Rollo & Grady Interview // James Petralli of White Denim

Rollo & Grady Interview // James Petralli of White Denim
Photo by Daniella Zalcman

Over the past two years, White Denim has received tremendous praise from music trades and the blogosphere. This type of excessive buzz normally generates a backlash (see Vampire Weekend, Black Kids), but this band has a cult-like following. Now, after a wildly successful winter tour of the UK and Europe, the Austin based trio are carrying strong momentum into this year’s SXSW.

It’s tough to categorize the three-piece outfit, which includes bassist Steve Terebecki, drummer Joshua Block and lead guitarist/singer James Petralli. White Denim is unpredictable. They switch gears song to song and in most cases, mid-song fusing elements of garage-rock, blues, punk and psychedelia, mixed with explosive guitars and a little mayhem. The band describes itself as James brings the soul, Steve brings the punk and Josh Brings the Jazz. Josh just calls it “grog rock”.

I recently spoke to James about getting married, the new album and their appearances at this year’s SXSW.

Rollo & Grady Interview // James Petralli of White Denim

R&G: You recently got married?

James: Yeah, last weekend.

No honeymoon?

James: There was, but it was a brief one. We’re both really busy, so we only got away for about four days, but it was nice.

R&G: How were your tour dates in Europe?

James: Europe was great, man. We have a lot of fans over there, so it’s always exciting for us.

R&G: How do you think most of the fans heard about your music overseas?

James: After South by Southwest last year, we signed a deal with a record label over there called Full Time Hobby, and they did it right. They got a really good promotional team together and pushed us on radio. We had a more traditional record push, and I’m pretty sure that’s what did it.

R&G: You guys are currently recording another album. Are you close to finishing it?

James: We’re pretty close. The guys in the band and Scottie, our manager, are the only ones who have really heard it, so we’re excited about it. We might need to hit the drawing board again for a couple of things, but at this point in time we’re pretty close.

R&G: Who’s producing the album?

James: Josh, our drummer. We’re keeping everything in-house on this one, as well.

Are you guys considering a US label?

James: We’ve always considered a label. We just want to maintain control. And we’re kind of a weird group, so I think a lot of labels are wary to put our records out. The second album is going to be a lot different than the first. I think the first one is really different than the EP. I don’t know, maybe labels are a little bit more concerned with quality control, keeping product consistency.

R&G: Are they asking for 360 deals?

James: I think the 360 deal is a big thing to them [labels]. That’s kind of scary for us, considering that our live performances are such a big part of our livelihood. We get a little nervous with that kind of offer.

R&G: When you say your second album is ‘different’ what do you mean?

James: I think the biggest difference is how far Josh has come as an engineer. We haven’t gotten a bunch of new gear, and maybe it’s putting the mikes in a sweet spot – I don’t even really know – but the recordings sound a lot clearer. I think that playing live together for two years helped us capture a set in fewer takes in the studio. Sometimes it can be challenging to lay a take that has a lot of life in it through a metronome when you’re playing by yourself, without any accompaniment. We play to a click track because we have a really small studio. I think it’s just having played together so much and having more time to think about the ideas on this record. Between the engineering and the musicians’ readiness, we were a lot more successful at capturing the idea instead of fiddling around with it in the box to make it rock. We were able to communicate a little quicker.

R&G: When do you plan to release it?

James: I’m really hoping we will put it out this summer.

R&G: Are you playing at South by Southwest this year?

James: Yeah, we’ll be there.

R&G: That’s good to hear. Is it a couple of shows or are you headlining a big show?

James: I’m not exactly sure. I know we’re going to play Chris Cantalini’s Gorilla Vs. Bear party. It’s at this little club called The Peacock on the east side of town, which has a cool atmosphere and is always a fun gig. I know we’re going to do that, but it’s the only thing that we have confirmed. I think we might do something for Dave at Little Radio. Other than that, I don’t know. We’re going to try to take it a little easier. Between last year and the year before, we played something like twenty-two showcases. We will be playing some fresh material, but I’d hate to go play the same parties. I don’t want to rehash anything.

White Denim is playing @ Spaceland on April 1st (Purchase Tickets)

MP3: White Denim – Transparency
MP3: White Denim – Goldie Locks
MP3: White Denim – Mess Your Hair Up

White Denim – Let's Talk About It – EP
White Denim – Exposion (Download)