Almost exactly a year ago, I had the chance to sit down with 3 of the 4 members DD White, a then-fledging indie-rock group of Michiganders transplanted into the heart and soul of New York’s ever-present music scene. Meeting in a New Yorker’s second worst-nightmare, Penn Station, DD White and I had drinks, an in-depth discussion on their music and the direction that it was headed. In the last year, a canal of success has carved a path that will put these motor city musicians a head above the crowd.
Who is DD White
Sean: So you guys are DD White. Who does what?
Tiffany: I’m the girl, I’m the singer, main songwriter.
Guys: [Laughter] She’s the girl
Tiffany: I’m the girl. The blonde.
Chris: I’m the curly headed bassist, and I do arrangements and dance around on stage.
Tiffany: Music Director!
Colin: You’re the music director Chris. I’m Colin and I’m one of the guitar players in the band. I definitely help with arrangement ideas and add other fun colors to the music; I also take care of a lot of the business aspects of the project. So booking and help with promotion and stuff like that.
Tiffany: Also, graphic designer, video editor… we’re all sort of social media experts.
Where does the name DD White come from?
Tiffany: It comes from my grandmother, her name is Dorothy White, and she passed away a couple weeks after DD White started to grow. She was kind of the unsung hero of my family just an amazing woman, posthumously I feel like this band is a tribute to representing what she represented which was light and love and acceptance, and funny, goofy, happiness.
Posthumously I feel like this band is a tribute to representing what she represented which was light and love and acceptance
What is the DD White Sound?
Colin: The DD White sound is definitely growing, it’s a blend of a couple different things. It’s a blend of pop, it’s influenced by mostly the 60s pop-soul tones. We mix a little bit of indie-rock, we have a little bit of R&B there’s a little bit of rock & roll in there, but it’s definitely modernized, it’s not just a throwback to these old sounds. But we’re an eclectic group of musicians. Tiffany loves reggae music, Chris loves Jazz and there’s these homages to the music that inspired us and you can hear it in the music. It definitely has a foundation in pop, but it definitely expands in a lot of genres. We don’t totally go to those things.
Tiffany: And it’s theatrical at times because you can’t help but be… I mean I’m in theatre, Chris played for a lot of theatre, our drummer Zach plays for a lot of theatre. We appreciate theatre
Colin: And theatre in the form that we’re all about a big exciting show, we like to bring exciting antics to the stage. We like people to walk away and feel like they had an experience and
Tiffany: …tell a story.
As a band, who would you say are your biggest influences, and who would you say is the gold standard for you guys as a group or individually?
Tiffany: I always go to the Beatles, we haven’t even talked about this as a band. But the fact that [they have] so many different styles, so many hits, the synergy that everybody played a part, it was a team, and sort of what we’re doing, we’re a team, every part matters.
Chris: We’ve never talked about this, but a common thread…
Tiffany: We’re learning about each other
Colin: Which is awesome.
Chris: Jack White is definitely an influence on all of us and I think that’s both on a musical level and
Tiffany & Colin: … the brand.
Tiffany: Although we’re not named after him.
Sean: So Jack White as in the songwriter and producer, or Jack White a la the White Stripes
Colin: For me, the White Stripes were definitely the early adaptation of Jack White’s influences, cause even in my guitar playing early on it was influenced by the garage rock scene.
Tiffany: Plus the vicinity to where we grew up.
Colin: People have compared DD White to No Doubt
Tiffany: Because I’m blonde and we do some reggae
Colin: People have also said Amy Winehouse backed by the Ramones which is kind of funny.
Tiffany: Amy Winehouse, but sipping on helium.
On the inverse of that what are some of your musical guilty pleasures, and do you think it slips into your music?
Colin: I love Gary Clark Jr
Chris: …that’s not a guilty pleasure, I’ll take this one. For me, I listened to the Monkee’s a shitload as a kid. The way that would slip out was in the theatrical side of things for sure.
