Bardo is a transitional state of being, the phase of existence between death and rebirth. It marks the end of one thing and the beginning of another. It represents an evolution, which is why the title of White Arrows’ second album, In Bardo, is so appropriate. The Los Angeles indie rock band found themselves in a new plane of being after touring extensively since their inception, finally grounded enough to create a cohesive work that reflected the musicians’ present mindset.
White Arrows, a four-piece who met in Los Angeles, began touring almost as soon as they formed, hitting the road with Cults, White Denim and The Naked and Famous, and performing at festivals like Coachella and Sasquatch. The transitory, continuous nature of touring meant that their 2012 debut album, Dry Land Is Not A Myth, was created in bouts, pulled together over the course of almost two years. After Coachella last year, the band finally returned home with no obligations set out before them and allowed the creative process to take them whenever it would.
“My only motivation was to make songs,” Mickey says. “I wanted to get out all the ideas in a way that was productive and creative. There was no sense of what the songs would be – I just wanted to make music. I think there became a cohesive approach as we went along because we were writing at one particular moment in time. This is all from the same headspace.” Andrew adds, “Our sound just locked into place as we were writing it. After the first few songs it clicked in and things started moving faster. I wouldn’t say we knew what we were doing going into it, but we found out along the way.”
Certain thematic elements were circling the music, even as Mickey wrote some of the lyrics in a stream of consciousness fashion. He found that death, sex and religion were always present, always around him, and those ideas sunk into the music on In Bardo itself. The songs are darker and deeper than those White Arrows have created previously, threaded together by these omnipresent and sometimes unconscious themes. “Things were happening and I was thinking about the same things over and over again every day and writing about them,” Mickey says. “Those are topics that tend to come up in conversation or you hear people talking about on the street. It was constantly there. I don’t think it was conscious effort to make an album based on those things but it ended up inherently being thematically very similar on a song to song basis.”
Musically, In Bardo takes a few strides in a new direction for the band. Andrew, who had written prior material on keyboards, picked up the guitar and focused strongly on how to integrate the instrument into White Arrows’ innovative blend of psychedelic rock and electronic indie pop. “Nobody Cares” was the first song to emerge after touring, a number Mickey says most aptly conveys the musical balance White Arrows was seeking. “We Can’t Ever Die,” a boisterous, hook-tinged track that reflects the disc’s title, fully embraces that aesthetic, setting the stage for the rest of the music the band wrote.
After meeting with several producers, White Arrows selected Jimmy Messer and spent the winter recording with him at his Los Angeles studio The Tube. It was the band’s first time making music in a real studio with a producer, and the musicians found the experience to be ideal. “We loved it,” Andrew adds. “It was a very freeing experience. Jimmy had good perspective on guitar, which was helpful because that’s where we were trying to shift. It was the most harmonious record-making process I’ve had with any band so far.”
For White Arrows, In Bardo is the transition. It marks the end of one thing and the beginning of another. The songs, from moody album opener “I Want A Taste” to surging standout number “Leave It Alone” to the evocative two-part closer, represent the musicians’ current mindset and inspirations, pulled cohesively together by their succinct process of creation. It is, as Mickey says, the band’s real introduction into the world.