I haven’t known about White Denim for very long (only for a few months and only because of those ever-lovely Neon Enlightenment girls), but it’s been an intense relationship to say the least. I immediately fell in love with their psychedelic brand of neo-blues garage rock from the very first aggressive chords of Shake Shake Shake, and I’ve been whipped ever since. Taking this into consideration, you could understand my excitement and near epileptic elation when I heard they were coming to München. Even though it was a Wednesday night, AND I nearly had to cut off my own right foot to convince my parents to let me go, AND I had a math test the next day, it was soooooo worth it!
I’ve seen a few bands live, but let me tell you, these guys are musicians in the most genuine sense of the word. Just watching them play made me tired. I was constantly in awe of the singer’s (James Petralli) otherworldly and soulful vocals, or a particularly complex drum pattern mastered by Joshua Block, and especially Steven Terebecki’s crazy bass riffs. Every song in their set melted into the next in complex medleys that I wish completed the record.
Only adding to the gorgeousness of the experience was the audience. It’s gotta be said, to their credit I might add, that White Denim’s fan base (at least in Munich) is more varied than any other “indie” band I’ve ever seen live. While the guy next to me looked like he could very well be an accountant, the girls behind us were fashion conscious university students. Next to the accountant was an awesome metal head and his girlfriend and the remainder of our fellow concert goers were just as diverse. As you probably know from previous posts, Germans aren’t typically the most animated concert goers. However, by the end of the set, the White Denim boys had everyone dancing and clapping along, making the gig feel more like a block party than a concert. All in all, it was an amazing night….
Wait, I think I’m forgetting something. Oh yeah! I got to interview Joshua Block and Steve Terebecki before the show 😀 I’ll be the first to say that they are total sweethearts. They made me feel really at ease while doing my first interview (nerve-wracking) and also put up with some of my more bizarre questions. But anyway, here’s the interview:
My first question is about the origins of the band, you started off as a four piece called Parque Touch and you played under some really interesting pseudonyms…I was wondering if you could divulge those?
ST: That’s right Parque Touch; I was Terrence Beckins this (motioning to Josh) was Nicholas Mallard and then we had the guitar player who was Bop English and then the other guy who isn’t with us now was Bishop Massive, he was the singer. It was just like fake names rock and roll names
I also read that you started your early recording is a Spartan trailer. I actually didn’t know what that was so I google imaged it and looked really small…
JB: You might have found the wrong one
Maybe? Because it was really tiny and I was wondering how you configured all of your recording stuff?
JB: The first record was in one that was kind of small maybe 20 roughly 27 feet but it was hitched at the ends so maybe 21 to 25 feet and that was actually plenty of space at the time I think. But at first it was just kinda jam packed full of gear and we just kind of fell all over each other when we were trying to move around. Everyone had a station. And now the new one, we still record in a trailer by the way,
(At this KG and I giggle)
JB: The new one’s much bigger but it’s still older. It’s called the imperial mansion. You have to check that one out, it’s very impressive
Well that’s my next question, because I read that you guys record in Driftwood Texas is that right?
JB: Yeah same one.
I read that it has a population of 21 people, does that include you? Or is that a wrong statistic…
SP: That’s probably like from 1994
It’s from 2004
JB: She said its from 2004 but there are two Driftwoods
Oh so maybe I was looking at the really small Driftwood…
JB: The one I live in might be 900 to a couple thousand people
I guess I was looking at the wrong one then. But I was wondering if being cut off from other stuff is important in your composition process? Is important for you to be isolated; does that improve the quality of the music?
JB: It still applies to the landscape because it is kinda out there but James does a lot of the writing.
ST: But it helps, I think it helps being isolated because you can focus out there on the recording process, we don’t really get distracted once we’re out there, it’s cool
Going back to the music, are your songs autobiographical? Because for me when I listen to them I really like them on a musical level, I mean I like the sound and the way it makes me feel, but I don’t really know if I can relate to the lyrics so much . I was wondering if you are more geared towards creating a certain kind of sound or theme or if it’s an organic autobiographical thing?
JB: I think it’s a little of both. I mean I’m sorry to give the easy answer like that. James might be a better person to ask because he writes pretty much all of the lyrics. But I know that, just talking to him about lyrics and just knowing him personally, I think they’re coming from a very personal space. But I mean a lot of it the subject matter’s kind of general.
ST: Like ‘Let’s Talk About It’
JB: Yeah there are a lot of language issues, but on the new album it’s still really personal but I think it’s still stuff we want everyone to understand like stuff about music, and playing for people,
(At this point KG is run over by a bike. Josh continues unperturbed.)
and interactions with people in general. I think you’re right in the fact that it might be tough to relate to because it comes from a personal place but at the same time I think its something that you can easily put yourself in that situation.
My last music related question is about your video for ‘I Start To Run’. It so awesome, like that guy at the beginning with the gun? I want to be his best friend; the guy with the orange suit?
ST: That was great
Yeah it’s pretty amazing. I was wondering about how the concept of the video was developed. I know Tom Haines directed ‘Shake Shake Shake’ so what was your relation to him?
ST: He wrote treatments actually for both videos and we read them and just accepted them because we liked the kind of post apocalyptic, weird, filled with weirdos thing that he had going on. And our label introduce us to Tom Haines right?
ST: Full Time Hobby. He had done some other videos for other artists on the label and we just met him through that. We liked his treatments so that was that.
Was it filmed in a rock quarry?
ST: Yeah in Wales.
Really? I showed the video to my mom and she was like “That’s Texas!”
ST: It was actually freezing cold!
JB: And the first one, ‘Shake Shake Shake’ was done in South London.
And now I have some really stupid questions, so prepare yourselves. Don’t think, just answer.
ST: These are my favorite kind of questions.
So, would you rather: spend time in a hot tub with Prince or in a fishing boat with Stevie Wonder?
ST: I’ll go with the fishing boat…
JB: I’ll take a cruise in a hot tub with both of them. You know, switch it up a little.
Next, would you rather do a gig naked, or do a gig dressed up as Sailor Moon characters?
ST: I’d rather go naked.
JB: Yeah. I’d have to agree with that.
Would you rather play SXSW or Glastonbury? Cuz you’ve played both right?
ST: Well SXSW is just like driving down the street.
JB: Well yeah there’s that aspect. But I just like Glastonbury better.
Ok last question, can you laugh without smiling?
JB: Do you want us to demonstrate?
I dunno… You can if you want, or not. It’s more just something to contemplate.
KG: Why don’t you show yours?
How about no…
ST: Yeah I think I need a demonstration.
(KG feebly laughs without smiling while the band look on in amusement.)
JB: No I don’t think I can do that. I can laugh and cry at the same time. Like, I can’t force myself to do it now, but it can be done.
ST: You know there’s that really common like snooty kind of like nose turned up kind of laugh (does snooty french waiter laugh) That’s what I think of, I guess.
If you don’t already know of White Denim, get crackin’! Their music is making real rock cool again, which I think is totally awesome! They also put on an amazing show, so take note! I like exclamation marks!