Tiffany: I’m a child of the 90s and 2000s, I loved NSync, the Backstreet Boys, Britney, how could you not? We talk about it, and you listen back to those tracks, and you give them shit, we’re all gonna give it shit, but those musicians, the production and what was put into that was awesome
Colin: Hanson man, holy moly! Hanson’s no joke now, but when you’re younger and you hear that song MMMbop, it just stays in your head and you’re a little kid.
Sean: What does the music you are currently working on sound like? What would you compare it to?
Tiffany: We’re starting to go through this maturity of sound and topics, and subjects, and feel and vibe and every song does have a different vibe, and that’s a theatrical aspect, but it’s unified by the sound, it can’t help but be because we have a group of people all contributing.
Colin: We’re pushing towards that philosophy of we’re driven by having that solid, well-defined hook but backed by this incredibly moving group. Chris is a very rhythmic person, and Tiffany is a very melodic person, so she thinks in melody lots of the time and Chris has this incredible backbone so the music definitely moves but it can be slow or fast but it has a deep pocket to it, and that’s something that we love.
So did any of you guys go to music school or consider it?
Tiffany: So…I went to music school, Chris went to music school, Tim went to music school, Zach went to Yale, Colin went to school for music business.
Sean: Alright so you’ve got a well-rounded music crew.
Tiffany: We’re overly educated
Chris: Overly educated musicians.
What was the musical big bang for you guys as a group? What made you each individually want to go into music and then what made you guys come together and create DD White?
Colin: So for me getting into music started from my parents, they were huge music lovers. My mom and dad were really into classic rock and blues.
Tiffany: Big Bang…
Colin: Big Bang. Big Bang?
Tiffany: Big Bang, why you wanted to go into music.
Colin: I remember the first time I saw a live performance from Angus Young and he had this guitar, and he had this incredible energy and this presence that was just undeniable. Just watching that [made me realize] “that’s what I wanna do!” I wanna be on stage, entertaining people and let them be in awe of the performance I just gave them.
Chris: For me personally, the big bang was when my brother made me play the bass to be in his band. My father and my brother are huge influences, but for this group, for me personally, DD White’s sound really came together at Olly Strauss’ studio Mission Sound in Brooklyn
Tiffany: Big Bang, it’s been like a slow bang, over and over and over and over and over again.
[Table laughs uncontrollably]
Sean: That’s fair.
Tiffany: But, I was always very attracted to the stage and performing, and I found comfort in being in front of people making a thing about myself. My dad was in music, so I just remember digging up his tapes and listening to all of them. Big Bang for the group… I’ve been at it forever, Colin and I used to jam many years ago and we would come up with some really good shit and we both knew that there was something there and then it was at the studio in Brooklyn when we all kind of looked at each other said “fuck yes, we’re going to do this, it’s happening and nothing is gonna stand in our way”
Colin: Piggybacking off that, so Tiffany and I, our relationship started about 5 or 6 years ago, and we used to cut demos together and she would come home from tour, she was doing…
Tiffany: Theatre, that was the original stage, the theatre. Musical Theatre
Colin: So when she would come back from tours she would visit in Michigan and we would get together and she’s like “you know I have so many song ideas and I’ve been doing some stuff” and we would just jam some stuff out and ideas, she’d cut some demos any time she was home, we would always get together and some of the earliest demos were just cut by hanging out and so we’ve had this relationship building for a few years and…
Tiffany: I remember we were talking, I’m like “dude, I just need to record some of this stuff” he introduced me to Audacity, which was a free program, that’s what I pretty much use actually to this day, don’t tell anybody.
Colin: Sean doesn’t judge, it’s a perfectly reasonable tool.
Sean: It is.
