Interviews

I'm backstage at The Leadmill in Sheffield with White Reaper, who are Tony Esposito (Guitars, Lead vocals), Ryan Hater (Keys), and twin brothers Nick (Drums) and Sam Wilkerson(Bass) to have a chat before tonight's show. 

This year you've released your debut album (which people should be buying) 'White Reaper Does It Again', which I bought after hearing a track on NPR's All Songs Considered podcast.

We really appreciate that , and hope you enjoy the show. It blows my mind that people this far away have even heard our music.

I hear on the album some Ramones, early Strokes, New York Dolls, Nirvana, was that the stuff you were listening to growing up in Louisville?

Yeah, basically all those bands you just mentioned. plus some punk shit. Everybody loves Nirvana,   Nevermind, is one of the first CD's your friends show you. We didn't consciously try to make album that sounded like that but it's going to happen.

Looking at your logo and the character on your band merchandise (who's the spitting image of Eddie), were you Iron Maiden fans as well?

It's a direct rip off. We liked the Iron Maiden merch, their look and Eddie so much we decided to rip it off. It's a tribute. Nobody does that stuff anymore, everyone wants to get all artsy it's a straight metal ass T-shirt. If I went to a show and saw one of those T-shirts I'd want to buy it.

Does your guy have a name?

We call him Deadie, (laughter in the room) we've never properly called him that but that's our joke.

Tell us something about the music scene in Louisville?

It's cyclical over a decade, you'll look up and there'll be 20 new bands appeared, which is kind of where we are now, but it can also die. We were born out of a lull there wasn't too much going on, there was a really big all ages scene we were part of, basically a punk scene. There was a venue called Skull Alley which was the one all ages venue in town got shut down and we were what are gonna do now? But it's back now and it's pretty good, but a lot of people move away they'll do high school band then leave, most kids want to go to a big city.

East Coast, West Coast?

More like Chicago, it's closer and cheaper than New York. I'm not knocking that, it's kind of how the scene works, everyone wants to go to a big city.

I know My Morning Jacket are from Louisville. Are they still based there?

Yeah, they're the big band from the area. The guy that recorded us Kevin Ratterman, he has parties every now and then and everyone from My Morning Jacket are at his parties, they're just guys who hang out. They played Forecastle (a Louisville festival) with us.   

Tony, you're the songwriter in the band. The last track on is album is B.T.K I've read through the lyrics and can't work out a reference to B.T.K.

Have you seen the movie Scream, at the end of the movie it's revealed that Billy's the Killer, so BTK.

And the track Wolf Trap Hotel ?

It's a real hotel.  We stayed there in Virginia and it's definitely haunted. It looks like it hasn't been touched since the seventies, its old school. We turned on the TV and it was just fuzz, definitely more than one murder has happened there.

I noticed the tour has a couple of days off. Are you planning to do anything?

We're still trying to work it but. if we have to play a basement show for free we'll do that, we just want to play. We hate having days off, we like to play all the time. Days off are just so slow. I think we're all going to get tattoos this weekend. We love getting tattoos on tour. Ryan - I think I'm going to get 'Free bird' ( the Lynyrd Skynyrd track) across my arm, they're my favourite band .

You played SXSW in Austin this year. Tell us about that.

We only played three shows, which is ridiculously low for a band playing. But it ended up being really fun for us we had a free place to stay; they gave us the keys to their house. There were so many bands we wanted to see that were playing. Not to mention you get to meet a lot of people. We played our label showcase and met a lot of people we've never met before; we met Alvvays (who White Reaper are supporting on this tour).

Are there any US based bands that people should check out? 

Broncho who are from Oklahoma they're super poppy, rock and roll kind of like us. Twin Peaks who are probably the most accurate modern interpretation of The Rolling Stones, like if the Stones broke into hardcore punk every once in a while. Jawws, who are from Nashville who are one of the best bands I've seen. They're so young, so cool. We really listen to mainly old stuff. It's really hard for me to like a band until I see them live, I very rarely fall in love with a band until I've seen their live show.

For a young band like yourselves, is the prevalence of downloading and streaming a benefit? 

On the one hand I love it that,... I think it's beautiful that so many young and un-noticed people can come up through the internet, but on the other hand I want to hear bands that record and tour a lot, they're really serious about being in a band. So many people come up to us, and tell us on the way to the show we listened to you on Spotify and really got excited about it and that's great , but I'd much rather you just listen to our record, the whole thing.

