“We didn’t know what we were doing when it started,” says guitarist and keyboardist Dean Fertita. “There was no definition to anything – we just kind of found our way as we were making the record. It’s inspiring to make something in that way, you know – it’s a very collaborative thing.” Going with the flow is something Fertita, Jack Lawrence, Alison Mosshart and Jack White know a lot about. It’s an attitude that has seen the four musicians come together on a string of exciting projects, and their new band, The Dead Weather, is no exception.
Last January, at the end of a Kills and Raconteurs tour, the four had a jam in White’s Third Man Studios in Nashville and, despite all being in other bands – Dean in Queens Of The Stone Age and The Raconteurs, Jack White in The White Stripes and The Raconteurs, Alison in The Kills and Jack Lawrence in The Raconteurs and The Greenhornes – they felt an instant chemistry. “We felt like we were doing something that was creatively satisfying,” says Dean. “More than just repeating ourselves, we felt like we were doing something real, you know, that maybe we hadn’t done in our other bands.”
The creative juices were flowing and, without stopping to think about it, they wrote debut album Horehound in just two and a half weeks. It happened so organically, they even grew into their ominous name with little thought. “We can’t remember the day or the exact moment we decided on it,” says Dean, “but I think we liked that it conveyed a mood. It came to represent the sound we were making.”
Like every natural conception, the environment had to be just right and White’s studios, headquarters of his Third Man record label, provided the perfect creative utopia for the bluesy baby to grow. “There’s a store where people can come and buy the records,” says Jack Lawrence. “There are offices, a dark room and a photo studio. It’s all hands-on and it’s like a family. I’m there whenever I can be, shifting records or boxing them or whatever.”
The self-managed path they have chosen also means the four band members can devote time to other creative projects such as Dean and Jack Lawrence’s collaboration with Karen O on the Where The Wild Things Are soundtrack. “I’ve known Karen and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs for a while,” says Lawrence. “We were staying in the same hotel as them one night in London so we started to write some music together – Karen, Dean and I. Then when Spike [Jonze] asked her to do the music for the film, she reached out to us, mainly because she wanted to put a group of people together who would get along and who had a child-like sense to them. It was a great experience. We were a real little band for a while, everybody had ideas and everybody listened to everyone else.”
Dubbed Karen O and the Kids, the band approached the project with their inner-child in mind and, having all read the book and seen clips from the film, tried to tap into their natural and emotional responses. “We just started making music,” says Dean. “It was another instance of nobody really having a defined role. Then Spike got a little bit more involved to help us fine-tune everything. He was incredibly motivating to be around. He had so much energy and made you feel really good about what you were doing. It was nice to be around someone that knew exactly what they were looking for but weren’t telling you what to do. He wanted us to draw on our own experiences and imagination as well.”
Having put their wild imaginings out into the world, are they happy with the end result? “We saw the movie a few weeks ago at the premiere in New York,” says Lawrence. “I didn’t realise how prominent the music is throughout the whole film and I think it has a real feeling. The movie is the feeling of being a child. Watching it almost felt like a dream.”
As for The Dead Weather, the band plans to record another album before Christmas 2009, but anything beyond that is as unpredictable as nature itself. One thing, however, is for sure: if they continue to nurture their creativity together, extraordinary things are bound to blossom. “I think it’s all about creating art,” says Lawrence. “Just making something that will stick around… well, trying to at least.”