Colin: It is, yeah, so when we were recording those early demos I was like “man, this girl has some really cool things,” great hooks, and just earworms, and every time we do these demos they would burn into my head. I just knew she had incredible capabilities and I was playing in a couple different bands in Detroit at the time, I was playing with a folk rock band and an R&B group, I was playing on a couple different projects and was seeing some success in some of them, but i got to a point where I wanted to take things a little more serious and I was looking at doing a move to LA but then Tiffany convinced me to come to New York to help her pretty much build out the band that she had been starting, so as soon as I got to New York, I looked at the project like, “you’ve got some good things, but let’s take it to the next lever” DD White started to form at that point. Then we got Chris involved, he was already playing with Tiffany for a few years but he was just playing casually…
Tiffany: And then we got into a serious relationship
Sean: That’s actually a perfect segue for my next question, how did you all end up in New York?
Chris: We’re all Metro Detroiters, I ended up here after four years on cruise ships, after college, so that was kind of my graduate school basically and I got paid. I knew I wanted to move to New York since I was 18, and so I saved up the money and made the move when I decided I was done floating around.
Tiffany [to Chris]: Was there some reason it was New York and not some other city?
Chris: Absolutely, the reason is that… actually two reasons. I’m a Jazz nerd and number two is because I visited New York once a year since I was 18 and I have friends who lived here who are incredible musicians in the scene. So, I saw how people lived and I just wanted to make a move. I was single and young and didn’t have any huge obligations that were tying me down.
Tiffany: Yeah, I kinda go on the visiting New York growing up, the first time I ever visited New York, the next day the Twin Towers fell. So got home, went back to school and then next morning, the Twin Towers fell and people still thought I was in New York, and it’s interesting after all of that tragedy that I was always drawn to it. Again, it’s a natural progression for theatre and that kind of scene. But I remember the first time I bought drivers plate with the name Tiffany.
She brings this incredible piece of clay, and Chris and I help shape it, and everyone else in the process is coming together and putting their hands on it.
What is your writing process like, and how does that translate to the studio?
Tiffany: It’s a complete collaboration between all of us. I generally record my self with the ukulele at home on the cell phone. Then I bring it to the guys and we flesh it out by part and we all get together, so there’s many tracks that we’re collaborated on together. Some that Colin and other friends have contributed.
Colin: I think that’s fair to say. Tiffany comes in, she has a very good instinct on melody, so she comes in with a very strong well-defined melody. She brings this incredible piece of clay, and Chris and I help shape it, and everyone else in the process is coming together and putting their hands on it. It’s good to have one focus because she is the centerpiece of the project and we are all supporting it and we’re all working as a team to shape the sound we’re trying to achieve. We’re experimenting with new processes, but it’s a new project, so it’s an ever-changing process. Writing songs, you never know where an idea is gonna come from but the nice thing is we treat it like a team environment, so when we go into those rehearsals or those sessions, everyone is ready to contribute ideas and allow things to happen organically.
Tiffany: It’s nice to have talented musicians to work with, we trust each others talent and ability. Recording is a whole different thing because you get that outside influence and they are so far deep into it. Because we get deep into textures of this, or this harmony or also promoting or the business aspects; it’s great to have that engineer, Ollie did a great job on our first 2 songs, and he saw what we brought to the table and helped shape the sound.
Chris: That one recording process for sure, bringing in an experienced engineer who’s been in the business for decades, and who can hear things you would never have thought of, or just tweak because that’s their business as we all know. Audio Engineers are a special breed of people and they know a lot of things, but we self-produced and recorded something new, to foster skills that we already have.
Are there any favorite songs that you guys are working on?
Chris: I love Take Care
Tiffany: There’s a lot to come
Chris: There’s a lot of material and one my favorite songs that we play is called Take Care, just everything about it, I don’t know what else to say about it
Tiffany: It’s old school, it’s like 60s but emotional
Chris: It takes you on a journey, I would describe it as a ballad, and we’re known for being high energy for our stage performance but we also have enough experience to take people other places and that’s why that song stands out to me because it shows our musical sensibilities a little bit more than just our grooving fun amazing happy time.
