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Published: 2014/09/10
by Rob Slater

White Denim Goes for Three

If you’ve attended any major music festival in the last few years, you’ve more than likely stumbled upon the powerful, riveting sound of Austin, TX’s own White Denim. The quartet, that ranges from a prototypical garage rock act to a jazz fusion group, is arguably at their musical peak, delivering an eclectic and thrilling mix of material on a nightly basis. Bassist Steve Terebecki, one half of the dominating rhythm section for the band, spoke to us ahead of the band’s three-night run at Brooklyn’s Music Hall of Williamsburg about what fans can expect from the shows and what the future holds for the former indie darlings.

Last time I saw you guys was at Bonnaroo and the confidence on stage seemed to be at an all-time high. Has that carried over in the last few months?

We’re definitely deep into the record so we’re feeling super comfortable with all of our set—for sure by then and even more so now so we’re definitely feeling that.

How long does it take for the new songs to become committed to muscle memory on stage?

The songs themselves they don’t take too long because we’re playing them for a few months before the record even comes out so by the time the record comes out we’re pretty solid on the songs themselves but linking them up with our old material takes a couple of extra tours longer—so three or four months after the record’s released I feel like we’re pretty good in terms of linking our old stuff with our new stuff.

What is the process of linking the old material with the new?

We just kind of look for a small similarity or something like that to link them up but our old stuff is quite a bit different from our new stuff so there are a couple of things that we thought would be more seamless but it just felt so different so it took a while to kind of make it feel right going from a song off Fits to a song off Corsicana Lemonade or something. It took a little while but we eventually worked it out.

Is there a different process or approach to playing a big gig like Bonnaroo compared to a small club in Music Hall of Williamsburg?

I guess it’s not so much the amount of people as it is the amount of time we’re given. It’s normally a lot less [than a headlining show]. We have 45 minutes to an hour at most. So we definitely try to make it a bit more concise. The sound’s a little bit bigger so sometimes we drop the beat down maybe a BPM or two. That’s pretty much it. With big crowds there’s just a natural energy that comes into it. It feels really good. We just try to write a little bit more of a concise set and maybe don’t hang on a vamp quite as long or anything like that. We just try to move on.

Earlier this year, you guys sold out Webster Hall and are now opting to spend three nights at a much smaller venue in Music Hall of Williamsburg. What is it about the smaller room that’s beneficial to your music?

We always have enjoyed playing smaller places—smaller clubs more than larger clubs. The vibe is better and usually the sound is better. We play a lot of notes so the bigger places just don’t translate very well and I feel like when we play in a smaller place our whole catalogue is sort of available to us in the places and we don’t have to cut anything out because in those big open rooms a note can take like a half a second. We always like the vibe and the feeling and the sound in the rooms that are around 600 cap a lot better.

White Denim doesn’t play a whole lot of multi-night runs. As far as the setlist is concerned, will there be a wide variety over the course of the three-nights?

We’re probably going to mix it up a little bit. As much as we’d like to do three completely different sets with a little cross over—we’re probably going to play most of Corsicana Lemonade and maybe mix up the order. It’s probably going to be more a shake up of the order and not really too much with different songs.

Are the slight changes to keep it fresh for yourselves or for the audience?

It’s a little bit of both. At this point we have so many songs we sometimes just forget. We don’t work up a master list. We write a different set each night and base it off of what pops into our head at the moment. 17-20 songs and we’re at our hour, hour 20 minutes. We end up leaving a lot out. But sometimes we’ll remember something on stage and end up throwing that in there. We’ve done a tour where we’re doing the same thing every night and man, it’s kind of brutal in a different way. Touring and being on the road is always a little bit like the movie Groundhog Day but that makes it even more so like Groundhog Day.

I know Corsicana is still fresh to you and to the audience, but has there been any talk about writing new music?

Basically, where we are with that is that we’ve just been talking about it. We haven’t really done anything with that yet. We have a really, really loose timeline and that’s about it. We’re going to be done playing shows on October 21 and take a little bit of time off from touring and from each other but we’ll probably start the writing process at that time.

We’ve decided we’re going to do it the way we did our first couple of records and trade emails with some ideas and riffs. Then probably after Thanksgiving we’ll get together and jam on some of those ideas that sound better so us. We’re shooting to get into the studio, well, our plan is to write the whole record before we enter the studio—so we want to have the whole thing written and hopefully be in there April or May at the latest.

Do you write at all on the road?

We’ve tried back in the day but it just doesn’t really work. Sometimes during soundcheck we’ll jam and play a lot but more often than not we’ll end up just rehearsing songs that we don’t or haven’t played recently. That ends up being what takes the time instead of writing.

Do you think that’s because you maybe don’t want to lose focus on the task at hand, being the show that evening?

A little bit of that, maybe. I’m not actually sure why. None of us come up with riffs on the road. I think it’s a really private thing for all of us. I’m sure we could come up with riffs in front of each other but it’s something we all prefer to do at home and then we prefer bringing it in when we have something hashed out a bit.

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