The Whitest Boy Alive - Biography
The Whitest Boy Alive is a Berlin-based indie pop band that evolved from its 2003 beginnings as manufacturers of dance floor music that exclusively used synthesizers and other computerized programming elements. The four-piece outfit is comprised of Norwegian vocalist/guitarist Erlend Øye (the bespectacled other half of the subdued folk-pop duo Kings of Convenience, as well), bassist Marcin Öz, drummer Sebastian Maschat and pianist/keyboardist Daniel Nentwig, took cues from iconic indie rockers, Talking Heads. Since the band’s inception, they have recorded two full-length albums and toured extensively in Europe and Mexico.
In their earliest incarnation, The Whitest Boy Alive created house and dance music via computers but got bored with this sedentary form and resigned to pick up instruments. In an interview, the band has said that they became enthralled with the aspect of “having the limitation of what you can actually play” rather than the limitlessness of computerized song making, to embrace spontaneity and do away with premeditated, unalterable live shows. They replaced the drum machine with Sebastian Maschat and began rehearsing together, eventually developing into a more organic entity with a shared interest in Chicago and Detroit music, house and techno, and the pop sensibilities of bands like Talking Heads. They also parlayed it all into quasi-funk territory, something that was a bit of a departure from Øye’s other forays with DJ Kicks and Kings of Convenience.
The band signed to the Germany indie label Bubbles and released its first full-length album, Dreams, in the summer of 2006. After playing dates throughout mainland Europe, the UK-based imprint Modular Records signed TWBA and the band went to England to perform at the London Astoria opening for New Young Pony Club. Leagues away from the sounds of their earlier output, the album was groove-oriented and heavily influenced by the electric piano, most notably on the single “Burning.” This element would be fortified by the band’s sophomore release, when Daniel “Mr. Synth” Nentwig’s Rhodes piano and the highly-flexible/quirky 1978 Crumar synthesizer (an Italian instrument) became the backbone of The White Boy Alive’s sound.
The band relocated to La Cruz, Nayarit, Mexico to record the follow-up album at a friend’s house that they converted into what they called The Glass Cube studio. Their second album, Rules (2009 Bubbles), was released to a burgeoning fanbase that had grown intrigued by the multi-faceted smooth-pop direction the group was taking. To support the 11-track album, The Whitest Boy Alive played sold out shows across Europe, from Denmark to France to Sweden, with the lively vibe of their music complimented by the band’s nerdy histrionics on stage (such as Nentwig jumping from his piano, and Øye’s Rick Moranis-like banter and facial expressions). The track “1517” was used in the soundtrack for the soccer video game, Fifa 10.
The Whitest Boy Alive played in the United States in the spring of 2010, performing in San Francisco, at the famed Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, and to SRO crowds at the Bowery Ballroom in New York City.