White Denim – Interview

White Denim are an American four-piece rock band from Austin, Texas, formed in 2005, who have established a riotous fusion of garage punk, soul, psychedelic boogie, prog, jazz and country blues. They’ve done this with a home-based recording style and jamming approach, alongside looping work, unusual song structures, and an insatiable lust for musical adventure.

Founder members James Petralli and Steve Terebecki are still at the helm, currently joined by Greg Clifford on drums, and Michael Hunter on keys. Already with eight studio albums under their belt, including last year’s Performance, they’ve decided to release an album’s worth of B-sides, rarities, outtakes, and new songs, called Side Effects, out this spring on City Slang. With a UK tour that takes in London’s Roundhouse, and finishes in Brighton for Mutations Festival, Steve Terebecki took some time out before hitting the road.

Must be the morning, where you are?
Yeah, we’re in Austin until tomorrow, and then we’re flying to Belfast.

Austin is where you are a resident and where the band started?
James (Petralli) and I have been here for, I guess, 15 years.

Famous for SXSW, and loads of musical talent. Is Austin a music city?
Yeah, I think so. It’s more or less the reason why I moved here, from Virginia Beach, in Virginia. I respected a lot of bands that came from here, and I just knew a lot of people who had moved here to play. When I was 20, I did the same, and it wasn’t long before I was playing in a bunch of bands around town.

So, it’s still a thriving scene?
Yeah, there are so many places to play. It’s really hard to estimate, but there are about 150 venues. During SXSW there’s even more, but even when that festival isn’t on you can go out any night of the week, to 30 to 40 different venues, and see music.

Do you still play SXSW?
We have a studio now (Radio Milk), in East Austin, and we built a stage in the back. So, we’re having our own SXSW party now! Inevitably, every year we’ll play a couple of shows. I think we took off just one year, in the past 14 years.

Since it’s your hometown, it would be rude not to, wouldn’t it?!
Yeah, I guess so. We’ve tried to avoid it, but you can’t get away from it.

The new album Side Effects is coming out soon. Tell me about it?
It’s sort of, more or less, songs that have been kicking around for a while. There are a couple of B-sides from Performance (2018), some stuff from 2011. Basically, a broad mixture of different recordings since 2011.

Two tracks have made the light of day so far, ‘NY Money’ and ‘Shalanana’, if I’m saying that correctly?
‘Shalanana’ was something we worked on with Mike McCarthy, a producer form Austin, and Stephen Patterson, who played in the band White Rabbits. We set up a date with them to have fun in the studio, and that’s more or less what came out. Our drummer at the time, Jordan Richardson, he did the drums. But it sat on our hard drive for a couple of years.

‘NY Money’ was a song that James had. It’s the first song we ever recorded with our new drummer, Greg Clifford, and it’s also the most recent thing we have recorded, about six months ago.

I guess now that you have your own studio you can go in more often. Shorter bursts, perhaps?
Yeah, we’ll do five to seven days straight, or sometimes just one, or two, or three days. Before, Stiff, Corsican Lemonade, those records, were focussed in a small time period. We were paying for studio time, went there, recorded, and got out. Since we’ve had our own studio, we’ve been able to take our time a little more. It’s how we like it.

‘NY Money’ is great, it’s a much longer song than we’re used to…
James had the verses all written out, and we were jamming, trying to figure out different grooves. It’s a two-chord song, so there are a lot of different ways you can approach it. We had this conversation about whether we should keep the long ending. We then opened it up, had fun with it. It had been long enough since we had done anything like that. We just didn’t have a song that just chills there at the end.

Any other favourites of yours on the new album?
I really like ‘So Emotional’. A lot of the music, our old keyboardist, Mike Sinclair, came up with. It was recorded when we made the Performance album. For that track we had our touring drummer play the drums, Conrad Choucroun. We brought it back out, thought it sounded great, and brought Mike Sinclair back in to help finish it up. It’s got really weird chord changes, and a really cool guitar and synth line. It’s just a weird-ass song, but with a lot of energy to it.

Has your mission statement changed?
It remains unchanged from the beginning, which is just to make interesting, up-tempo rock’n’roll.

You’re back in Brighton, for Mutations Festival. Are you familiar with any of the other acts on the bill?
I know Goat Girl, but I’ve been meaning to look up the other acts. I’m about to have a lot of time in the van.

Jeff Hemmings

Website: whitedenimmusic.com
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Twitter: twitter.com/whitedenimmusic