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flashback friday: the white stripes

Music
photographed by kenneth cappello

go back in time with our cover starring jack and meg white.

The lobby of the century-old Hermitage Hotel in downtown Nashville is incredibly lavish and slightly bizarre: Reproductions of Old Master paintings hang on walnut-paneled walls next to autographed photos of Gene Autry; sets of formal couches festooned with fringe reminiscent of flappers' dresses are grouped like gossipers under a vast stained-glass ceiling on which Christian saints disport with mythological creatures. The likes of Tallulah Bankhead, Al Capone, and Greta Garbo used to drink highballs in the Oak Bar; Dinah Shore made her singing debut in the ballroom. It's not hard to imagine why the hotel is now a favorite haunt of Jack and Meg White—as anyone remotely familiar with the White Stripes knows, the pair are lovers both of history and theatrics. Still, it's a little weird to find them here, holding court in a top floor suite. Jack, wearing a blood-red shirt and black suit, sits uneasily in a garishly upholstered chair with his back against the wall, while Meg, in a black-and-white polka dot blouse and white jeans, perches next to him, smoking. Both of them are as pale as funeral parlor proprietors.

Jack White is a rock star in the most rare, classic sense of the term: Not only does he positively exude presence, he is an intense and virtuosic talent, a man capable of twisting sounds into terrifying, heartbreaking shapes with nothing more than a guitar and the feral howl of his voice. He's a lyricist with the ear of an auctioneer or a ladies-and- gentlemen-step-right-up traveling vaudevillian, and a performer with the higher-power-channeling bombast of a Baptist preacher. Meg, whose drumming acts as metronomic ballast to his feats of six-string derring- do, is his counterpoint, his buttress, his foil. Onstage, they share an almost palpable silent communion, and their dynamic is similar offstage: They have the unmistakable bond of two people who have been in a band together for a decade (and yes, used to be married), though their personalities couldn't be more different. He does nearly all of the talking; she watches and listens intently. He's a taut, vibrating livewire; she's beatific and blissed-out. One gets the feeling she's like a satellite locked in orbit around the whirling dervish that is Planet Jack, and that's perfectly OK with her. She has little interest in the limelight, other than that which is reflected off of him.

And so it follows that in the two years since the White Stripes' last album, Get Behind Me Satan, he's been the visible half of the band: He married the perfect red-and-white maiden, model Karen Elson, fathered a daughter, Scarlett (there's a second child on the way), and recorded and toured an album with his other band, the Raconteurs. When we meet today, he reveals that he's just finished filming a cameo role as Elvis Presley in Walk Hard, a Judd Apatow comedy starring John C. Reilly to be released in 2008 ("It was my favorite era of Elvis, around '56, and when John sent me the script I laughed out loud the whole way through," he says) and that next week he's heading into the studio to record the next Raconteurs album. "It's sounding really interesting," he enthuses in his anomalous, Detroit-meets-Deep South drawl. "There are a lot of songs being written, man. We're gonna have to stop ourselves."

But of course it's Icky Thump, the White Stripes' new album, that we're here to discuss. Its peculiar title, Jack explains, is not, as some might guess, the sound of a meatloaf hitting the floor, but rather a slight bastardization of northern English slang. "It's an exclamation of surprise or disgust or excitement," he says with a playful grin. "Like, ecky thump, I forgot to do the dishes! Or, if someone's driving you crazy: [his voice drops to an exasperated whisper] Oh, ecky thump. My wife said it a bunch of times and I thought it was really funny, and somehow it came to encompass the whole album. But I did call our English record label to ask, ‘What are the repercussions of us naming this record Icky Thump?' Just in case it actually meant something really bad."

The fact that Icky Thump is the White Stripes' most experimental venture yet (brace yourself: there are bagpipes) makes for an audacious statement, as it's not only their much anticipated comeback after Jack's stint Raconteuring, it's also the band's first release on Warner's, with whom they have cautiously chosen to sign only a one-album contract (their previous deal with V2 dissolved when the label was restructured last year). Although some may read this as indication that the White Stripes plan to make this LP their swan song, the duo's reasoning is far less ominous: "Things change so fast now with labels and the whole music industry," Meg says, "that we just thought it might be best to kind of get an idea of what was going on before really committing." It's also the first album for which they ventured into a state-of-the-art studio (up to now, if the equipment wasn't lo-fi and authentically vintage, they wouldn't use it), although they still adhered to the analogue process. "I think we're in a totally different mindset than we used to be," Jack adds. "We're in a really positive, happy mood and environment—a place where we're so strong we can do things like sign to a major and go into a modern studio and not have it affect our sound, which is what we used to be afraid might happen."