Tiffany: I’m just excited to see once we get in the studio and get all of the parts in place how they come alive because we have some really great tracks that are little buds that are gonna bloom once we get in the studio with the right team.
Colin …and right producers. The song that sticks for me is a newer one called “You Are Mine.” Tiffany brings this song to us, and she demos everything out on a ukulele, … it’s poppy but it also has a modern sound to it sprinkled with that vintage kind of 60s pop but still feels modern, and people walk away smiling. They hear that tune, and you see the smiles on their face when they hear the song.
Tiffany: I’m excited for you are mine too.
What were you looking for out when finding a studio?
Tiffany: Definitely vibes, for us in our first shot at a studio we went with a recommendation of somebody we really trusted, cause this stuffs important to us it’s dear to all of our hearts, so when you bring it somewhere it’s a sensitive thing.
Colin: When we walked into that studio, there’s a vibe in it, there’s a dog.
Tiffany: There’s a dog!
Colin: And we were like “Awwww” and we fell in love. and there’s a Neve board, you see the console, you see the room, you see all the drums, he had an incredible selection of drums and just a vibe that felt very homey, it wasn’t just a commercial studio that you’re just going to.
Tiffany: We didn’t feel out of place, it was comfortable. I made pork tacos for everybody.
Colin: This girl brought a full pot of pulled pork with all the fixings to the studio.
Do you guys record simultaneously or do you track separately?
Tiffany: I wanted to mention before that we are a more classic project, people nowadays don’t work in this human to human collaboration, it’s computer to computer and we’re still kind of doing the human to human, and that’s important to us. So it’s not like we’re separate, on the other side of the country.
Chris: It was very traditional, we all tracked together once the drums were laid, a very traditional build of live music, but we were all together all as a group all human. We did play live together all for the first few cuts just to get those bass tracks. The way we recorded the self-recorded song for purposes of economy and time and working with our resources, it was similar. We did drum and bass live together, then the two guitars live on top of the drums and bass at later date, and then the vocals after that and then any hand percussion.
Tiffany: We built it, but we rehearsed together.
Colin: And that song we all knew so well together live, Zach and I playing together felt comfortable.
Chris: We all live in New York City, so there’s no reason for us to do much remote recordings
About their Paste
Colin: Well, we do have Paste Studios, but that was an incredibly difficult session going into it because…
Tiffany: It’s live
Colin: It’s cut live, broadcast live on Facebook, so it’s one shot, you’re in and you’re out. Two we knew going into the session that the monitoring situation was gonna be tough, not that they haven’t done projects like us, but it’s tough to cut that live and keep isolation with monitors, so there were no monitors. So we had to rely on muscle memory, it was really crucial for our preproduction process to rehearse, rehearse, rehearse, then be able to hear nothing. So when we’re in there I couldn’t hear tiffany’s vocals, she couldn’t hear herself, so you had to trust everyone and it came out incredible for those circumstances.
Tiffany: Because we were prepared.
Colin: Because we were prepared, and rehearse in a way that we can set ourselves up for success.
Tiffany: Not just rolling into the studio that day unrehearsed.
Chris: I think philosophically we prefer the live setting when possible, because we are traditionally trained, we’re traditional musicians, in that sense, and we feed off each other’s energies and I think because of my recording rehearsals all of the time it’s not an alien thing for us to hear ourselves on record all the time.
Colin: We’re always listening back to our recordings, we’re always paying attention, and we’re always giving each other notes.
When it comes to the production of the music, is there a secret Brian Epstein who is a member of the group?
Tiffany: No, but we’re looking for him, so if someone is really into DD White…we’re looking someone who’s really interested in the project that can be outside ears that we can trust.
Colin: We’re open and actively looking for a producer who can shape our record. Because we’re trying to get this EP done.
