The White Wires bring the Great White North to Southern California
Canada’s pop punk outfit the White Wires is no stranger to unconventional performances. “We do a lot of weird shows,” the band’s singer, Ian Manhire, said during an interview Monday, three days away from kicking off a West Coast tour that will land the trio in L.A. on Friday night and Fullerton’s Burger Records on Sunday. “We played in a U-Haul last summer. Just pulled up on [Victoria] island at 2 a.m. and told a bunch of people and they rode their bikes out to see us. We play a lot of house parties, we play in people’s kitchens.”
But the most daunting place the rough and ready act has played was a frigid Ontario beach in February, shortly after the release of its sophomore platter, "White Wires II," from Dirtnap Records. "The beach season doesn’t last very long here,” Manhire said. “But we were always joking about doing a beach video in the winter, something totally stupid.” When the time came to shoot a video for the band’s summertime anthem, “Let’s Go to the Beach,” the group's members knew they had to put words into action. With a posse of 20 daring friends as extras, they lugged their gear to the snowy shores of a frozen lake.
“It was like minus 20 degrees Celsius,” said Manhire. “It was a really cold Canadian night, and then it was windy on top of that. Girls were in full-on bathing suits, guys were in shorts. I was playing my guitar on the first take and my fingers actually went numb, so I played with construction gloves after that. But Allie was a total trooper. She was in a bikini playing drums and she was freezing. I was trying to sing along with the words but my face was so numb that it actually doesn’t sync up very well.”
The White Wires formed in 2007. With Manhire’s high school friend and former Million Dollar Marxists singer Luke Martin plucking bass and drummer Allie Hanlon, who has her own solo career as the divinely sweet Peach Kelli Pop, the trio quickly made its mark on the band-friendly city of Ottawa. “Ottawa’s the second biggest city [in Ontario],” said Manhire, who formed the short-lived label Going GaGa to release music by local artists, including his band’s debut. “There’s a really strong DIY music scene here. There’s a lot of bands and people help each other out.”
Since then, the White Wires have released a handful of singles and two albums, with a sound that weaves together the good-natured lyrical bounce of pop with the taut instrumentation of punk. “White Wires II,” which hit record stores in November, found the band heading in a more amped-up direction. “We got a little bit tighter,” said Manhire. “We picked up the speed a little bit with a lot more down strokes and quicker songs. It has a more punk aesthetic to it.”
In the meantime, the act is excited to be embarking on its first tour of the Golden State. “We’ve been to the States maybe five times, including SXSW twice, but we’ve never been to California,” said Manhire, whose record collection features a number of classic L.A. punk acts such as the Weirdos, the Screamers, the Bags and the Adolescents. “That’s something we’ve always wanted to do, get down to the Bay Area, and L.A. and San Diego.”
As for the future, the White Wires already have plans for their next full-length, “White Wires III,” which the band hopes to have in the can before the end of the year. “I want to try and do something a little more poppy for the next one,” said Manhire. “One thing a few people mentioned was on the first album they really liked the bass hooks and then on the second it was just like four-on-the-floor punk rock riffs and not as many bass lines. So on our next album, I want to go back a little and revisit that with lots of bass rhythm and melody.”
Check out the White Wires' sub-zero music video for “Let’s Go to the Beach,” below.
-- Jason Gelt
The White Wires with Mean Jeans, Wrong Words and Pangea at the Blue Star, 2200 E. 15th St., 8 p.m. Friday. Tickets are $10. Sunday at Burger Records, 645 S. State College Blvd., No. A, Fullerton, 4-7 p.m. Free.
Photo: The White Wires. Credit: Christian Kock