Perhaps to deflect concerns that a bigger budget might bland them out, Icky Thump veers defiantly toward the weird, with the biggest surprises being an emphatically exuberant cover of a 1950's Patti Page song, "Conquest," featuring a mariachi trumpet (played by a guy they recruited from a Mexican restaurant, and with whom they had to communicate via translator), and the aforementioned bagpipe tracks, "Prickly Thorn, But Sweetly Worn," and "St. Andrew (This Battle Is
In The Air)," the latter of which is an avant-garde noise piece with a spoken-word performance by Meg. ("We both have Scottish ancestors," Jack explains foggily, "and I guess it's our way of paying tribute to those people"). Not that Icky Thump isn't also packed with classic White Stripes blues-rock knock-outs: "You Don't Know What Love Is (You Just Do As You're Told)" is one of the best they've ever written, and the introspective "300 M.P.H. Torrential Outpour Blues" is sure to invite all kinds of speculation into White's relationship with Elson: "There's all kinds of red-headed women that I ain't supposed to kiss/ And it's that color which never fails to turn me blue/ So I just swallow it and hold on to it/ And use it to scare the hell out of you."

As part of the cocoon of self-created mythology that surrounds them, the White Stripes' lyrics have always eluded easy analysis. Jack's favored themes of unrequited or squandered love are certainly still present
on Icky Thump, but the songs are less sentimental, and much more oblique—piecing together the stories is a bit like playing Scrabble with


o vowels. "Storytelling is always my goal," he says, furrowing his brow, "but storytelling that isn't, ‘Bill walked down the road...' I never want the songs to be utterly blatant. I'm just trying to sneak up on the listener. And on this album I tried to explore different characters' points of view."

On "Rag and Bone," for instance, Jack and Meg take on the characters of rag pickers going door to door in search of cast-off junk. The idea was partly inspired by one of Jack's recent fascinations: the curious English tradition of "pearly kings and queens," people who sew buttons all over their clothing and parade through the streets. In his eyes, this is a metaphor for the White Stripes—they take obsolescent folk and blues traditions and fashion them into something new, and have always made it their mission to re-introduce the conventions of early 20th-century songcraft to modern listeners: To wit, on the album cover, he and Meg are wearing their own custom-made pearly suits, created by a seamstress friend who sewed 13,000 buttons onto each of them. "It's all sort of about the idea of creative people as garbage collectors," Jack says, precariously placing the bottle of Perrier he's been drinking from on his knee. "Taking other people's junk and trying to make something useful out of it, I guess. Oh, shit." The water has just spilled into his lap, and all over his chair.

"I'll show you this old upholstery trick," he says, with a cunning wink. He stands up, flips the cushion over, and sits back down, grinning. "No one will ever know."

Nashville isn't nicknamed Music City U.S.A. for nothing. There are staffs and treble clefs on the sides of taxis, country songs blaring out of storefronts and elevators and honky-tonk bars and restaurants; the airport even features a welcome mural where you can have your photo taken next to a life-size image of Kenny Chesney. Elvis's gold Cadillac— painted with 40 coats of crushed diamonds and fish scales—is parked for posterity in the Country Music Hall of Fame Museum downtown. The surrounding sun-baked streets have been home to many of Jack's heroes—Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, Jimi Hendrix—and now he's made a home for himself and his family in a rambling old house on the city's outskirts. Grubby Detroit, with its garage-rock grudges and cliquey social politics, was no place for him, not anymore. "You don't have to worry about being cool here," says the coolest man in rock, wearily and without a trace of irony. "I had enough of that."

