Five Weird Instruments Used by Whitehorse

Photo: Paul Wright

“It is a tightrope walk for sure,” says Luke Doucet of the tricky onstage modus operandi he and Melissa McClelland employ in their husband-and-wife duo, Whitehorse. Each member of the Canadian couple has enjoyed acclaim as a solo singer/songwriter, but they first joined forces under the Whitehorse moniker for their self-titled 2011 debut, and now they’ve come galloping back into action on The Fate of the World Depends on This Kiss. “We didn’t want people to mistake it for a side project,” says Doucet, “so we thought we’d better smash out as much music as possible.” Describing the duo’s unorthodox approach to live performance, Doucet explains, “it’s just the two of us, but we’ve got a lot more instruments onstage than you would expect for two people. We try to play them simultaneously at times, and use a looping device to make that more practical. For about half the set I’ve got the kick drum and floor tom and a bunch of percussion instruments, and Melissa’s got a keyboard and a bass rig set up and she’s standing on a plywood box, and we have these weird sort of telephone receivers that we use, and all of those instruments go into a mixer and a looper, and we can build basically a whole band with just the two of us. We’re kind of like a two-headed one-man or one-woman band.” Looking over both their live show and their latest album, Doucet detailed some of Whitehorse’s more unexpected sound sources.

1. 1980s Telephone Receiver Microphones

We use telephone receivers as secondary microphones …these sort of ‘80s telephone receivers that, when you connect a proper audio cable into them and plug them into a DI [direct input], they basically sound as you would expect them to sound, which is not unlike a taxicab dispatch microphone, or an actual telephone receiver. In the studio, or even live, you’re often asking your soundman or engineer, “Can you make it sound lo-fi, can you make it sound kind of garbled?” You can spend a half hour trying to make a high fidelity microphone sound like a piece of crap, and we thought, “Well, why don’t we just get a piece of crap, and make it work?”

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