At any given moment, White Denim occupy a myriad of musical spaces without locking themselves into in any particular one. The Austin based trio’s go-for-broke attack can encompass Stooges-esque punk, prog, Live At Leeds-era Who, psychedelia and post-bop jazz- all within a single song. Yet the band’s music, as evidenced in their new album, Fits, is the product of a cohesive aesthetic that is anything but random. With a rabid and growing following in the UK, and rave reviews in numerous U.S. publications such as The New York Times, White Denim have made their name not just by being great at what they do, but by seemingly being the only ones doing what they do.
Fits breathes with the sense of self-discovery that arises when a band has put the work in, exposed its true identity, and has more fully developed its craft. Lead vocalist and guitarist James Petralli says, “On our first album, we introduced a ton of ideas. Fits feels a bit more natural, more like it’s our real first record.” That becomes apparent on tracks like “Say What You Want” and “Radio Milk How Can You Stand It,” which are badass garage rock killers, shot through with an obvious intelligence that leaves the listener beguiled, overwhelmed and wanting more. NME has called Fits, “A fantastic record, a slow-burn masterpiece that buds gradually and thrives on the oxygen of repeated exposure,” and Mojo has echoed that praise, raving that Fits is, “a fantastic, exploratory record.”
With Petralli, Steve Terebecki on bass, and Joshua Block on drums, White Denim have been entrancing audiences since their formation in 2005. Originally a four-piece playing under the name Parque Touch, they became White Denim when their first lead singer moved to Russia. Playing the gritty rock clubs in the Red River area of Austin, the band quickly found their own sound - one with roots in the past, but with a thoroughly modern direction. James says, “We wanted to approach the band in an old school way, with a real focus on musicianship. With a lot of the stuff we like, there’s a focus on pushing boundaries in whatever form the players are messing with.”
Almost as soon as they formed they began recording and producing at Josh’s home studio, which is housed in his 1940’s Spartan trailer. James states, “When I think about the old rock groups, they made a lot of music in a short period of time. It was common to put out a couple of records a year while also touring extensively, and we knew that we wanted to take a similar direction in regards to recording and touring.”
In early 2007, the band released its first EP, “Let’s Talk About It,” (on vinyl) and quickly followed it up with a nine-song tour EP titled, “Workout Holiday,” sold exclusively at shows. Catching the attention of the tastemakers at RCRDLBL.com, three of White Denim’s songs were included on an exclusive online-only EP that was released through RCRDLBL’s inhouse digital imprint in early 2008. This EP produced positive notices in both Rolling Stone and Drowned In Sound. Exposion, the band’s first full-length, came in 2008, earning accolades from a multitude of publications. PopMatters said of the band, “They’re as catchy as any pop band going, but they also handle strange sounds, texture, and off-kilter compositions as well as your favorite noise experimenter.”
But it’s been White Denim’s live show that has been the catalyst for spreading the band’s reputation. Intensely kinetic and bordering on frenzied, the band attacks each song in its own inimitable fashion; with Josh’s combustible drumming driving each twist and turn of the action. James’s guitar and vocals operate, by turn, as dagger and balm, living out the drama and intensity of each song. Steve’s bass functions as both lead instrument and anchor, pushing the music into further realms while knowing exactly when to bring things back to the earth.
The U.K.’s reaction to White Denim has been nothing short of ecstatic, and the band has responded in kind. Signed to Full Time Hobby in the U.K., the band’s critical reception has been incredible, with raves from NME, the Guardian and more. The band has really put their time in - as James recounts, “Last year, we did 30 weeks in the U.K., and really attacked it there. The audience there has truly made us feel at home there.”
Fits was born out of the collaborative process that followed the band home after so much time on the road. James explains, “When we came off tour, we let the ideas that were generating the most excitement in the group come to the fore. If something wasn’t immediately happening with the tune, we junked it.” The stylistic differences between the harder rocking and jagged first half of the album and the soul-fused second half were also a conscious move on the part of the band. “We definitely tried to do an A-Side/B-Side thing - the B-Side is our breezy soul side.” And indeed, songs like “Paint Yourself” and “Regina Holding Hands” provide softer, more melancholic and almost trippy elements to White Denim’s sonic palette, songs that wash over the listener joyously, rather than thunderously.
With the release of Fits, White Denim have fashioned their most definitive expression yet of the full dimensions of their sound. It’s a sound that is uniquely the band’s own – and it is a sound that is winning converts one by one with its sheer power, nuance and inventiveness. Remaining on the road for the rest of 2009 and into 2010, White Denim will continue to defy genre labels and easy categorization, rewarding listeners and concertgoers with a musical experience that is way beyond the current usual order of things: an experience that coheres like few others, even amidst the clamor and the storm.
US Tour Dates:
1/15 - Padres - Marfa, TX
1/16 - Club Congress - Tuscon, AZ
1/17 - Casbah - San Diego, CA
1/19 - Troubadour - Los Angeles, CA
1/20 - The Independent - San Francisco, CA
1/22 - Doug Fir - Portland, OR
1/23 - Media Club - Vancouver, BC
1/24 - Neumos - Seattle, WA
1/26 - Urban Lounge - Salt Lake, UT
1/27 - Larimer Lounge - Denver, CO