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White Like Fire greets the 'Apocalypstic'

• White Like Fire made it to SXSW in the best way possible -- with a little corporate money.

The Pittsburgh trio, formed in Shippensburg three years ago, beat out 7,000 other bands to win the SonicBids JanSport Battle of the Bands, giving the group seven showcases and $5,000 in expenses.

"Even if we had to pay for gas and sleep in the van all week, we still would have done it -- it is such a rad experience," says guitarist/backing vocalist Blake Clawson. "We got some cool opportunities to perform in front of some cool people, partied a lot, did not sleep."

It's easy to see how White Like Fire took the prize as the three guys look the part and come at you with waves of hooks and a catchy power-pop sound you can file with Phoenix, early MGMT and Two Door Cinema.

The SXSW trip was a nice set up for the band to follow last year's EP with the new album "Apocalypstic."

"The new LP is more [ticked] off while keeping the same emotive pop hooks and disco beats that made us a party band to begin with," the guitarist says. "People in Pittsburgh, or any local scene, don't want to be inspired, and they don't want to hear shallow love songs either for that matter, but everyone wants to forget about their [stuff] and party."

The lead-off track, "See How Far," snagging a riff from Phoenix, is the best showcase of the band's shimmery guitar work, percolating energy and the excitable vocals of singer/bassist Tyler Clawson (Blake's brother).

" 'See How Far' was actually more inspired by Oberhofer and his glockenspiel lines. We wanted to make a guitar riff that sounded like bells. That's the riff I wrote. Then we ended up getting a glock anyway for the chorus build, funny enough. But it does sound like Phoenix. We've been compared to those Frenchmen before."

The song "Witness" will be featured on the CMJ April 2014 Mixtape. The band built these little walls of sound with producer David Klug (not the Hector in Paris drummer/illustrator).

"David Klug is an OCD detail-oriented freak with a metal background," Mr. Clawson says. "He has a basement studio in Mount Washington, where we argue and fight over how to mic guitars and how loud the drums should be, and in the end we come out with a product we are proud to put our names on. White Like Fire and Dave have a chemistry that is similar to our relationship with Pittsburgh. It's rough, but the pressure produces something better.

"I don't even think he likes our music," he adds laughing, "but he knows how to work with us to bring out a great basement recording."

The guitarist says the "rough" relationship remark refers to the band being a little too pop-oriented for the scene here.

"People did not like this project at first in Pittsburgh for that reason. But that forced us to get better at getting their attention. Lighting our gear on fire, being rowdy on stage, doing everything we could to show people we wanted to help them 'let go.' Pittsburgh is a tough scene, and I still don't think we really fit in, we love it though."

White Like Fire -- which Mr. Clawson says is "nomadic these days" -- does have a way to get away from here.

"We have a trashy van that serves as headquarters these days, and are just trying to play and network as much as possible."


Kellee's secrets on HuffPo

• "Don't Do Free Shows."

"Don't Contact Music Blogs."

"Don't Worry About 'Getting Signed.' "

Those are just a few of Pittsburgh artist Kellee Maize's suggestions on "How I 'Made It' in the Music Industry: My Top 10 Tips," posted in late March on Huffington Post.

The Pittsburgh rapper/singer explains at the outset that she's not a superstar filling arenas but that she's able to make a living as a musician.

She notes that "95 percent of signed artists fail" and that music blogs, while helpful, are bombarded with submissions and will only discourage artists who don't get a bite.

She outlines how to give your music away effectively, how to make money through licensing and how to use social media to build a following.

Apparently, a lot of people agree with her tips. The piece has 10K Likes, 5,500-plus tweets and a mere three comments, only one of them nit-picking.



-- Scott Mervis; smervis@post-gazette.com

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