Wednesday, 14 September 2016

White Denim (INTERVIEW & LEEDS GIG PREVIEW)



A decade into their career, at time of writing, Texan quartet White Denim are crossing the USA en-route to the UK and Ireland, promoting their latest album ‘Stiff’ a deliciously chaotic collection of tunes. James Petralli, Steve Terebecki, Jonathan Horne and Jeff Olson have the enviable knack of creating records containing the perfect blend of songs that either blow you away first take like the white knuckle blues of ‘Holda You, (I’m Psycho)’ or creep up and bite you on the ass such as the proggy, riff-laden ‘Mirrored in Reverse’.


The impending quartet of British Isles dates (Dublin, Belfast, Newquay and Brecon) constitute a sneak preview to their full European tour taking place in the Autumn, including a night at Leeds University on 6th October. Despite their packed itinerary, warm and unpretentious frontman James is in ebullient mood, echoing the rest of his band mates, despite the odd customer service issue. ‘We’re pretty good man. I’m in the middle of a travel day wrestling with an airline, trying to get my frequent flyer miles taken care of which is pretty frustrating’…first world problems and all that.

Indeed such is the demand to see WD live these days, the Autumn dates will be their fourth set of 2016 shows in Blighty, having played a blinder at 6music festival in the Spring, returning for Glastonbury, then again for their aforementioned recent dates, making it a full 6 months since the album’s release as James confirms their hectic recent schedule. ‘It’s been a while. Kind of a distance between the release and the club shows in the UK’…no doubt well worth the wait.



Despite playing Leeds many times, this will be the first White Denim gig playing the University, emphasising the band’s continued upward curve, ‘We’ve never played [The University] before. We played The Cockpit four or five times plus a couple of other little places’.

Talking about how the latest album songs came to be, James spills the beans on the inner workings of the creative process, confessing ‘We’ve been a band for about ten years now so the writing process is pretty workmanlike, spending time sitting in a hot garage cranking out songs, making demos and sending them to the [other] band members, that’s been the way for the last decade’, adding ‘We’ve tried to do more collaborative things and there’s always one or two band tracks, in fact the last record 'Corsicana Lemonade' was more of a full band record but this one is a return to our old process. We cut the record live in North Carolina with this guy Ethan Johns who’s a really great British producer’.

When opining about what made him start making music, James admits to a healthy variety of influences ‘I’m officially a muso man, I think it was Sly Stone and Jimi Hendrix what hooked me, especially on guitar and singing, Stevie Wonder for song writing, although my first favourite song was the Beverley Hills Cop theme’, perhaps explaining why their records contain a plethora of interesting electronica floating around the edges. ‘It’s a guitar band primarily but I have a pretty healthy obsession with analogue synthesisers, we’re really into that…..one of these days we’ll make a full synthesizer record, we would have had a lot more on ‘Stiff’ but we got interference from the producer.’

The band hail from Austin, home of the famed SXSW festival, no doubt helping the band get where they are today, James paying tribute to his Bohemian surroundings, ‘Austin is kind of a special place in Texas, there is a cool confluence of different styles…cowboy hippies, punk rockers, jazz people, everybody hanging out at the same places you know….we’ve done [SXSW] it eleven times now. And that’s how we got our first deal with ‘Full Time Hobby’ back in 2006, they watched us play and offered us a deal’, James responding to my confirmed desire to attend one day, lamenting, ‘It gets a little more commercial every year so if you’re going to go, don’t wait too long.’


Looking to the future, James envisages more material sooner rather than later, adding ‘We’re going to write, I’ve already started writing, and we’re done in October with touring and I’m kind of keen to get a few things out at the top of next year, some new music I hope……just writing and jamming man! I have a studio in Austin so it’s easy for me to go to work at 9 o’clock, hang it up at 4, do the night time thing with my kids, studio life is better for me, you can fall flat on your face 9 times out of 10 and nobody knows about it, although I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get a massive kick out of playing the songs on stage too’.

Talking about the band’s relatively few personnel changes James reflects, ‘Our original drummer left before we made this record which was unfortunate but it’s also been kind of a cool thing, building our confidence, realising that the band is more than just one person and we can make it as long as the spirit is still intact.‘ Talking of the rip-roaring sound on the last record, James confirms the band’s inner steel, ’I’m glad we sound really confident, that’s part of making rock and roll records, the puffing of the chest, but we’re just people and we have our ups and downs too, questioning ourselves at certain points. If you’d told me even 5 years ago that I’d have a top 20 record without creative compromise…..it’s a cool feather in the cap I guess….I’ve got to get that number 1 now.’

Words and interview conducted by Mike Price

White Denim official


Tour dates


14 August Boardmasters Festival, Newquay
16 Whelans, Dublin
17 Limelight, Belfast
19 August Brecon Beacons Green Man Festival
5 October ABC1, Glasgow
6 October University, Leeds
7 October The Ritz, Manchester
8 October The Academy, Bristol
10 October Rock City, Nottingham
11 October The Roundhouse, London