posted on January 24, 2009 18:00
White Denim are a three-piece band hailing from Austin, Texas. Formed in early 2006, they specialize in tornado-belt rock & roll with a manic cut & paste energy. They released their first LP Workout Holiday last summer on this side of the Atlantic. Lead singer/guitarist James Petralli talks with Cluas....
You recently released 'Exposion' in the US, but you made the unusual step of releasing an LP ('Workout Holiday') in Europe a few months before. Was this to test the waters before a proper release or was it to tailor each album for a particular audience?
At the time of the workout holiday release in Europe we really did not have that much going on in the States. We had toured the country for about four months but still had not generated any significant label interest. We just continued working on songs in Josh Block's studio when we were off from touring, and decided to add some newer material to the U.S. record. We thought it would be kind of fun to have different records out simultaneously. We did not really intend to confuse; we had just been touring much of the 'Workout Holiday' record for months in the States, and wanted to release some new songs.
I noticed too that you've remixed and altered some of the songs for 'Exposion', did playing the songs live change your outlook on them or do you simply like to tinker with songs while you have the chance?
Josh, who plays drums and records the band, has the uncanny ability to hear possibility in old recordings of the group. He spent some time rearranging parts and shaping the music in different ways, and we thought it would be worthwhile to share the results with our audience.
The music uses alot of loops and overdubs (to great affect) but has playing live in the past year changed your approach to recording?
Yes, the last year of playing out has helped us grow tremendously. We are more proficient on our instruments individually and more confident as a trio. We captured many more live takes for this new record, but the studio does not have a live room. Most of the time I have to try to lay a live guitar track to a metronome before anything else gets recorded. Sometimes I am successful, other times I am not. it can be a bit daunting over the first few attempts when the accompaniments are grandiose and imaginary. Many parts are composites that we learn and perform live in the studio, but we are still incorporating some looped sound. I got my first guitar around the time i got my first phrase sampler. Delay and looping will probably always be a huge part of my playing.
A question about songwriting - your songs are pretty formless in the traditional sense, I think its one of the most distinct things about the band, but as you develop your songwriting do you find yourself gravitating more towards traditional verse/chorus structures?
The idea of connecting seemingly dissimilar parts has always been an appealing one to us as a group. We all enjoy unconventional structures in music, but that music seems very natural to us now having listened to it from an early age. We are constantly surprised that we are now a pop group, though i couldn't see us ever having more than a couple choruses in a tune. I guess we are more of an impression of a pop group really.
Do you feel any pressure as a band to write more structured songs, to try and appeal to a bigger audience, get on the radio etc... ?
We want to make records that stand a chance at lasting longer than just a few years. We hope that the music makes a significant connection with loads of people, but over time. I feel that we still have a lot to learn about ourselves and people before we write a tune as powerful as "As" by Stevie Wonder. We certainly want people to like our music but we want to remain who/what we are.
Finally, what next for White Denim?
We should have a new record out soon. We are working on a supplemental body of material for that presently. Hopefully playing more and living.
Interview by Peter Teehan