White Denim’s Tunes and Touchstones
With each passing year, White Denim turns a new stone, venturing into musical paths and waters that extend the broad scope of their psychedelic rock sound. From their roots as a three piece garage-y punk outfit, the now four member band (Jenkins joined White Denim as a fulltime member in August of 2010) has since taken on a jammier, progressive direction that explores a more composed sound, built up by intricately composed songs ripe with varying time signatures and extended measures of guitar acrobatics. Over the last five years, the amazingly prolific group has put out five LPs and an equal number of EPs. In May of 2011, they released the prog-aligned D, followed by the starkly contrasting Takes Place In Your Workspace EP, their mellowest effort to date. We caught up with White Denim bassist Steve Trebecki and guitarist Austin Jenkins recently to chat about their current direction, appearances on the summer festival circuit, and some new projects in the works. The group is rounded out by drummer Joshua Block and guitarist/vocalist James Petralli.
All of White Denim’s albums have followed a major progression with each new release sounding far different from the previous one. What has inspired the band’s current direction?
ST: The main thing that jumps to my mind is that our first three records were recorded in Josh’s home studio, so there’s a lot of limitations there. Also, endless amounts of time. Whereas starting with D and then Takes Place In Your Workspace, we’ve been working in outside studios with not a lot of limitations as far as the gear goes, but also limited time. I think that’s the main thing, but also just each of us growing as musicians as wanting to explore different types of music.
AJ: Ideally, the concept generally revolves around something centralized that we’re getting excited about doing and then executing a recording project that has that in mind. The two tunes that we’re going to be adding to the Takes Place in Your Workspace EP, we’re trying to make sure they fit in with the material that’s there already and just working them into a direction that that had. As far as direction for the EP, James had these tunes written and just getting in there and trying to serve the song in a way and trying to incorporate a lot these elements that weren’t quite exposed on D.
Were the EP and D recorded around the same time or were those different sessions?
ST: There’s a couple of songs on Takes Place that were intended to be on D. Then there’s a couple of songs that we recorded in a session last Februrary. So it’s kind of half and half as far as Takes Place goes. The two songs we’re adding were also recorded in those February sessions, along with “Cat City” and “No Real Reason.”
Do you feel the EP is more representative of your sound right now?
ST: Well that’s maybe why it ended up as an EP. We had these tunes that sounded in that way that didn’t fit on D. We have a lot of other songs that didn’t fit on D, which we’ll probably be making future EPs with. We just try to put songs in a collection that sounds good together. It wouldn’t necessarily mean it’s our current direction, we’re just trying to find a place that makes sense for all of the songs.
AJ: I think it’s a difficult thing to establish a timeline of direction, because, in a way, we sort of have many directions at one time. It’s just what we’re currently working on and having continuality and making sure that happens. That process will form what direction we get in, but I agree with Steve, it’s just trying to make sure the material all fits together as one unit when you hear it.
Many of the songs are almost prog-rock leaning. Are you guys writing these collaboratively or are they written individually?
ST: Well for D, I think almost all of them were demos that James had guitar and vocals on—maybe on additional instrument. He sort of just sent them to us and we worked our own instruments into them. The one song, “Drug,” was a little different as far as that goes. But D was mostly James’ songs.
AJ: Many of the ideas start with James coming up with things. I think one of the ways he likes to write is with his acoustic guitar on his front porch. He generates a whole lot of songs and ideas from those things and sessions that he does. He then shows them to the group and we start trying to hammer them out and doing different sections. That’s how the process develops in a large majority.