Ward White’s Ice Cream Chords: Movies That Melt in Your Ear

The West Coast troubadour makes his elevator pitches

Ward White on the cover of his new album Ice Cream Chords (Image: Ward White)

Ward White is a storyteller. But that doesn’t mean all his stories shuffle dutifully from A to B to C just for your convenience, or that they put all their cards on the table for easy perusal. 

Remember, Samuel Beckett was a storyteller too, and so were/are Ingmar Bergman, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Donald Fagen. 

There are all kinds of ways to spin a yarn, and on the L.A.-based singer/songwriter’s latest album, Ice Cream Chords, each track offers up just enough images to snare your attention without resorting to blow-by-blow narrative. With a sonic vocabulary ranging from ‘70s art rock to ‘80s new wave and more modern alternatives, and a voice flexible enough to leap nimbly through the graceful melodic latticework he assembles, White fills Ice Cream Chords with evocative movies for the mind and ears. 

Fortunately, he also happens to be an accommodating sort, so when we suggested that he imagine a few of his favorites from the album as pitches for films, White was indulgent enough to play along. He even started out ahead of the game thanks to the vividly creepy, Heidi Adams-directed video for “Mezcal Moth.” If the scenarios he unspools below differ from what you hear in the songs, vive la différence. The mantle of underground auteur seems to suit him better than that of Hollywood hotshot anyhow. At the end of the day, Ice Cream Chords is really more an arthouse experience than a popcorn pusher.

 

“Mezcal Moth”

A 70’s getaway picture, infused with a touch of political-thriller intrigue; something along the lines of Three Days of the Condor, with snatches of Nashville. Robert Shaw should show up, somewhere. A broken man locked in delusional conversation with a pickled pupa, on whom he pins all of his current misfortune. He’s hiding in Mexico, contracted to do two shows a day, and he’s barely holding it together. Political unrest is boiling over, and he hasn’t penned a decent song in years. Never did trust that worm… Under a wash of electric sitar, our hero scrambles to board the last flight out, imagining himself as Bob Dylan writing “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues.”

 

VIDEO: Ward White “Mezcal Moth”

 

 “Ice Cream Chords”

The sequel to the blockbuster, Mezcal Moth. The same fugitive song-and-dance man who couldn’t escape the Mezcal trance has now been tried and sentenced for capital crimes—musical, treasonous, maybe both. Or maybe he just wants your attention at the bar. Unreliable narrators abound here. It’s a prison film, with some legal procedural elements. Ultimately, a story of redemption—possibly an explosive 11th-hour escape attempt. The project is currently in turnaround.

 

AUDIO: Ward White “Ice Cream Chords”

 

“Like a Bridge”

A low-lit indie picture, heavy on capital ‘A’ atmosphere, set in the last holdout old-man bar in an economically depressed American city/town/hamlet (pending production tax incentives). Multiple generations of regulars hash out their miserable hopes, dreams and recriminations against a pallid backdrop of barroom ennui. Maybe an ill-advised serious turn for an overfed superstar comedic actor. Carter Burwell soundtrack. Total Oscar bait.

 

AUDIO: Ward White “Like A Bridge”

 

“Signore”

The only track on the record actually inspired by a specific film, the details are drawn from Nicholas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now. The troubled couple seemingly unable to vacate Venice at the end of the season, the Ponte Vecchio (although that’s Florence—who’s on continuity for this picture?!), the mysterious departure of his wife, the flustered Venetian innkeeper. My good friend, Kristian Hoffman, surmised that the song was about “the end of the world, or a guy getting kicked out of a restaurant.” I say both. And, naturally, it would still star Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie.

 

AUDIO: Ward White “Signore”

 

“Prominent Frogman”

An extrapolation on the line from Paul Simon’s “Baby Driver” [“My daddy was a prominent frogman”]. We follow the titular frogman as he struggles to maintain a mysterious and treacherous double life: Navy Seal saboteur and loving husband/father. That would give anybody the bends (possibly re-tool as a zany farce?)! Definitely echoes of The Deep, and any number of James Bond tropes. Nicolas Cage? James Brolin? Rumors are swirling that Robert Shaw is attached to this project as well. That man likes to work.

 

AUDIO: Ward White “Prominent Frogman”

 

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