White Rabbits | Homecoming

prof_white-rabbits_sm.gif"It turns out I had mistakenly sent the text directly to Britt Daniels, because those two B names were right next to each other."

 

 

 

 

 

Missouri-bred, Brooklyn-based rockers White Rabbits are currently touring in support of their latest studio effort, It’s Frightening. Ahead of the band’s upcoming dates in St. Louis and Columbia. We talked with drummer Jamie Levinson about being from the Midwest, the band’s sound, and how to accidentally ask someone to produce your album.

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You actually joined the band after the rest of the guys had moved to Brooklyn. But you’re from St. Louis, right?

Yeah, I grew up in Webster Groves, and [guitarist/vocalist] Greg Roberts grew up in Webster as well. We’ve known each other since kindergarten, so we’re going on like 25 years of friendship now.

So were you already in Brooklyn?

No, I was actually in grad school in Madison, Wisc., and I kind of got cold feet for the program I was in, and was ready to make a change. So I called them and said I was thinking about coming out to New York. They were in the process of beginning to record and shape the first album, Fort Nightly, and basically there were a lot of extra drum parts that were being added to the record as it was taking shape. Everybody decided it would be a good idea to have another set of hands to do that stuff. So I just packed up my things and moved out there.

So through Greg you were keeping a connection with the band even before you joined?

Yeah, I knew these guys quite a bit. I was playing in other bands, and any time a band I was in was playing in Columbia or St Louis we’d do shows in tandem, so I was already friends with the other guys in the band as well.

You mentioned the sound that was being shaped for the first record, and that has continued on It’s Frightening. That dual drum sound you guys have is really unique. And there’s the piano up there front and center as well. Was that a conscious decision on the part of the band? To try and really do something different?

It really wasn’t. It was more trial and error; we kind of just stumbled upon it. It happened naturally. We didn’t set out to say we’re going to be a band that has piano up front and center and has a lot of drums. It was really just kind of the result of six guys with very large record collections all kind of coming together, and the sound we have evolved out of that.

Spoon’s Britt Daniel produced It’s Frightening. How did you get hooked up with him?

It’s kind of funny, actually. We had met him in Minneapolis briefly. Spoon was playing in town at the same time and we hung out with them a little bit there. Then when we ended up playing in Portland, Ore., after that, Britt came out to see us and we hung out with him after the show. Through happenstance his number ended up in my phone. As we were deciding whether to work with a producer on It’s Frightening or just do it ourselves, his name came up. So I sent a text to an engineer friend of mine in Chicago named Benjamin asking what he thought about Britt Daniel producing the album. And I received a text back from Britt saying, "Who is this?" and it turns out I had mistakenly sent the text directly to Britt, because those two B names were right next to each other. So it was kind of a fluke. And luckily he was very forgiving about it and was enthusiastic about the idea, so we lucked out. But it could have ended right there.

How did your process with him work?

After we got off the road from supporting Fort Nightly, we basically just holed up in our practice space and went to town trying to write as much as we could. We had already set it up with him that he was going to work with us, so we basically just started sending him demos of the stuff we were working on. He would give us pointers and advice and we would take that under advisement and tweak things. So we kind of had this long-distance collaboration, and when we finally got to the studio it was pretty well mapped out and we knew everything we wanted to get done.

You guys live and work in Brooklyn, which seems to be the headquarters of a lot of really good music right now. How do you feel being near to all of that influences the band?

I think it’s largely the reason we made the move from Columbia. There’s a level of, and this is not the best word, but there’s a level of competition that is fostered there. Everybody’s trying to be really creative, and there’s a lot of incredible musicians and talented people all just in the mixing pot, trying to make their voices heard. It makes you take your craft seriously.

On the flip side of that, you guys are all originally from the heart of the Midwest. How does that play into how the band sounds and functions?

Well, musicians from all parts of the world have the same heart, I think. But there’s the ethos of the Midwest that’s a little more DIY. It’s really easy to get big in New York, because of the level of attention you can get there. I mean, you can sell out the Bowery Ballroom but then drive to Cleveland and play for 20 people. It’s really easy to exist in the microcosm of New York, but to go beyond that requires a lot of leg work, and being from the Midwest serves us well as we’re doing that. Really, we’ve been touring nonstop for the last three and a half years. And even the grimiest shows don’t get us down, because for us it’s more about playing shows for people. And a lot of that comes from being from the Midwest.

What’s it like to come back and play here now?

Well, for us, it’s like coming to a high school reunion. [Laughs] It’s kind of intense. People come out that you haven’t seen in years and that’s the biggest difference between playing there and playing in some town you didn’t grow up in. And the shows are always fun for us because we get to play for our families, which we don’t get to do very often, and that’s a small victory for us. | John Shepherd

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