The album cover & self-portrait for, 'For the Recently Found Innocent'
White Fence is a band that I have followed quite closely since their incarnation as a recording entity some four years ago. Their album release of this year was entitled For the Recently Found Innocent and was duly anticipated - speaking for oneself evidently. Having listened to the record extensively, I would now like to discuss my thoughts on the album over the course of this article. Initially however, I want to write a brief section outlining who the band is.
Darker My Love Performing 'Backseat'
from 'Alive As You Are'
White Fence is essentially just one person. The name of this person is Tim Presley. An American chap, based in L.A but originally from San Francisco, Tim seems to be, or has been involved with a number of bands and musicians for roughly the last decade [for more on this]. This trend of musical ‘types’ being connected and working together on various projects, which Presley seems to be somewhat of an archetype for, is prevalent in the L.A/San Francisco ‘music scene’ - or the ‘scene’ catering for the sorts of sounds made by Presley et al. Of his past work, the most notable was his time spent in Darker My Love, a band which first made me aware of his music (even though he did also spend a short time in Mark E. Smith’s band The Fall - but who hasn’t eh? This feels very much like a separate matter however, so one will not get bogged down in this here.) Their last album to date was the much-underappreciated Alive as You Are (2010), a record that was definitely their strongest and one worth listening to if you haven’t already. Being one of the two principle songwriters whilst in DML and a part of what certainly became a somewhat bigger, more label sponsored act; he has since struck out alone as White Fence and with it, this appears to have brought a far greater creative freedom. Like most recording artists, Presley is more than a little bit indebted to the pop music of earlier decades and especially psychedelia. He does however put a distinct modern twist on older sounds. It is as though he has past 60’s garage rock sensibilities through a certain contemporary psychedelic canon, picking up a variety of influences along the way – everything from punk to the English music hall. Although beginning to emerge on Alive as You Are, his influences notably have many British leanings. One can hear resonances of Kevin Ayers and Syd Barrett particularly of recent tracks. Then, as in this moment, Presley isn’t a musician desperately trying to devise an entirely new musical experience or be a vastly innovative sounding musician. Nevertheless, since the end of DML and up until For the Recently Found Innocent, due to experimentations in writing, structure and musical production, there have been a number of varyingly interesting moments on his 5 other previous White Fence records. The artistic freedom evident on these albums come through a sort of ‘do it yourself’ audio aesthetic and it is tantamount to this individual’s willingness to take what he knows/likes, digest and then regurgitate it in a variety of different ways - some of which understandably work better than others, but the works as a whole only appear to have benefitted from these often captivating attempts. The creative potential of home or self-recording, when executed properly is clear and very few in recent years, have shown this better than Presley. If one has a purpose and can work towards their own creative vision then now, with available means/technology to do so, why would they employ a producer to confuse the whole process? Professional studios have their uses no question. But there are now other ways of going about the recording process and much of the most interesting music today, seems to be evolving from this and other similar methods.
Tim Presley or White Fence or both, playing live
Tim Presley with (from left to right) Jared, Rob & Will
In relative terms, Presley could be described, in the working sense at least, as being prolific. Having written, produced and released the best part of 6 long playing albums in less than 5 years, is by modern day standards very productive. Clearly this would have been seen as being ‘par for the course’ up until the late 80’s/90’s, but since then most bands and popular recording musician’s general output has slowed down significantly. The steady output of White Fence however, coupled with the ever changing line-up (excluding Presley clearly) - in terms of the band used for preforming live, as recording has mainly been Presley himself with some noted additions when required - has made it necessary for Presley to select songs which in many respects cater for the personnel he will be utilising during these processes. He states: “I will say I did choose songs that I thought would fit with that group of people. There's two types of songs for me: [there are] the ones that are a little bit self-indulgent, more experimental, kind of stuff at home; really only I can do that in a way. I didn't really want to bring that to the table. I catered to the tools I had, which were Ty, Nick, and then later, Eric Bauer at his studio. A song where I imagined a crazier drum pattern or something - choosing songs like that.” Also, due to the wealth of material he composes, this idea of selection stretches to deciding what does, doesn’t, and when certain materials are recorded. On the question of producing this wealth of material: “Yeah. It [seems to be] like a therapy session for me every day. I do it every day and night, all day and night, really. I just end up with a bunch of songs. Some are really good, some are bad, but I have a good pool to choose from.”