Another one of Nashville's more seductive attractions was the fact that, despite the glitz and prominence of many of its country-music-star citizens, it is, for the most part, an easy place to hide from the press. The White Stripes are both notoriously close-lipped when it comes to their private lives, and biographical information is scant. We know that Jack has an interest in taxidermy, that he idolizes Orson Welles, that he's the youngest of 10 siblings, that he seriously considered becoming a priest, and that he was running his own upholstery business (he wore only yellow and black; his card read YOUR FURNITURE'S NOT DEAD, next to a drop of blood) when the White Stripes recorded their first 45. About Meg, there's less: She was born in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, in 1974; she met Jack while she was working as a bartender at a place called Memphis Smoke in Detroit; they were married in 1996 and divorced in 2000 (though Jack still refers to her as his "big sister" onstage). She has modeled for Marc Jacobs; she enjoys cooking. And when Jack moved to the Bible Belt last year, she quietly moved to L.A. (about which she says only: "I know a lot of people out there...I like it"). For both of them, any discussion of their lives beyond the White Stripes' music is merely an unnecessary distraction from it.
"Being photographed on the street is an invasion of privacy," Jack says. "It's tough. But we've been really lucky in that sense. It has a lot to do with the fact that Meg and I don't really walk down the red carpet and go to a lot of L.A. parties to be seen, which I think is sort of false celebrity. I strongly believe that if you're famous it should be because you did something, and the fame is the side-effect of accomplishment. In this day and age nobody seems to be looking at it that way anymore."

"To me, [being recognized] is like if your boss came every morning and tapped you on the head to wake you up," Meg says, with a quick, nervous, rat-a-tat laugh. "It's like, not now."

"You have to construct a foundation in a sense, create a certain space around you," Jack continues, quietly. "Beck said something to me once: ‘You manifest your fears to people and they smell them and pounce on them.' It's why dogs will always come after the person who's scared of them most. So you have to be careful when you're relating to people what you're really afraid of, because when it comes backlash time that's the first thing people are going to go to."
Of course, backlash is something that the White Stripes have never suffered: It's hard to think of another band that has made six albums and had them all be so well received. They're sticking their necks out with Icky Thump—it's easily their least accessible effort—but they've also reached a place where it wouldn't particularly matter if the album was panned: Their achievements render them virtually unimpeachable.

Ten years ago, on July 14th, the White Stripes went onstage for their first-ever performance, during an open-mic night at a Detroit bar called the Gold Dollar. They played three songs, one of which was a cover of "Love Potion #9." The room was virtually empty. To commemorate that anniversary this summer, the duo are going to work their way across Canada, playing a show in every province ("I don't think any band has ever done that before," notes Jack), then hop around the U.S., where they will play in every state they've never played in before. "After 10 years," Jack says, "it seems like it's time we tied up some loose ends."

The White Stripes shoot a glance at each other. "Ten years!" he booms. "It feels like one year to me!" Meg's eyes widen. "It's the same feeling as when you've been on tour," she says, "you feel like you've been gone for a day and also a year at the same time." She shakes her head. "It seems really quick but then so much has happened..."
With every album they've done, the White Stripes have challenged themselves to see how far they can go within their self-imposed limits. What began as a sort of candy-cane-colored art-project has become one of the biggest bands in the world mostly thanks to the resourcefulness of their creativity--restricting everything to three elementary elements (voice, guitar, drums, and variations thereof), they have consistently surpassed their more instrumentally evolved peers. For Jack, the box they've built around themselves is necessary--"It forces us to work. It gives us a lot of energy and urgency, I think," he says--but at the same time he's beginning to allow inspiration to sometimes win out over his purist sensibilities (hello, bagpipes). "When we break the rules there can be beauty, too," he reflects. "Just like when we follow them."

And now it's time for the pair to leave the Hermitage for the photo shoot. Jack squints out the window at the bright afternoon sun, Meg grabs a fresh bottle of water, and they head downstairs. As they walk out of the hotel's broad front door, swept open by a liveried bellman, a low silver sports car pulls up, and out of it steps a tiny, preternaturally tan, sandy-haired fellow dressed entirely in denim. It's Keith Urban. He flashes a mouth full of Hollywood-whites at the Whites. And as Jack—a tall, imposing figure in his slim black-and-red suit—takes his extended hand, there's a moment of dizzying incongruity, like seeing Elvis Presley shake hands with Donny Osmond. It's suddenly striking how beautifully anachronistic Jack White is in this day and age: In the face of so much empty commercialism, he has mystery and dignity, gravity and grace. Like Nick Cave or Johnny Cash, he is the one in control of the persona he has so carefully created—and whether that persona initially sprung from mischievousness or self-preservation, it no longer matters. As he stands there in the glare of a Nashville afternoon making neighborly small-talk with a faintly ridiculous country singer, he appears nothing less than a living legend—even, perhaps, one of the last true rock stars.

