GARAGE | Miles Raymer
Back in 2007 Alex White was just starting a 45-day tour in Europe with her band the Red Orchestra when she completely lost her voice. She was desperate enough to call on the big guy. "Basically," she says, "I made this deal with God that if he gave me my voice back on this tour that I would eventually record songs to honor that deal—the way that he pulled through."
"It took me a little while," she adds.
Since then the Red Orchestra has disbanded and Alex and her brother Francis have achieved some renown as the industrious and energetic garage duo White Mystery. In spring 2011 the duo booked a recording session with local garage stalwart and Outer Minds front man Zach Medearis, who'd previously produced a White Mystery single for HoZac Records. But then Alex decided that they wouldn't be tracking White Mystery material—it was time to cut those songs for God.
Alex and Francis recruited Medearis to contribute vocals and 12-string electric guitar, and the new trio, calling itself Righteous Love, recorded three songs that combine the kind of fuzzed-out garage pop that the Whites and Medearis usually play with elements pulled straight from vintage gospel albums. The churchy part of their sound might surprise you, but it's not actually a left turn for the musicians. "Me and Alex used to be in that band Headspacer together a few years ago," says Medearis. "When we first started, me and her would jam out on like Staple Singers—'Wade in the Water,' songs like that. For years we were talking about doing a gospel project together."
On Christmas Alex made the tracks available through Bandcamp for a dollar apiece. "Heart of Gold" is a fairly straightforward stomper, while "Black Jesus" is a flavor of rock a bit more soulful than Outer Minds or White Mystery. The real eye-opener is "Light Shine Through," which connects the dots between church choirs and the youth-gang group vocals of classic garage rock.
As for the songs' religious intent, Righteous Love's members tell me it's complicated—but I'm confident they're at least partly sincere, even though I'd never expect any of these folks to try to tell me the good news. After our interview I get a follow-up message from Alex on Facebook: "make sure god gets a shoutout."