Interview with White Denim
Live in DC at the Black Cat April 20th – Free Ticket Giveaway
White Denim is transforming itself into a formidable force in rock n roll through its awe-inspiring studio albums and explosive live performances. Their music is marked by cerebral lyrics, powerful riffs and progressions that have made rock n roll one of the most powerful forms of musical communication.
The band recently spoke with Max Stewart and Andrew McConnell about their new album Stiff (available here), the tour, lineup changes and much more.
We are giving away a pair of FREE Tickets to White Denim’s show tomorrow night, April 20, at the Black Cat in DC. Just visit our Facebook page and “Share” the post and tag a friend you’d like to attend the show. Or just fill out the form below and tell us why you want to see White Denim. Tickets are available for purchase here.
They say the best guitarists you can identify within a few notes. For White Denim as a band, your sound is easily identifiable, but totally avoids that whole “every song kind of sounds the same” problem even some stellar acts run into. What’s the best way to stay true to yourself and the sound you want while also pushing yourself into new fresh musical boundaries with each new album you release?
That is very kind of you to say. We really just try to make music that is fun to play and will hopefully keep us engaged throughout our career. It helps that our arrangements of songs are always evolving. We are always looking for ways to improve the feel or even the musical content of the songs long after records have been released. With each production we try to become more relaxed and free in the studio. Approaching different musical styles is an intrinsic part of what we do. It is who we are for better or worse. Boundaries don’t really ever come into play in this group. We just try to do what feels best when we are working together.
You noted in an interview with UK based publication, Wow247, that the lineup change was a “total shake-up” and that you took this band out as the “Bop Engish Band” for three weeks. Could you tell us what those three weeks were like, the good and the bad and how you addressed that in the studio to make a great record?
The tour that we did together last year was really fun. Maybe too much fun actually. I drank tons and stayed up late almost every night. The band was really loose at times but the whole thing on and off stage was a really joyous trip. I felt as if it could have been a last tour of Europe for Steve and I working in a band together and I was determined to enjoy the shit out of it. I also had my close friend Kevin Schneider out and the other two guys (Jeff Olson and Jonathan Horne) hadn’t been to many of the places we played before. This led to a level of excitement and gratitude that I hadn’t felt since White Denim’s first year of heavy travel. We just naturally carried this energy into the production of the record I think. To be honest, I knew the record would be alright. We know how to make them by now and Ethan Johns and his engineer Dom Monks were looking after us as well. I was never worried about the quality of the record. My fear has been that some of our fans would be so attached to the old guard that we would lose them. Over the past couple of months though I care less and less about what those people think of where we are at present. Steve and I couldn’t have done anything differently to keep this band going and I am extremely thankful to be working with these guys and to have people at the shows!
Right out of the gate the song “Had 2 Know (Personal)” seems to perfectly blend your rock n roll chops with R&B undertones (some Motown vibes to it). The songs on the record seem very upbeat and accessible, were there any noteworthy influences or musicians you were listening to while writing this album?
R&B has always been a huge influence on everything that I do in music. I think that it has been a big part of every one of our albums. I guess we wanted this one to have the energy of an early Pretenders or Devo record, rock as hard as Led Zeppelin, and be occasionally at least a fraction as intelligent as an Elvis Costello and the Attractions record but still able to forgive itself when it is as childish and dumb as a Rolling Stones record.
What made you decide to go with Ethan Johns as the producer for the new album and how do you think he affected the final product?
Ethan is a great musician and he is a really great leader. We met him in England and got on well. It was the right time for us to hand over the reigns on a studio project and we were lucky to have him. He helped tremendously when it came to focusing arrangements. He also has a great ear and knows what sounds good on every instrument for every occasion. The record definitely wouldn’t have been the same if he weren’t guiding the process.
A new lineup takes time to fully develop and explore their sound, how have the concerts thus far been going? What things are you “clicking together” on better that you may not have been at first? Are there any new sonic landscapes developing with the new lineup that we will see more of on this tour and on the next studio album?
Yes it does! We are having great moments and some not so great moments out here. We are lucky to have three extraordinarily talented players out with us now. Mike St. Clair is basically a radical musical Swiss Army knife. He is adding tons of texture and extending the chords for us. Jeff Olson is drumming his ass off and is making really inspiring choices from the throne. Jonathan Horne has an incredibly unique voice and approach to creating guitar parts. There isn’t anyone doing what he does. For Steve and I the job is to keep our ears open and to remain flexible. We have another really special group of musicians together and we are excited to see how the music continues to evolve over the years.
2016 TOUR DATES
4/19 – Charlottesville, VA @ The Southern *
4/20 – Washington, DC @ The Black Cat *
4/21 – Philadelphia, PA @ Union Transfer *
4/22 – Cambridge, MA @ The Sinclair *
4/23 – Burlington, VT @ Higher Ground *
4/25 – New York, NY @ Bowery Ballroom *
4/28 – Columbus, OH @ Skully’s Music Diner *
4/29 – Indianapolis, IN @ The Hi-Fi *
4/30 – Chicago, IL @ Thalia Hall *
5/1 – St. Paul, MN @ Turf Club *
5/3 – St. Louis, MO @ Off Broadway *
5/4 – Lawrence, KS @ The Bottleneck *
7/15 – Louisville, KY @ Forecastle Festival
7/16 – Louisville, KY @ Forecastle Festival
7/17 – Louisville, KY @ Forecastle Festival