White Wives marry the personal and political | Music | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

White Wives marry the personal and political

White Wives trades on a unique combination of Roger Harvey's singer-songwriter background and Chris Barker's punk and emo roots.

White Wives marry the personal and political
What's happening? White Wives (from left, Tyler Kweder, Chris Head, Roger Harvey, Chris "#2" Barker)

Not every article about punk bands comes with a set of prerequisites. But before we discuss White Wives, it's helpful that you know a thing or two about the 1960s Dutch anarchist movement known as Provo. 

The Provos were contemporaries of the French Situationists, and forerunners of the Yippies in the United States: leftist artistic provocateurs whose program for change employed a spectrum of methods from conventional propaganda and direct action to absurdist performance art. The Provos responsible for the latter were known as the "happeners."

Happeners is also the title of White Wives' debut LP, on Adeline Records. The post-emo punk band was borne of a collaboration between Roger Harvey of Dandelion Snow and Chris "#2" Barker of Anti-Flag, and takes plenty of inspiration from the impish Dutch activists.

"We're all very socially concerned people," Harvey explains. "But we wanted to take a different approach, to the same issues, than some of the other projects we have." 

White Wives formed after Harvey, a Pittsburgh native who was living in Brooklyn for a time, sent some of his songs to Barker, a longtime friend and mentor. After Barker produced Harvey's record as Dandelion Snow, they began playing together; more recently, they've enlisted Chris Head (Barker's Anti-Flag bandmate) and Tyler Kweder to round out the band.

White Wives trade on a unique combination of Harvey's singer-songwriter background and Barker's punk and emo roots. Happeners' anthemic opening track, "Indian Summer," sets up the band's soft side; later in the album, things get more serious. "Grow So Wild & Free" is perhaps the album's most political ("If the working class is getting fucked / Then things are right where they should be," Harvey sings, with a sense of irony), and contains what Barker says is one of his favorite lyrics on the record, penned by Harvey.

"It says: ‘They're selling silver guns / The same way they sell our CDs," Barker explains. "That's always been such a terrible issue for me -- being in a political band [for which] Best Buy is the number-one seller of our record. It's so simple, but sometimes you need someone to present it to you in that form, to finish the thought."

Harvey says the combination of his songwriting and Barker's political punk background is what makes White Wives a more complex animal. "We found a middle ground -- but we're also pushing ourselves to be more eclectic. Using more literary devices, so it's a little more ambiguous. So it's not just ‘My heart got broken,' or, ‘Fuck that.'"

WHITE WIVES CD RELEASE with BALANCE & COMPOSURE, ALLIES, ANCHORS END. 6 p.m. Fri., June 24. $5 donation. 222 Ormsby Ave., Mount Oliver. 222ormsby.tumblr.com

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