Steven J. White is a composer and multi-instrumentalist who has done scoring and sound design, working with both electronic and acoustic instruments. His solo album “Breath” is available on Bandcamp; he currently plays with acts Sindoolaa and Yves Francois as well.
ME: How did you get involved with Wisconsin Music Ventures?
STEVEN: I tripped over the Facebook group if I remember right. That was a little over a year ago so I’ve been a paying member for about that long. It’s really been great.
ME: Right on. That’s certainly a good way to find out about it!
ME: Tell me about Sindoolaa.
STEVEN: I’ve been playing with them for seven or eight years now; I think there’s about a year in there where I stepped away. We play mostly original music with a few covers; it’s music that sources from West Africa, specifically Mali and Senegal. The frontman was born in Senegal, and on and off we have members who were born there that moved here, depending on where and when we play. There’s definitely a core group of musicians – mostly the rhythm section. It’s a pretty big band; it ranges from eleven or twelve members to like fifteen members. We played Summerfest this year on the Briggs Stage and we had four guitar players, which was a first for us. Having that many guitars all playing their own form of intricate and well-placed rhythm in their part makes us have such a huge sound. We usually have two or three horn players and a saxophone player too. Oumar sings and plays percussion. We have one, two or three women who sing and dance for our shows. Recently we also found a kora player; he’s really, really good and did a phenomenal job with us at Summerfest. Having that instrument with us is pretty important for a lot of Oumar’s songs. The rhythm section has been playing together for a long time and we’ve gotten to sound pretty tight. I wish we played more; it’s tough to find gigs for a band that big. Our shows are tons of fun and they’re pretty damn danceable.
ME: Awesome. I really hope I get to see you guys play sometime!
STEVEN: You won’t be disappointed.
ME: Tell me about another artist you play with, Yves Francois.
STEVEN: He’s a trumpet player who primarily lives in Chicago. He actually found me on Facebook like ten or twelve years ago and told me that he needed a bass player on short notice for a gig in Kenosha, and I said that I’d be down and asked what he plays. He said that he plays 20’s and 30’s swing somewhat like Django Reinhardt’s music and I told him that it sounded awesome and that I’d be there, even though I’d never played that kind of music before (laughs). Playing from rhythm charts hadn’t really been my thing up until then. I went down there and it was great; it was like Roma jazz with two guitars, a clarinet player, a trumpet player, and me. It turned into a pretty regular thing over the years, on-again off-again. I just played with them Friday night at a place in Kenosha, which is where we mostly play but sometimes we play in Chicago or Lake Geneva. We were a seven-piece with two reed players this time and it was a really great night. I play with him every couple weeks but again, I wish we played more. I like to think that that band would be a really great house band somewhere.
ME: That would be really cool. Sounds like you play with a really eclectic range of musicians!
ME: Are you playing with any other groups right now?
STEVEN: Right now, the only other group is that I play bass clarinet in the Brookfield Civic Band. I’m in that band with my wife, who plays contrabass clarinet. We bring in my daughter once in a while; she plays trombone and has really great tone. We play at parades and do a couple concerts every year. I’m about to audition for a Latin jazz big band based in the Slinger/West Bend area; I start with them next month and I think it’ll be pretty cool. They found me on Bandmix and tracked me down, which was interesting. The director of this band has been doing it for ten years and used to be Music Director at a Milwaukee area high school. I think it’ll be good…we’ll see.
ME: Best of luck! It’s cool how the seamlessness of the Internet can help you find people in that way.
ME: What else are you working on over the next few months?
STEVEN: I’ve somewhat recently gotten back into composing. I hadn’t really done anything for a long time so I decided that I’d try to be a little more orchestral than I had been in the past. I’d released an album in 2015 and it was very avant-garde chamber music. It wasn’t recorded players and wasn’t even really sampled players; it was sort of synthesized with sampled instruments that were built from scratch but arranged like a chamber ensemble. It ended up sounding very, very strange – almost like sound design music. I decided that I wanted to go back to like when I had started doing composing in music school, which is more orchestral in nature. I’ve been spending way too much money on orchestral sample libraries and finally getting my hands and head around that software because some of it’s pretty complex; it’s like learning a new instrument. So that’s ongoing, and then I’ve had the idea for about a year now of putting a band together that plays progressive rock-jazz-pop music kind of like late 70’s Genesis and Peter Gabriel and Yes. My challenge is finding players that are both good enough and are available (laughs). Even if it doesn’t happen, it’s still fun picking up that kind of music and make arrangements for the different instruments. So we’ll see.
ME: My dad’s all over that stuff.