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Dimitri, KO, Sharlene & Oreo: An Interview with WhiteMoms
Posted July 27, 2014 by Seth Johnson
WRITTEN BY
Seth Johnson
ON
July 27, 2014

 

Photos provided by WhiteMoms

 

When four of Indy’s most active musicians joined forces last October as WhiteMoms, there only true objective was to have a good time. Less than one year later, however, Kristin Newborn (KO), Sharlene Birdsong (Thee Tsunamis), Dimitri Morris (Chieftan, The Heavy Hand, etc,) and Oreo Jones find themselves in high demand, playing shows regularly throughout the city and beyond. Musical Family Tree recently sat down with WhiteMoms in between takes at Azmyth Recording Studios, discussing the group’s initial conception, their collaborative approach to songwriting and much more.

 

 

MFT: Tell me about how you all originally joined up to form WhiteMoms.

Oreo Jones: KO started it.

Others: Yeah.

KO: I wanted to play with Oreo and Sharlene, so we started playing in their old basement. We were like, ‘Oh man. We need to add one more person.’ And Sharlene was like, ‘Oh Dmitri! I know Dimitri.’ So we all started playing together, and we named ourselves the WhiteMoms because we all realized that we had white moms, and we’re all of color (laughs).

 

MFT: What was your vision for the group at that initial point? Was it just for fun or...?

KO: Oh, of course.

Dimitri Morris: It never started out as a super serious thing.

KO: We all kind of wanted to do stuff that we haven’t done before, or bring back songs from the woodwork that we’ve never shown anybody. Like, Sharlene had a ton of songs from the start, so we just kind of worked off that.

OJ: That was the main thing. We didn’t want to do anything serious. It was just messin’ around.

DM: Things just started happening so fast. It just came out of nowhere, and then we were just playing a ton of shows.

OJ: We were just practicing for one show, that Halloween show. We were like, ‘Let’s just play one show.’

Sharlene Birdsong: As KISS. 

OJ: Yeah, we played as KISS. We didn’t play KISS songs, but we painted our faces like KISS.

 

MFT: Yeah. Tell me more about that first show.

OJ: We played at the Ultra Lounge club, South Meridian.

DM: It was a cool crowd, but it wasn’t particularly our crowd.

OJ: They had a pub crawl going on or something. There were a lot of people.

DM: It was raining too, so everybody was just staying inside. So it was a lot of people but it wasn’t a whole lot of people we knew.

KO: But they were stoked though. They were having a good time. 

DM: After that, the ball just started rollin’. Shows just started coming, and here we are...

OJ: Finally recording (laughs by all).

 

 

MFT: In what ways have you evolved since that show?

DM: The more obvious one is that we’re just a lot more comfortable with each other (laughs by all). We clown around on stage a lot, which is a lot of fun. It just keeps everything light-hearted and keeps it cool with our crowd—makes it feel a little more interactive. Sometimes you watch a band on stage and it seems like they’re a million miles away because they’re just not contributing to the energy of the crowd. They’re just kind of playing. The last show we played in Chicago, people moshed.

OJ: That was fucking crazy. That was the craziest show we’ve played.

KO: Yeah. In any band that I’ve played in, it was definitely one of my favorite shows.

 

MFT: How has the songwriting between you four worked?

KO: Whenever someone has something and we’re like, ‘Oh! That’d be a good WhiteMoms song,’ we just kind of jam on it and figure everything out.

DM: The format has never really changed. It’s always just like, ‘Hey. We’ve got a new song. Let’s work with it and see how it feels.’ That’s how it happens.

OJ: Sometimes it starts as just a bass line, and sometimes it’s with the keys or guitar.        

 

 

MFT: You all come from very diverse musical backgrounds. How has WhiteMoms been different than your previous music projects, and what have you liked about that change of pace?

SB: It’s really natural, and I don’t have to worry about something I bring to the table sucking, or someone doing something to it that I don’t like.  Since I know everybody’s individual work, it makes it easier to predict what they’re going to do in a song.

DM: It’s just a whole different sound that I’ve never been able to work with. In more projects than you’d really like to, as a musician, you’re limited to what you can do, and in this one, it’s like what you can’t do. We really can just throw ideas out there, and more than likely, it’s going to work. It’s just a matter of whether we want to do it or not, which is really cool. That kind of gives us potential that I haven’t really been able to deal with in another band.

OJ: I think it’s cool being able to not fully be in control of a vessel. With hip hop, I work with people, but ultimately, I choose what to write and I’m in control of it. It’s cool, with WhiteMoms, being able to be full-on collaborative—just being able to stand in the background and observe a lot more and being able to do our thing together, looking at each other when we’re playing and feeding off each other and shit.

KO: I’ve always played guitar in all my projects, but this project especially has been super fun—just not really caring and playing gritty shit that I love to do. I’m kind of taking that over to KO too, so it’s affecting both of my projects in a really good way. And just collaborating with these guys because everyone’s super different. It just really brings out everything. 

 

 

MFT: In what ways would you say the musical differences between you four impact WhiteMoms?

KO: I think it makes us definitely unique and eclectic, and I don’t think there’s anyone else in the Indiana area doing our sound so that’s kind of appealing I think.

OJ: I feel like you can hear it with every song too. Literally…I’ve never been a part of a project where every song sounds different.

KO: Yeah. Every song does sound different (laughs).

OJ: It’s almost like a compilation, which is super cool.

 

MFT: I know you, Oreo, hadn’t played instruments prior to this, right?

OJ: Never (laughs by all).

 

 

MFT: So can you walk me through how you started doing what you do with WhiteMoms?

OJ: I feel like Sharlene helped me out the most, just living with her in Fountain Square on Ringgold. We had [Jeremy] Tubbs’ bass and her guitar, and we were just talking about writing stuff. I picked up a bass and was just listening to songs and stuff and just playing. I had my fun machine too, which I play but I’m not really concentrated on it so that’s still a work in progress. I’ve always wanted to do it.

 

MFT: At your live shows, you four switch between instruments several times throughout a set. Is that more a product of your songwriting?

KO: Yeah, exactly.

DM: There was never an initial, ‘Oh, we’re going to switch around and make it fun,’ kind of thing. It was just like, ‘You wrote this song. Okay cool, let’s switch around.’ That’s more how we just pieced the set together originally, and then it just kind of became the standard.

 

MFT: Talk to me about these recordings you're working on.

SB: We’re recording a lot of songs for a couple different people. Indy CD & Vinyl and maybe some people in Chicago. We’ll just have some songs to work with, so hopefully it’ll be a couple releases.

DM: After Record Store Day, people were just kind of hitting us up pretty constantly. ‘Hey you guys have a song? Do you have anything recorded?’ We were just like, ‘No, no.’ It became more of a pressing matter where everyone’s like, ‘We should actually do this.’

 

Expect a 7" from WhiteMoms to be released with Indy CD & Vinyl this Fall and also a tape to be released on Manic Static.

 

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