's on fire."
Killian's vision is more simple: "I want them to form a band, and play with us."