|Presley with producer, collaborator & friend Ty Segall, whilst recording 'For the Recently Found Innocent'|
Up until this most recent release, the previous records that Presley has recorded as White Fence have been primarily created, recorded and produced in his little studio at home. But for 2014’s release, he decided to do things differently. Perhaps after working in this way for some time a new and refreshed approach was needed. Discussing this most recent collection of songs and recording them: “they didn't move me in the same way that other home recordings did (…) I knew they were good but they weren't working in that capacity. I don't know what the deal was. It was like my room turned on me." As a result he decided to leave the confines of his home and studio and look to alternative means for getting a more satisfying result. Having previously recorded 2012’s album Hair with this individual, he decided to seek the help, new studio space and production input of his friend and collaborator Ty Segall. Consequently, Segall became the record’s producer and they would use his small studio (one time garage) to record the album in. It might also be fair to suggest, having read a number of accounts regarding the subject, that Segall became something of a ‘motivator’ on this project. He helped raise the mood and spur on the progression of the work when Presley was beginning to lose his inspiration for it.
'Time' from the album 'Hair', by
White Fence & Ty Segall
But Ty shook me out of my indifference and apathy about going into the studio. He basically got me off my ass and got me to just do it. He put a time clock on it and forced me to focus up and conceptualize it.
The inspirations behind this record were, as ever with Presley, rich and varied. In particular, his Father’s death and background in the military and how this affected his family. He felt as though the loss of his Dad and the grieving process in some way enabled a far greater outpouring of creativity and subsequent amassing of material. “It’s really strange how something like that impacts someone, in a positive way" he explained.
“I guess that’s where the therapy comes in. I’m talking about things in metaphor that I would be talking about in therapy.”
'Anger Who Keeps you Under'
My initial responses to the tracks on For the Recently Found Innocent were positive and largely as I expected them to be. This perhaps quite nicely leads me to one of the principle reasons for this article, which may also go some way towards answering the inevitable question, as to why one would write a retort of sorts, to an album released some five months ago. As I am sure we are all aware, in the modern music industry, reviews are written and published absolutely on release of said material, and in some cases, even before this event. These reviews are frequently principally flawed in my view. I say this because, the reviewer probably makes their mind up on the merits of the record after a single complete listen, as is the nature and time given to the job; and let’s be honest, there is almost certainly an agenda beforehand as to what their respective publications are going to endorse or throw scorn over. This is the ‘Hipster’ environment that for good or bad now affects all aspects of our popular culture today. I fully understand this and don’t believe it will change. It has, to varying degrees, always been this way since the dawning of youth/sub-cultures and associated ‘rebellions’ as we know them to be - I am not even certain how else it could manifest itself either. Nevertheless, I have always felt that it would be more applicable to the actual procedure of fully listening and getting to understand or otherwise, appreciate, hate or become enthralled in a record, to allow this to occur over a period of time; much in the same way that this generally happens with the listener. I think most of us have heard, or have adopted, the statement, “give it time, it’s a grower”, on certain necessary occasions. As I have become more aware of over time, the first response on listening to a record rarely remains the predominant sense after many subsequent listens. How many times of late have I listened to a record, which I enjoy at first but soon become increasingly bored with and in extreme cases, begin to loath (?). As a result of all this, I felt I would use this latest White Fence record as the subject of this piece - largely because I know and have appreciated much of his work previously - and therefore I aim to give a broad view on how I judge the album fits into his larger oeuvre. I recognise that this process of giving a fully considered response to an album, can only ever take place on rare occasions, but ones such as this.
'Sandra (when the earth dies)'
When I first wrote it I was like, ‘Dude, I just wrote a hit, (…) I was almost embarrassed to record it. I almost threw it away. But Ty was like, ‘What about that song?' So we cut it. It's a weird one.
'Balance Your Heart' from 'Family Perfume vol. 1'
'Raven on White Cadillac'