Interview White Denim: ‘It’s Only Become Easier’

After years in each other’s company, Texas’ most prolific band have landed on their strongest record to date.

White Denim’s

James Petralli is talking about his first time.

“I was either 17 or 18, and it was during the half time for my school’s football game. We did ‘Shotgun’ by Junior Walker and the Allstars, and ‘Them Changes’ by Buddy Miles. It turned out great, mainly because we had a horn section, but I could’ve performed anything and they would’ve loved it.”

That was the beginning. If things struck gold back then, it’s still the case today. Petralli is a native to Austin, Texas where he’s performed for over a decade in numerous groups, before settling with White Denim, who are by strict definition prolific. Their new album ‘Corsicana Lemonade’ is the band’s fourth record in three years, a fact that even surprises lead singer and guitarist James Petralli. “Have we really done that many?” he says, almost amused by this fact. There’s a constant need to produce new material. It comes from a group of guys being comfortable and creative in the studio environment, where fear of failure simply doesn’t exist. “That’s the time when I’m happiest. Ideally I’d spend 4 to 5 hours in there everyday, just recording new stuff which we could then release and then tour for a few months of the year. We’re actually not that far off from doing that.”

When White Denim first got together, they came from various distinct corners. Petralli and drummer Josh Block were originally in Parque Touch and bass player Steve Terebecki was in Peach Train, all bringing individual knowledge to the writing experience that Petralli describes as invaluable. “Me and Josh had worked together before, so we had no issues. And when Steve came in it was just as easy. We all got what we wanted to do, and it was just a case of finding a common goal. And it’s only become easier since Austin (Jenkins, guitarist) joined us.”

Petralli and his band mates all enjoy the recording process, and the performing part too. It’s just the stuff in between that makes it a hard slog. “We drive to every gig in a van. That’s the time when it’s tough, especially because we all have families back home waiting for us. On average it works out to about 5 hours per drive, but we’ve had to 18 hour drives, and then the next morning get up and do some morning zoo radio show where no one is talking in their real voice. It’s those moments when you just imagine your bed at home, and how good it would feel just to go to sleep.”

With their new album, White Denim stay rooted to the to-and-fro of frenzied rock and supreme soul, but there are a few changes too. Gone are a few intricacies, the stuff that Petralli says “doesn’t translate to the stage because none of us could play the instruments. People would request these songs and we’d be looking at our shoes as we told them ‘We can’t do that one. We don’t know how to play that instrument. Sorry.’” In its place is a sturdier, more melodic sound.

The new stripped down sound of the new album bring two immediate references to mind; Chuck Berry and Thin Lizzy. Both turn out to be influence. “For anyone that’s picked up a guitar Chuck Berry is going to be an inspiration. It’d be hard to say he’s not, considering the inspiration he had on John Lennon and Paul McCartney. But Thin Lizzy was a more specific influence on us. Mainly in terms of melodies because theirs were so strong and distinct, but also the arrangement of their songs.”

Petralli also acknowledges the influence Jeff Tweedy of Wilco had on their new album. The two groups recently toured together, leading to Tweedy giving the band some trusty advice for their big next step. “He just said ‘Be yourselves’, and not to worry so much about what we think we have to be. Essentially he told us to just work off of our instincts.”

Judging by the results in ‘Corsicana Lemonade’, Petralli and his band mates’ instincts are razor sharp, resulting in what’s easily their most complete piece of work to date.

White Denim’s ‘Corsicana Lemonade’ is out now.

Taken from the new, free DIY Weekly, available to read online or to download on iPad now.

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