Their music is hard to label, and they’re in no rush to give it one. Hailing from various parts of Missouri, White Rabbits put a fresh new percussive spin on punk. Two albums deep in their career, they’ve earned high scores from big-time press, as well as a small cult following. And lately they’ve been all over the web. They recently recorded sets for La Blogoteque and Myspace Transmissions. Alex Even and Steve Patterson were kind enough to break away from a sound check over the summer for a few minutes to talk to us. I know this is the part where I’m supposed to list off three wild and crazy things we talked about, but I think I’ll just let you read the dialogue yourself.
The following took place at The Slowdown in Omaha, NE.
IF: Is this your first time in Omaha?
Steve: Second time.
IF: And where were you the first time you played here?
Steve: I think we played at The Waiting Room about a year ago.
IF: Cool. So did you get to check out Omaha then at all?
Steve: I remember we were really late for the last show, and I got pulled over for speeding. So, no. We didn’t really get to see any of Omaha.
IF: Are both of you from Columbia, Missouri, then?
Alex: Steve is from right outside of St. Louis, and I’m from St. Louis.
IF: But you both went to Missouri for college?
Steve: Yeah, we met in Columbia.
IF: Did you finish your studies out there?
Steve: I did.
Alex: I’m a slacker. I was skateboarding. (smiles)
IF: We all go through that phase.
Alex: (laughs) I’m still in that phase.
IF: I was going to say, for some of us, it’s a lifelong phase. Recently, the whole band moved out to New York. And you live in Brooklyn now.
Alex: Yeah, we moved to New York in 2005.
IF: Obviously, New York is the center of all-
Alex: All things unholy.
IF: (laughs) Exactly. Were there any other reasons for moving, or did you just need a change in locale?
Steve: It was just time to move. We finished school, and that’s just what we wanted to do.
IF: After being in New York for two semesters myself, everyone I’ve talked to who has lived in New York says the one thing they regret is that they wish they would have taken in more of the city since there’s so much to do. Do you guys feel like you’re doing that, or is there anything that’s inhibited you from doing that?
Alex: I don’t know. My job is to be in a band, not to explore the city of New York. The main thing is that we don’t really have any other friends. So we just have to hang out with each other.
IF: Britt Daniel produced your latest album. How did you get hooked up with that?
Steve: [Spoon] came out to see us play in Minneapolis a year or two ago, and we just kind of hit it off, stayed in touch, and we went on a tour with them last year for about a month. And we just asked him. And this is really his first foray into producing a full album, so he was very excited about the prospect. The timing was good with his Spoon stuff. I actually just sent him a text message.
IF: Oh yeah? For a little moral support?
Steve: (smiles) Yeah.
IF: And [Spoon’s producer] Mike McCarthy mixed the record?
IF: So what was that like? Did it take a while to sink in?
Steve: Working with Britt? I’m pretty sure we were all pretty intimidated when we first met those guys, but we were pretty good friends by the time we started working on the album, which is a good thing.
Alex: You get all the nervousness out the first time you send them stuff, and it’s like “I hope you like this.”
Steve: Yeah, sending them the first tape was pretty nerve-racking.
IF: Speaking of prestigious musicians, I think Jamie [Levinson], one of the drummers in the band, worked with James Chance.
Alex: Yeah. I think it was for a reunion tour.
IF: Any crazy stories about him or has he settled down?
Steve: (chuckles) Yes, a lot of crazy stories, none of which we should probably say on camera.
IF: Fair Enough.
Alex: [Jamie] actually made a short documentary film.
Steve: Yeah, it’s about James Chance’s brother, called “My Brother is James Chance.” What is it? His brother goes out and does the sound checks and stuff. You should watch it.
IF: That’s cool. I will. You guys went to Bonnaroo this year. That was your first time doing that?
IF: How was that?
Steve: Really Incredible.
IF: The lineup was ridiculous.
Steve: Yeah, it was the best lineup of any festival this summer.
IF: Whenever I’d try to tell someone who’s at Bonnaroo, I’d throw bands out and they’d pile up on each other. Did you get to see a lot of cool shows?
Steve: Yeah, we got to see Animal Collective, a little bit of Grizzly Bear, Phoenix, David
IF: Phish played two shows.
IF: And what month was it that It’s Frightening came out?
IF: Have you seen an affect that Bonnaroo has had on sales?
