Last month I had the opportunity to go to a little malt shop in Eastern Idaho to see a band I had never heard of before. More than that, I was able to talk to them about their music and their process.
I didn’t know what I was missing, but to my credit, they haven’t been around very long.
Brooke White got national attention in 2008 when she appeared on American Idol,but ended up being eliminated after making it to the Top 5.
She released a solo album the following year. Then while working on her next release, she met Jack Matranga who started helping her write music for the album. What they ended up with wasn’t what they expected.
“They just sounded like they needed to be their own songs for their own thing,” Brooke explained to me. “Before we knew it, we were talking about playing shows and putting out an EP.” Jack and White was born.
The first show they played together was summer 2011 in Rexburg. Last week they returned on a short tour.
I’d be remiss without mentioning Calee Schroeder (some local talent) and Benton Paul (who I’ve heard a song or two from before), who opened for the duo. They were both great. Exactly what you’d expect to hear in a college town café on a Friday night. Maybe even better than that.
In a small venue like Sammy’s café and shake shop, the whole experience is more intimate than bigger settings. And I think it’s better.
For the jangle-y Feathers, Matranga took an acoustic guitar, Brooke snatched up a tambourine and they taught the audience a little sing-along. You could see Brooke’s face light up like a ray of sunshine every time she made eye contact with people in the crowd singing. The giant sunburst on the back wall and soft amber light helped cement the analogy.
Juxtapose that with the hauntingly cold, wintry feel of Voices and you can get a feel for the duality that Brooke said their music is all about. Jack and Brooke are both Gemini (hence the name of their first EP), and while Brooke said she does not put much stock in the zodiac, when Jack explained to her (and before the show, he explained it to me, too) a little of the two-sided nature of Gemini, she said it struck a chord with her. Literally.
“There’s just something in music that brings out that other side of me,” Brooke said. “I’m normally a pretty lighthearted person.”
Songs like Gemini and Smoke and Mirrors showcase the more melancholy side of that duality, while Double Trouble highlights the more easygoing side. Brooke said she sees more of that duality in her life the more she looks, most obviously between her background in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and her chosen profession in the entertainment industry, which isn’t exactly in-sync with the LDS church’s rigorous standards.
As a musician, this is one of the best concerts I have been to. I hardly ever get to pick a musician’s brain before they go on. Both Jack and Brooke have some serious talent. Their music feels like a fresh, yet simple take on classic rock, with healthy doses of folk and pop thrown in. If Fleetwood Mac formed last year, they’d sound like Jack and White.
There are very few bands that I get all super-fan-boy about. With Spotify, etc., I hardly ever try to get all of an artist’s music without hearing it online first. And by then I probably won’t buy it because I don’t have to. I did pick up both of J&W’s EPs and pre-ordered their cover album, which they haven’t even started recording yet.
On their website, you can get a free download of acoustic versions of everything off their first EP. I have that, too. And I like those under-produced, raw versions a bit more. The studio version carries over the feel of Brooke’s solo material, which is a little more pop.
So go check them out. They’re worth an hour of your time. And next time they play a town within driving distance, you’ll probably see me there, singing along.
P.S. I wrote an article for the Deseret News about the show, etc. (similar to this blog post, but still different). You can read it here.