White Eyes Released on Numero Group
As I’ve written before, Numero Group (in conjunction with Cavern Sounds) is doing some wonderful things to bring the rich recording history of Kansas City back to the forefront of the music scene. Numero Group is a record label that works to archive lost recordings, and their latest release is from the St. Joseph band White Eyes.
As the above video says, White Eyes sent out waves of hippie vibes from the Midwest to each coast. The band’s tube-fuzzed sound generates a warmth to match Kaleidoscope, The Aliens, Jefferson Airplane, or any other late 60s psych outfit. That said, there’s something undeniably unique about White Eyes and each of the eight tracks on the album. Maybe it’s the gritty tones that hide just below their weeping vocal melodies (all of the album’s vocal harmonies were recorded live with no overdubs). Or maybe it’s their penchant to jump from a simple but catchy riff to a blistering solo. Or maybe it’s the way their songs linger in your mind long after their done. Whatever it is, White Eyes is a treasure of a musical time capsule.
I say White Eyes is a treasure because the band shows the continuity of music in the Kansas City area. For me, releases like this help me understand the current musical environment. Institutions like Middle of the Map, Westport Roots Fest, Psych Fest, KC Blackdeath Fest, and all the other exciting things music-related happening in the area didn’t just spring forth ex nihilo. The city, the area has been bubbling with music since its inception. From jazz to 60s psychedelia, from big bands to synth pop, Kansas City is a place that radiates music.
But rather than being a merely a testament to the area’s sensibilities, White Eyes is a fantastic album. The groovy bass riffs in tracks like “What It’s Like” and “Hard Hard Livin’” combined with the driving rock sound of “Streetcar Love” and “Rider” give the album all the best aspects of bands like Allman Brothers Band and Jungle without any of the negatives.
While most of the tracks bubble with a fast paced energy, my favorite track, “October,” offers a beautiful counterpoint. In the song, White Eyes shows their depth and just how haunting they can make a track. “October” has a bluesy doo-wop sort of vibe to it that perfectly highlights the restrained passion of its vocals.
So if this album is so great why wasn’t it released? I chatted with Blake Rhein of Numero Group and he says that White Eyes was definitely a live band first. The members were consumed with gigging around the Midwest–putting on shows that started out sparse only to build into their more blistering electric numbers. This type of performance coupled with their powerful command of vocal melodies kept White Eyes a cut above the rest.
Rhein also mentioned that the band was dead set on a major label deal and the idea of a self-release may not have even crossed their mind. After a few near misses and unlucky circumstances, White Eyes called it quits, leaving their psychedelic sounds unreleased until Numero Group (quite literally) unearthed it.
So if you’re searching for a fantastic record that just so happens to be a piece of Kansas City music history, look no further than White Eyes. The album gives a taste of the musical milieu of 1960s Midwest. Lush vocal melodies, fuzzy guitar, shimmering percussion, and a thickened bass all come together for a sound as unique as the cities that helped create it.