Tiffany: It’s not even that we’re necessarily looking for per se a producer, it’s like you’re saying “a sixth member”
Are there any must-have tools for collaboration? Or is this an in person all the time thing?
Chris: I record all the rehearsals with the Zoom Q2N, either audio and or video. That’s been an invaluable reource, because when you record yourself, when you’re in the middle of rehearsal you’re hitting stuff and you’re hitting stuff, but a lot of people do not realize what you’re hitting is really good and you’ll forget. So to have that brain record, I’ll listen to a 3-hour rehearsal the next day and vaguely remember what I wanted to remember or I’ll hear some shit that someone played and I can send them the recording and say “you did this improvisationally, do that again”
Colin: The camera doesn’t lie either, so it visually allows us to see how we look too when you get the visual
Tiffany: It’s like putting your big girl pants on, the whole thing is there.
Colin: When we’re cutting demos we’re using Logic Pro, it’s so intuitive it’s easy to get started, and it’s seamless. It’s been very useful to get the team on the same page. The plugins like the drummer and all these new tools just help you get demos going quickly, and you can get demos off the ground and I’m a big fan of that.
Tiffany: We love our Google Drive. Use your Google Drive.
Colin: Chris uses a Focusrite Scarlette and I use a Universal Audio Apollo, I love that thing. I think the Apollo’s really great, I love that it has it’s own brain, I love that I don’t have to put as much strain on my computer and that I can cut things quickly. But we’ve been diving a lot more into the business side, the entrepreneurial spirit is something this band really values. That can-do attitude is a culture we’re really cultivated among one another and we all support that as a team.
Are there any pieces of gear that you look forward to seeing in a studio?
Colin: I’m a huge fan of the Orange amps. I think the Orange amps are killer, they deliver an incredible sound. I love the OCD Fulltone pedal, that’s like my secret weapon as a guitarist. Any time I can get my hands on something like that, I think it’s very versatile. Guitar wise I’m a fan of humbucker instruments, I’m a Gibson guy, I like Heritage guitars which is Michigan based.
Chris: For bass, it’s pretty standard now, I like the flip-top Ampeg, the tone as a bass player is unreal, this is how you get that sound, it’s a tube amp. And a Neve board is always nice.
Sean: What about pedals?
Chris: For a studio, it doesn’t matter, because I’m normally running directly in and getting compression from plugins or outboard gear.
Colin: For me, I love a tape saturator. I like the Waves, but I think I prefer the Universal Audio plugins better… there’s that bass plugin that I really love by Waves… I think it’s the Chris…Lord
Sean: The CLA – Bass plugin?
Colin: Yea, that plugin’s sweet man! It’s versatile, and it has so many capabilities it has this setting that just gives it a little bit of grit on the bass.
Sean: That growl!
Colin: Yes, I love that. Sean, right now our process relies on having some good ears, we’re musicians first, we’re not engineers by trade.
How well does your music translate from whats in your head to the recording?
Chris: That’s funny because that’s not how I think about music. I’m not the creative brain that has a really strong idea, I’m more reactive, so I know when I hearing things, especially when in the recording studio, for me it’s kind of like being a painter. You’ve got your basic ideas like “I’m going to paint a tree” but once you start adding the colors in, it’s not until my paintbrush gets to the paint that I’m really “oh maybe, I start a little branch here” it’ the same way I view the recording studio.
Tiffany: It’s the clay idea, you have the clay and then you shape it. In part you’re so happy you wrote a song, I hope they grow, it’s just me and the way I originally imagined it, it’s just me and a ukulele. But I look forward to hearing the growth, I look forward to the collaboration of it, I don’t dictate in my head “this is what this is going to sound like.
Chris: The key word is collaboration, we have a very creative approach to music, there’s no Brian Wilson going in saying “this must sound like this”
Tiffany: But I do have final say.
So I got to see you guys live, and you guys killed it, I was really surprised because I was going in blind, one of the things I was more shocked by was when I actually got to listen to the recordings, they weren’t identical but they were very much on par with each other. So my question is, do you guys of from stage to studio, or from studio to stage?