Steve: Well it’s only been a couple weeks, so we’ll have to see. But there were more people than we’ve ever played in front of, and they were all really enthusiastic.
Alex: Just as a general experience, Bonnaroo was pretty overwhelming and inspiring – so many people from disparate backgrounds. Watching them interact was kind of a mindfuck.
Steve: Actually, the third song in to the set, the power went through the whole festival and in Manchester, the surrounding town. So, we’re mid-song and it just shzooooom. (motions his hands down)
Alex: It sounded like a transformer.
Steve: But the crowd just started going nuts and cheering, and Jamie kept playing the drum beat. The crowd just took it all over and clapped along with us, and 30 seconds later the power came back on. And I feel like something like that could only happen at that festival.
IF: You released your last album on vinyl. Was your first one on vinyl too?
IF: Are you big into vinyl collecting?
Steve: Well, we have a vinyl collection, though I don’t know if I’d consider myself a big collector.
IF: I always find it cool when newer artists release music on vinyl.
Steve: Sure. It sounds way better than anything else.
IF: Exactly. You guys have two drummers, right?
IF: And you bring your piano on tour with you. Does that become a hassle?
Steve: Yes. Every day, but it’s worth it.
Alex: We’re really strong now. We’re superheroes.
IF: I’ve got to ask you about your influences.
Steve: Oh…For this record…
Alex: It’s kind of all over the place. For the first record we tried to find a few bands to go off. When we first started out we didn’t really know what we were doing, so we were like, “Alright, let’s try to narrow it down and find a few bands that we really like.” For this record, I feel like it was more spread out.
Steve: It was nice for this time around – and this might sound pompous – but to be able to be influenced by your band itself and to understand your own sound, which we didn’t have for the first record. I think a big thing that we wanted to do on this record is to capture the chemistry of the six of us playing together and getting the energy from the stage on tape. We listened to a lot of The Clash, and I was listening to a lot of Beatles stuff at the time. We actually listened to quite a bit of hip-hop. A lot of times the rhythms come first, and we approach the song with a permanent loop going.
IF: Yeah, I can see how the drums could definitely be something out of a hip-hop song. As far as trying to pin down exactly what kind of band you are, the main categorization I’ve heard is “post-punk revival.”
Alex: (laughs) What does that mean?
IF: Well, I keep reading “honky-tonk calypso.”
Steve: That was just a really bad joke that Greg [Roberts] made one time that everybody decided to latch onto.
IF: I just wanted to get that straight, because in everything I read about you guys, it always shows up.
Alex: It’s kind of a double-edged sword, because this time around we’re not even going to get into that business of labeling what we do at all, so we’re just going to let journalists do it. But I guess you should just tell them what you want them to say about you.
Steve: (laughs) Because clearly they’ll just repeat it, ad nauseam.
Alex: We should just call ourselves the greatest band on the earth…Yeah, we’re post-punk revival.
IF: (laughs) How did the music video for “Percussion Gun” (the first track on the album) come about? Who was in charge of doing that?
Steve: Andrew Droz Palermo directed the video, and he also built that light rig in the video.
IF: Yeah, I was wondering about that. It’s like a carousel/dungeon thing.
Alex: Yeah, it’s really strange. He actually employed like a team of Mennonites in Missouri to do the – what’s it called? – soldering for it.
Steve: It was a really fun experience because we shot it in Columbia, Missouri, back home. And so a lot of our old friends were able to work on the video, so it was kind of like a big party.
IF: And I saw your tour, and it’s something like 16 shows in 18 days?
IF: (laughs) I think so. There are rarely any breaks. Are you guys sponsored by 5 Hour Energy Drink or what?
Alex: (Points to Red Bull refrigerator)
Steve: (in sarcastically patronizing tone) No, we’re not sponsored by them.
Alex: Oh yeah, sorry. That’s misleading…This tour’s been a whirlwind, but it’s been a lot of fun, and I feel like the record is translating really well live. It seems like everybody’s having a good time.
Steve: Every show had been really great – the best tour I’ve been on.
IF: One last question. If you could either collaborate or share the stage with any artist who do you think it would be?
Alex: This guy named Britt Daniel.
Steve: (laughs)…Animal Collective would be fun. Seems like they’d be fun to jam with. I’ll say that.
Alex: Animal Collective.
IF: Alright, well this is Alex and Steve from White Rabbits. Thanks a lot, guys.
Alex and Steve: Thank you.
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