Then Meg beckons him from a waiting town car, and in a blur of red, white, and black, they're gone. -- APRIL LONG

Photo by Phillip Faraone/Getty Images for goop

"I had to create a harder shell about being a woman"

In a panel discussion during Gwyneth Paltrow's In Goop Health summit, actress Jessica Alba revealed that she "stopped eating" to avoid unwanted attention from men when she was first starting her career in Hollywood.

According to People, Alba said that she "had a curvy figure as a young girl" and, as such, was made to feel as though her body was the reason that men may be inappropriate toward her. "I was meant to feel ashamed if I tempted men," Alba said during the panel discussion. "Then I stopped eating a lot when I became an actress. I made myself look more like a boy so I wouldn't get as much attention. I went through a big tomboy phase."

She continued, "In Hollywood, you're really preyed upon. They see a young girl, and they just want to touch you inappropriately or talk to you inappropriately or think that they're allowed to be aggressive with you in a way."

Alba also noted that she was raised in a conservative household. "My mom would say, 'You have a body, and it's very womanly, and people don't understand that you're 12,'" she said. "I wasn't allowed to have my nalgas out, which is butt cheeks [in Spanish], but I was born with a giant booty, and they come out of everything. So, I didn't get to wear normal things that all my friends wore."

She said that these reactions to her body really affected her attitude. "I created this pretty insane 'don't fuck with me' [attitude]," she said. "I had to create a harder shell about being a woman."

According to her, her relationship to her body only changed when her first child, Honor, was born in 2008. "[After she was born,] I was like, Oh this is what these boobies are meant to do! Feed a kid!" she said. "And that was the dopest shit I'd ever done. So, I came into my body as a woman finally and I stopped being ashamed of myself."

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FROM THE WORLD WIDE WEB
Photo courtesy of Teva

Because of course

Teva, the most obvious lesbian footwear brand since Birkenstock, really knows its customer base. In time for Pride, the brand has teamed up with Tegan and Sara for a gay shoe to end all gay shoes. In other words, your Pride footwear is on lock.

The shoe isn't just your average Teva sandal. Tegan and Sara's design, the Teva Flatform Universal Pride sandal, is a 2.5-inch platform shoe with a rainbow sole. Tegan and Sara noted in a press release that they have been Teva wearers for pretty much their whole lives. "We got our first pair of Teva sandals when we were 16," they said. "This rainbow Flatform collab is like full circle LGBTQ+ Pride validation."

What's better, with each sandal sale, Teva will donate $15 to the Tegan and Sara Foundation, up to $30,000. The funds donated will go toward scholarships which will give young members of the LGBTQ+ community the chance to go to summer camps which will "help develop self-confidence and leadership abilities in a safe and nurturing environment." Tegan and Sara added, "Teva's generous support for our foundation will allow us to help even more LGBTQ+ youth."

Available today at Teva's and Nordstrom's websites, the sandal retails for $80.

Photo courtesy of Teva

NYLON uses affiliate links and may earn a commission if you purchase something through those links, but every product chosen is selected independently.

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Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images

"Focusing on innovative materials will allow the company to explore new boundaries of creative design"

Prada Group has announced that Prada, as well as all of its brands, will now be fur-free. According to a press release from the Humane Society, Prada, Miu Miu, Church's, and Car Shoe will ban the use of fur beginning with the Spring/Summer 2020 collection (aka the Fashion Week coming up next). The list of fashion designers banning fur only continues to grow, with 3.1 Phillip Lim, Coach, Armani, Versace, Gucci, and more having stopped using the material in seasons past.

"The Prada Group is committed to innovation and social responsibility, and our fur-free policy—reached following a positive dialogue with the Fur Free Alliance, in particular with LAV and the Humane Society of the United States—is an extension of that engagement," Miuccia Prada told the Human Society. "Focusing on innovative materials will allow the company to explore new boundaries of creative design while meeting the demand for ethical products."

