The White Rabbits | Letting Go and Grabbing Hold

prof white-rabbits sm-textI asked Stephen to describe the way they are recreating live the very sonic and layered sounds from the album. He told me simply that it is a “secret.”

 

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Originally from the Midwest, The White Rabbits exploded onto the music scene in 2007 with Fort Nightly. Their follow up album, It’s Frightening, saw the Rabbits hit the top 200 U.S. Billboard chart, as well as have a top 50 Alternative Song with “Percussion Gun.” Some time has passed and some tours have been had, but it’s time once again.

The White Rabbits are on the verge of their third release, Milk Famous, an album that draws from the band’s past and looks toward the future. I had the opportunity to speak with Stephen Patterson, lead vocalist and pianist about living in New York, how the internet has changed music, and what they hope to accomplish on this tour.

Being from Columbia, Missouri, how do you feel moving to New York helped your career?

The main thing was we got a lot more focused when we got here. Columbia was great but, to be honest, when we all got to New York; we just kind of hung out in our loft that we all shared and never experienced the city that much ’cause we were broke. We just all practiced a lot more and wrote a lot more, got a lot more focused.

You hit a real stride with “Percussion Gun” being featured in the 2010 EA Sports FIFA World Cup videogame and played live on the David Letterman show. What would you say is your favorite track from Milk Famous?

I’m really proud of “Danny Come Inside”; I think that was the last song we worked on. It was a rare exception to the rest of the songs on the record. It had gone through many different versions: We played it live in a different version for about six months, and then the day before we were going to track it; it just wasn’t working. So we rewrote the whole thing the night before and went in the next day and tracked it and it sounded great. I’m really proud of that one.

You guys have a wide range of influences; which of them helped to shape the new album?

Lesser than the previous two albums, this one was shaped by our own personal experiences in life at the time of writing and recording. We used to go into writing songs with a framework: We wanted to do this sort of thing with this sort of thing and that thing. We went into songs with a plan, which is helpful. Elvis Costello would start songs that way or we would want to play a Patsy Cline-kind of song, and that’s what it would be. With this record, it was an exercise in letting go, accepting and not trying to over think it and knowing when to step away and move on. We’d write something—“you like that,” “cool,” “keep it”—settle on it for a few days or a week or two, and come back to it.

Musically, I was listening to PJ Harvey’s Let England Shake and Kanye West’s Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. I also was listening to a lot of pop radio, and a lot of pop R&B and hip-hop stuff, way more so than probably ever in my life. I don’t think it ever really shows [in our music], and I don’t think I was ever really looking for any direct influence from that kinda stuff, but it was more that I liked the way it made me feel. It was relaxing to a certain extent. There’s a confidence in the majority of singers in those genres that you don’t necessarily find in music of bands that we are lumped in with. Whenever you’re making a record, confidence is hard to come by; it comes and goes. I found that listening to that sort of stuff would ease my mind and make me feel positive going into the studio or writing. The world felt a lot more open to me.

You guys posted to your blog and to Facebook about SOPA and everything it was going to do to the internet. How do you feel the industry has changed because of file sharing, and do you feel it benefits or does it hurt?

That’s a tricky question, man. It’s tricky with a band like us because we benefit from it to be honest. If we are talking strictly financially here, the live show is where bands make money. We make more money playing a live show than selling records. In that sense, it has made it a lot easier for a lot more people to hear our music, and hopefully those people want to go have a specific, more unique experience that a live show can provide.

However, obviously, file sharing hurts. It’s how a lot of people lose their jobs in the music industry, you know? I think it is to be determined whether or not the ultimate effect is going to be positive or negative. In terms of file sharing, piracy, and not paying for something that has value, I don’t have positive feelings about that. But the ability for a band to directly reach fans—that’s a totally positive thing.

What have been a couple of your favorite cities to visit and play, and where have you not been that you would really like to go?

Well, I really want to go to Mexico. St. Louis is always fun; it’s more of a family reunion than a part of the tour. I really enjoyed visiting Milwaukee; I think it’s really beautiful and it’s on the opposite end of St. Louis. The cities where you don’t know anybody can be kind of nice. You can go out and explore the town a little bit.

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How would you describe your live show to someone who has never seen it before?

We’ve been rehearsing for these live shows [for Milk Famous] for the last month, which has been tricky. This is a dangerous term here, but we’re trying to stretch out just a bit. Not in the sense of Alex [Even] takes a 10-minute guitar solo, but it’s funny how live music and recorded music are such a different thing. Our ears behave so differently when it’s not a visual experience. Something that would seem like ages when you are just simply listening to it would go by in an instant when you’re watching it. That’s something we are hoping to explore more on this tour. Finding a new sort of thing in the songs that we didn’t know was there. | Kyle Green

The White Rabbits play Plush in St. Louis on April 5. Doors at 8 p.m., all ages, tickets $13 adv/$15 dos.

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