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iheartau.com: White Denim Q&A

June 18, 2009

Email interview with James Petralli. I did this before seeing the band (the interview was promo for the Belfast and Dublin gigs) and subsequently becoming a massive fan of them. The interview appeared on iheartau.com here.

white denim

White Denim burst onto our collective consciousness last summer with the exhilarating garage-rock blast of Workout Holiday, a debut album that indulged the Texans’ dusty-fingered musical tastes, taking in blues, country, soul, dub and punk. They’re back next week with Fits, and they’re marking it with a tour of the UK and Ireland, including stop-offs in Dublin next Thursday, June 26 and Belfast on the Friday. We chucked some questions in the direction of frontman James Petralli and this is what he came back with.

AU: You’ve said that CDs are “worthless” – why do you think that way?

James Petralli: This one is always going to haunt us. One of us said this to a neighbour on garbage collection day and it somehow became our motto. Darn. Honestly, we don’t feel that way at all. It is just that none of us buy CDs if there is a vinyl record option with the release. When we said this we were an unsigned band, and we just decided to invest our own resources on something that we knew would not end up on the floorboard of someone’s automobile. CDs are better than mp3s, but they take up so much space and they seem to be cherished as artefacts less and less by music lovers.

Your music seems to draw from all sorts of different places, musically – are there any bands or genres that you are all passionate about?

We all have a ton in common taste-wise. We like Tommy James and the Shondells and XTC, as well as Wayne Shorter and Mothers of Invention. We are music lovers. If it is great we all love it. Playing rock and roll is extremely fun, and we are passionate about doing it together.

How do you feel about being seen as a ‘retro’ band?

It is fine with us. We make references to music that is old. We are just happy to be seen as anything really. We are all in our mid Fifties, so it makes sense.

Is the lo-fi sound of your records a deliberate aesthetic decision? Does that rawness appeal to you over more than polished approach?

We do things the way we do them because it is comfortable creatively and monetarily. I would rather see a new piece of gear in Josh [Block, drums]’s studio than to be in debt to a producer and an engineer. We are not ruling anything out for future records, but as it stands we like to give one another in the group a chance to progress in any way possible. In my humble opinion, Josh has made leaps and bounds as an engineer over the course of one year. With the right treatment and exposure he could be Leonardo di Caprio or Robert De Niro behind the board. You know, somebody who is somebody. Right? We trust one another’s talents and strive to become better at whatever we are doing. So yes, it is a deliberate and necessary aesthetic financial romantic decision.

There’s a lot going on in your songs – does it take time to form the ideas into finished tracks?

Yes. Like anything, you have to dedicate yourself fully to realise a respectable end. It takes a good bit of time as well as patience and sensitivity. We are all constantly interpreting one another’s musical intent. It isn’t always a natural thing, but most times it works out pretty well in the imperial mansion.

Your next album Fits comes out in a couple of weeks – what was the process of writing and recording like this time?

We learned a ton about ourselves and one another making this record. We had to chew on one another’s heads a bit, so to speak, in order to finish this record. We wrote and wrote and recorded and fell in and out of love again and again. It is complex and I am horrible at talking about processes like that.

Can we expect more of the same or have you come up with something to surprise us?

Most likely more of the same boring old boring run of the mill boring stuff we’ve been doing our whole lives. No but really, surprising futuristic surprises await in the next White Denim release. So rare and new and specially unique and groundbreakingly fresh our new musical direction will be, that we may never record it or write it.

There’s a lot of energy and exuberance on your records. What can we expect from the live show?

We work as hard as we can to give audiences a good rock show. We sweat. A ton. We sometimes bleed. For a band like ours, it is crucial that we give everything we can every time we approach the stage. There may be more energy and exuberance in our performances than in our records.

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