Following London Fashion Week designers forgoing the use of fur in September and the first-ever Vegan Fashion Week taking place in February, it's easy to imagine an entirely fur-free fashion future. It's especially easy, I presume, for the brands to consider a fur-free future, given that entire cities and states are taking a stance. New York is following in the footsteps of Los Angeles banning fur, with a bill proposed this March that would ban sales across New York State.

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Photo by Johnny Dufort

"Club leisure" is the new athleisure

Alexander Wang is recognizing clubbing as the workout that it truly is with his latest Adidas collaboration. In this fifth installment, he "changes gears," per a press release from the brand, taking the iconic sports brand to the dance floor.

For the new campaign, the collection comes to life in iconic choreographer Tanisha Scott's dance studio and stars dancers Noemi Janumala, Dakota Moore, Avi McClish, and Olivia Burgess. The dancers show just how far these clothes can go when you want to bust a move or stretch, but TBH, I'll leave these poses to the pros and just use my clothes for flexing on the 'gram.

The collection—which features six apparel items, three shoes, and six accessories—features, per a press release, "Wang's knack for pre-styling." Standouts from the mostly black-and-white items include a silver sneaker that was *made* for moonwalking, an airy windbreaker that has just the right dash of bright blue with the scattered Adidas trefoil design, and a towel hoodie that you won't feel bad sweating in.

Ahead of the May 25 collection drop online and in stores, peep the gorgeous campaign images below.

Photo by Johnny Dufort

Adidas Originals by AW, Sweatshirt in Black, $250, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Towel, $80, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Joggers, $250, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Turnout BBall Shoes, $250, available starting May 25 at Adidas.

Photo by Johnny Dufort

Adidas Originals by AW, Towel Hoodie, $350, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Sock Leggings, $60, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Adilette Slides, $90, available starting May 25 at Adidas.

Photo by Johnny Dufort

Adidas Originals by AW, Futureshell Shoes in Platinum Metallic, $250, available starting May 25 at Adidas.

Photo by Johnny Dufort

Adidas Originals by AW, Sweatshirt in Core White, $280, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Shorts in Core White, $120, available starting May 25 at Adidas.

Photo by Johnny Dufort

Adidas Originals by AW, Sweatshirt in Black, $250, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Bum Bag, $50, available staring May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Towel, $80, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Turnout BBall Shoes, $250, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Duffle Bag, $70, available starting May 25 at Adidas.

NYLON uses affiliate links and may earn a commission if you purchase something through those links, but every product chosen is selected independently.


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Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

And Nikolaj Coster-Waldau's reaction to that prediction is literally all of us

Though it felt like no one saw the bonkers end to Game of Thrones coming, Gwendoline Christie, who played Ser Brienne of Tarth on the show, predicted exactly who would end up with the majority of power in the Seven, or rather, Six Kingdoms years before it all went down. During an interview leading up to the penultimate season of Game of Thrones in 2017, Christie sat down with Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (aka Jaime Lannister) for an interview with Mario Lopez, and they were both asked to predict how the whole thing would come to a close. Spoilers ahead...

Lopez posed the question, "If you were a gambling man, who would you say?" Coster-Waldau replied: "Well gambling, the odds now are clearly in Daenerys Targaryan's favor. Or, that guy," he said, pointing to a picture of the Night King.

But Christie, knowing Game of Thrones' tendencies toward the unpredictable, came right back at Coster-Waldau, asking, "But don't you think it's going to be someone out of left field?"

"So I'm wondering if it might be Bran," Christie suggested, "Just because we keep seeing the world from his perspective, don't we? We keep seeing the visions. So is he in the future, projecting in the past?"

Coster-Waldau's reaction to the suggestion that Bran will rule over them all is, well, exactly how we all felt watching it play out in real time this past Sunday evening. "The three eyed raven? As a king? No, that doesn't make sense," he said. And, well, same. Because while I usually *adore* watching Christie shut down Coster-Waldau, like they're an old married couple bickering, this time I'm on his side. It made no sense!

Coster-Waldau attempted to reason with her, saying that if Bran was planning the whole thing, then he wanted Jaime to push him out the window, and that makes no sense at all. But Christie stood firm in her belief, and, as last Sunday demonstrated, her commitment to this highly improbably outcome paid off. We hope she placed a sizable bet in Vegas.

Catch the full clip below.

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