White Fence (aka former Darker My Love leader Tim Presley) is enfolded in a musical junk shop of the past 50 years, created for those fond of old records and hissing gear.
After collaborating with such diverse luminaries as Ty Segall, Cate Le Bon, Foxygen and The Fall, as well as discovering folk chanteuse of the moment Jessica Pratt, the LA-based Presley rolls out of the rock garage into Berghain Kantine on Tue, Feb 3.
You started Birth Records just to release Jessica Pratt.
I knew she played music, but I hadn’t heard any of it. She lived with my brother in San Francisco and was very quiet; I hardly noticed her. And then her boyfriend at the time sent me some of her music out of the blue. My label isn’t my main concern at the moment, but I am trying to get the rights to a Gene Vincent record he did right before he died.
You play all the instruments on the White Fence albums.
Except the latest one that has [drummer] Nick Murray and Ty Segall. I had a dream of being like the Beatles or Beach Boys, where you live in the studio and you experiment. We aren’t on a major label, so we don’t have the money to do that. The closest thing we can get to that is to do it at home and doing it alone, regardless of fidelity. There is a certain freedom with doing things from home. Releasing records is no problem. Having a cluster of shows and having to tour is a bigger problem. There’s always a new member in White Fence, and I have to teach them all the songs again.
How was the transition from the shoegazing Darker My Love to the garage-y White Fence?
I liked making weird songs in my room and I didn’t think the dudes from Darker My Love would like the songs. It was therapeutic for me: something had to change. In the mid-to-late 2000s, a lot of the psychedelic and shoegaze bands were repeating themselves, creatively speaking.
The Ramones did the same thing for 30 years.
They had a formula and it worked. We didn’t have a huge fan base like them. If it worked for us like that, we would have just done the formula. We were more like The Beau Brummels – we stripped it down of all the excess. They were doing Beatles-like music and garage rock. At the end, they did [1968’s] Bradley’s Barn (Warner Brothers), which is like a country rock record. That is the one I like.
Speaking of stripping and excess, around that time you joined The Fall.
Mark E. Smith had fired his band on the 2006 American tour. [Darker My Love bassist] Rob Barbato and I met him in Arizona and practised as The Fall for a day and we were able to finish the tour dates. After that, Mark E. Smith said, “We are going into the studio in three days,” and we were like, “What?” Elena [Poulou, Fall keyboardist and wife of Smith] and Mark had three songs written. They hummed the songs to us and we came up with the chords. Mark claims to know how to play guitar, but I never saw him play.
I imagine touring with people like Smith must cause some problems at border control.
Not really, other than them just thinking we look strange. I am usually able to charm civil servants because my last name is Presley – they always think that’s amusing. We got zero grief this last time going through. Maybe they finally wised up and realised it’s not musicians and artists that are the problem. Check the “normal” people for a change. Normal-looking people are scary, and up to no good.
WHITE FENCE W/ ULTIMATE PAINTING Tue, Feb 3, 20:00 | Berghain Kantine, Rüdersdorfer Str. 70, Friedrichshain, S-Bhf Ostbahnhof
Originally published in issue #135, February 2015.