Colin: Stage to Studio to Stage, and it is a very young project, some of those songs you heard have changed…
Tiffany: We let them grow, we give it time to grow onstage with an audience, with other ears for a while. You have to, you have to give it space. Going back to the question of dictating everything, you just can’t, or it will be one-sided and be a holistic approach.
Colin: Testing on stage is really important for the development of this project because, we’re so engaged with our audience, and we love to captivate them. It’s this give and take, they feed us ideas, even if we’re not paying attention. Some of the best compositional ideas came not from us, the came from people saying things to us which is really funny.
Tiffany: Oh yeah, the claps.
Colin: When you’re in the weeds all day long, you can’t see the sunlight in the sense of when you’re the details, somebody who’s not a musician can offer you what you needed, so it’s good to test those songs out. It’s like a comedian trying out new material, he has to refine and refine and refine and refine, that’s how we view this too.
How much of the drama of your shows is preplanned vs organic?
DDW: It’s Both
Colin: There are definite moments that are planned in our show…
How would you describe a DD White
Tiffany: It’s a blonde girl, and a bunch of white guys dressed the same…
Sean: There is that…
Tiffany: Good, catchy fun music, fun relationships on stage
Colin: We don’t even know what we’re going to do sometimes, we know that we’re going to do something fun, and we know that we’re gonna have bits, but we feed off each other’s energy. I’m looking at Chris, Chris is looking at Tiffany, Tiffany is looking at me and Tim & Zach are feeding off the images.
Tiffany: We’re not afraid to look like idiots.
Colin: We’re not afraid to let loose, we’re not afraid to take risks and we’re trying to have the best times of our lives in that moment, we are all wanting to have the most fun we can possibly have while on that stage. And it comes off like this contagious energy, the audience really feeds from that, and we feed from them if they’re responding to it, we’re giving it right back.
Chris: You’re gonna see a high-energy engaging group that does things you wouldn’t expect them to do.
Tiffany: To talk about the people in the audience, cool people doing interesting things, that like fun and good music and wanna have a good time, I feel like there’s a vibe to the crowd. And there’s a lot of hot girls.
Colin: I feel very lucky, everyone is there to have a good time, and people always leave we, new friends.
What makes a good show for you guys
Tiffany: Good Tempos
Colin: A good show, we’re looking at each other, we’re feeding…
Tiffany: We’re confident and comfortable, we’re not too nervous
Colin: When we hear ourselves, and even if we can’t hear ourselves, making sure that we’re engaged and communicating. It could be a guitar chord, it could be eye contact, it could be laughing. Whatever it is, as long as we’re communicating and we’re not just stuck on a piece of music just playing to the book, we’re engaged with one another so we know where we’re at, that’s important to us and I think people catch on to that.
What is your favorite song to play
Colin: I think it’s Even a Girl
Chris: Yeah, Colin loves even a Girl, you can tell. I’ll say this because Colin won’t say it, but Colin has an Amazing Stage presence, high energy, captivating style, not just of his guitar playing, but of his presentation and that song highlights that for sure. But he wouldn’t tell you what I just told you.
Colin: It just a fun song, and people connect to it, and it has a great break down. It’s a moment…
Tiffany: Everybody’s smiling, everybody’s clapping, it is a highlight because it’s fun. Forget about the rest, let’s just have fun. I think that’s what our project can offer people nowadays, cause there’s a lot coming down on us nowadays for everybody. The politics, for everything, it’s a transitional time and transition is difficult, we’re going up against some hard stuff. We wanna be there to bring out emotions but forget the troubles of it, let’s not harp on them, let’s focus on the positives.
Is there a dream song you want to give the DD White treatment to
Chris: Something by the Beatles
Tiffany: I want
Colin: I’d like to DD White-ify a Zepplin tune.