By Jeremy Essig
By Jason Robinson
By Hans Morgenstern
By Joseph Hess
By Peter Gilstrap
By Julia Burch
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By Nathan Smith
But so much attention has its drawbacks, and a persistent rumor about the nature of Jack and Meg's relationship culminated with a piece last June in Time claiming that the two aren't siblings at all but, rather, a recently divorced couple. They continue to deny the report, and Long Gone John, for one, thinks it's irrelevant: "I think that the time will come, if it hasn't already arrived," he says, "when people will stop worrying whether they are brother and sister, ex-husband-and-wife or whatever. What they are is a guy and a girl making incredible music. The only concern should be the music and not whether Jack is a transsexual or Meg is a Vietnamese refugee. If they say they're brother and sister, that's the end of the story, in my mind."
Long Gone John has reason not to worry about such details: Whatever else they may be, Jack and Meg White have certainly been good for business. Until recently, that is: Citing a need for larger pressings and wider distribution, Jack and Meg have inked a deal with European label V2. It was a move Long Gone has known was inevitable ever since major labels began sniffing around the band on the release of their second album.
"I didn't think there was much chance that I would ever be doing the third album," says Long Gone John. "A much larger independent than myself made them a pretty substantial offer. And when it seemed that the White Stripes were steering away from major labels still, I finally agreed to meet the offer they had received, and that was it."
Even as the White Stripes' celebrity increased beyond the borders of cult status, the band continued to behave like an indie act at heart, making decisions that many bands seeking rock stardom probably wouldn't. For their first television appearance on the Late Late Show With Craig Kilborn last summer, for example, they played "Screw Driver," inserting a short chorus from "Your Southern Can Is Mine" -- both songs from their first and second releases -- rather than anything from the album that got them the booking. "We wanted to show what the band was about," Jack says. "We weren't behind any single or anything at that point. We were in a cool position. If you're some major-label band and you go on Craig Kilborn, they'll say, 'You gotta do this song; it's the one we pushed on college radio.' But we're in a position where we can do anything we want to do."
And turn down anything they don't want to do. Offered a Gap commercial, Jack and Meg passed, despite the hefty paycheck and, even more promising, the increased national recognition. "It would have been most of America's first exposure to our band," Jack says, "and that would have been pretty pathetic."
The White Stripes' indie bent extends to their choices regarding the video for their single, "Fell in Love With a Girl." Instead of filming a typical lip-synched performance-rock clip, Jack and Meg sought out French director Michel Gondry, who has directed videos for Björk, the Chemical Brothers and Daft Punk, as well as the Patricia Arquette feature film Human Nature. "He showed up with a sculpture of my head made out of Legos," says Jack. "He said, 'This is what I want to do with the video: make you guys out of Legos.' It fit right in with the childish, innocent things that we've always played around with in music and art in the band."
Despite the preponderance of emo and heavy alterna-metal on the radio, "Fell in Love With a Girl" has made a niche for itself on stations across the country. A bare-bones musical confection of energetic guitar, drums and vocals, the song stands out.
"I saw our video on TV," says Jack. "It was us and then Puddle of Mudd, and I was just laughing. I'm laughing, number one, that they're even showing a White Stripes video on TV. That's hilarious.
"But then in between Puddle of Mudd and something else? That's very funny."