White Denim’s Tunes and Touchstones
How do you feel the addition of a second guitarist, Austin, has changed the group’s sound both on and off stage?
ST: We’ve always had so many parts that weren’t represented in our older tunes. Working with Austin in the studio has been really great, he’s just onboard with us artistically. James used to use a boomerang pedal and loop parts and he’d have to be totally focused on guitar playing and singing. Now he doesn’t have to be as focused on guitar playing, he can really take over the vocal duties fully and Austin can take on guitar fully. James can play guitar and not necessarily show that he’s having to fill something up because Austin’s got it.
Hearing about your live show is how I was hipped onto White Denim—it’s known to be a very powerful performance with tons of energy. How do you approach the live show, are you playing the songs how they are on the album or do you improvise and let the songs wander in their own directions?
ST: I think a lot of D is very similar to the album. Some of the older tunes, we have sort of a different arrangement for them. There’s very little improvising at all. I’d say the structure of most tunes, for the most part, stay the same. There may be some variation within that structure, but there’s no parts where we just vamp and jam or new parts that happen—maybe just variations that happen within the framework.
AJ: One of the tunes we’ve been having fun with lately is at the end of the tune “River Consider.” Instead of doing this triplet oriented feel, to take it out we’ve just been going with the groove. The structure is still there, the link is to be determined by that, but I don’t know that it’s improvising. We’ll get freer with some solo sections and maybe some grooves, but I think overall the form is there. One thing that we really enjoy doing live is tying a lot of music together thematically and appreciating how certain tempos or rhythms will work with each other. So we’ll try to tie these anthems or huge medleys together and it’s cool to be conscious of that. I feel that it’s improvising in the sense that it’s creating a new composition on top of what we’re doing, but maybe it’s more just trying to make a larger composition out of littler ones.
What festivals are you playing this summer and which are you most looking forward to?
ST: We’re playing Primavera, Bonnaroo and Hopfarm in England, Hobo festival in Norway, Hipathon and Outlands. I’m really excited about Hopfarm—they just released the lineup and I think Bob Dylan and the Stranglers are playing. I’m really excited about all of them, they all kind of have their own charm going on. We haven’t really played any of them.
What are some of the goals you’re setting for yourselves this summer?
ST: We’re going to bring some recording equipment and mics on the road with us to try and finish some ideas off. We’re touring through the summer—pretty much until mid August—playing a lot and developing ideas.
AJ: We have some ideas for some tunes and some touchstones, but nothing concrete at this point.