Music

Don't mistake the politics of The White Noise Supremacists

by Leslie Lee Iii

Special To The Japan Times

If the name The White Noise Supremacists caused you to do a double take, you wouldn’t be the first.

“I picked the name because I knew that if somebody saw it on a show calendar, they’d Google it to see what the heck is going on,” says Ifeoluwa Babalola from her Brooklyn apartment. “Plus, I thought it was pretty funny.”

Babalola started The White Noise Supremacists 12 years ago after teaching herself to play guitar, bass, drums and piano. She remains the band’s sole member, even when performing live, though that wasn’t her original plan.

“I wanted to be a Morrissey type figure and just front other people’s bands, but they didn’t want a black frontwoman. It was either stop making music or learn how to play guitar,” she says.

Imagine Tracy Chapman and Jack White having a jam session and you’ll get an idea of how The White Noise Supremacists sound. Babalola’s mix of soulful vocals and driving guitar riffs stands out from standard indie rock. The White Noise Supremacists’ new single “Meant to Be,” is at once a stirring R&B ballad with haunting shoegaze touches, and it’s utterly beautiful. Babalola’s diverse set of influences inform her sound, but musically she’s carving her own path: “I’m a black female in rock so there’s no pattern for me to follow.”

Socially relevant subject matter also sets The White Noise Supremacists apart. Lines like, “Though he’s quite fond of his big black gun, he’s afraid that your black son has got a bigger one,” found in songs with titles such as “Big Strong White Man” could make you think of the music as political, but you’d be wrong.

“None of my music is political. I write about racism and sexism, but that’s not something you just deal with when you step in a booth and vote. It’s not politics, it’s my life,” Babalola says.

The White Noise Supremacists’ seven-show tour of Japan starts Feb. 20 in Fukuoka and ends Feb. 26 in Tokyo: “Japan has a lot of aggressive rock that is quality, and I feel I make aggressive rock that is quality. So I took my broken Japanese, got on Skype and called bookers. Everyone I called was so nice. No one had the usual ‘I’m hip and you’re only hip if I say you’re hip’ attitude.”

The White Noise Supremacists’ eponymous third EP will be released during the upcoming tour. Babalola also plans to release her first full album “The Scene is Dead (But We Are Still Living)” later this year.

” ‘The Scene is Dead’ refers to the fact that for a while all my favorite artists were dead. When you talk to people, everybody kind of feels like the best is gone and everything is decaying, but nobody is really building anything to replace it. That’s the ‘We Are Still Living’ part. If you’re going to tear things down you’re left with the responsibility to replace it with something. You can’t just walk away.”

The White Noise Supremacists play Utero in Fukuoka on Feb. 20 (7 p.m. start; ¥1,500 in advance; 092-201-0553); Voxhall in Kyoto on Feb. 21 (¥1,800 in advance; 075-255-1596); Club Vijon in Osaka on Feb. 22 (5:30 p.m. start; ¥2,000 in advance; 06-6539-7411); Mersey Beat in Kobe on Feb. 23 (6:30 p.m. start; ¥1,500 in advance; 078-231-6960); Urga in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo, on Feb. 24 (¥1,800; 03-5287-3390); Shimokitazawa Shelter in Setagaya Ward, Tokyo, on Feb. 25 (7 p.m. start; ¥2,300; 03-3466-7430) and Mona Records in Setagaya Ward, Tokyo, on Feb. 26 (7 p.m. ¥2,000; 03-5787-3326). For more information, visit thewns.net.