I think it's a great compliment, somebody told us you could illegally download our album , like wow are you serious . That means far more to me that somebody's made it available for others to listen to. To answer your question the Internet makes it easier to listen to our music, but you should definitely see us live.

Finally. You've got the rest of the UK tour with Alvvays, then what's next for you guys?

We do Canada with Alvvays, then we do the US. We going to try and record a few splits (Split 7” single) with bands we like and try to put out some new music really soon. Ideally we'll be recording some new songs back in Louisville in December or January in the same studio cos he did such a great job on the album.  

The UK tour with Alvvays continues until the 11th September. Their debut album White Reaper 'Does it Again' is out now.

Alisdair Whyte

 

 Website & Tour dates

 

 

Great to see you back, where have you been?

Well, after we finished our tour opening for Jeff Mangum's comeback--before he put the band back together as Neutral Milk--we took a few few years off, just doing a few festivals here and there. There are kids in the mix these days, and being in New York was important to us.

What's the feeling now the new album is done and dusted, are you both pleased with the end product?

I'm super pleased, and I think Aaron is, too. We got to reconnect with people we've worked with over the years and do a different kind of recording--and of course spend time together, which is a big part of our thing. We're close friends.

What was the main difference this time around with the recording process?

This time around Aaron was super busy, so I wrote the tunes and recorded the barebones stuff myself (guitar and vocals). Then I had all sorts of musicians we know and loves improvise and elaborate on it.

We met Scott Minor on tour with Emily Haines years ago when he was her drummer and I loved his drumming. (He was a member of Sparklehorse, too, which is thematically close to what we do.) Anyway, he's also a great engineer, so he did all his percussion work remotely from Knoxville Tenessy. After he finished we had the structure set up, and everybody else layered on top. Then Aaron and I did all the guitar overdubs and he mixed/ produced it with my help.

How do you go about creating new music, do you have to been in a certain space, mentally and physically or is it, just when the spark strikes?

I think we both write all the time in fits and spurts. Aaron really locks into one song and labours on it until it are perfect. I quickly write a ton of tunes, then throw a bunch away, then go back and fix what I don't like.

What is your opinion as an artist about the shift by the likes of Apple and Amazon into the streaming market, will that be the end of downloads?

Speaking for myself, I think it's just another form of decentralised labour, where amorphous online entities broker decentralised work from all over the place and drive the price down in an attempt to raise profit and defray costs--royalties in this case. It's just like Uber, or Etsy or Amazon or whatever. The upshot is that more folks can participate creatively and make a small amount of cash; the downside is that the number of people who rely on a single profession is shrinking fast.

Split 7" singles are quite trendy at the moment, who you like to share your split 7" record with?

Again, speaking for myself--but I'm guessing Aaron would be stoked, too--I'd love to do one with Bardo Pond.

Are there are particular stories from any song on the new record that you would like to share?

The title track is Ghostlight. When we were doing theatres with Jeff Mangum, I was introduced to the phenomenon of Ghostlights. In some of these old places, the stagehands and actors put out a single standing light in the centre of the stage before they go home. The practical reason is that nobody walks into a darkened theatre and falls into the orchestra pit. But, around that was built a whole mythology, where the light is left out to comfort the ghosts in the theatre. Sometimes the even put out a snack and a cocktail.

I thought it was cool, and it reminded me of my relationship with Aaron. I'll always put the Ghostlight out for him, even if the stage lights go dim for a while.

How was the experience of the ATP festival you played in Iceland recently? Any UK dates planned?

Hopefully we'll hit the UK early next year. Iceland was rad! Packed house, they laughed at our jokes, and the folks we hung with were super smart and fun-loving. It really is like no other place I've ever seen. It's like being on the moon.

Just how difficult is it to earn a living wage from being a musician these days and where would you say is the bands strongest fan base domiciled at the moment?

Honestly, Tall Firs has never paid the rent for either of us for any long stretch of time. We do it because we love it and we think the endeavour has value. We know a lot of folks who make they're living solely as artists, but it is the exception not the rule.

It's pretty hacky, but do this if it enriches your life--and it has enriched mine tremendously. If your first thought is the monetary reward, you're never gonna get all you can out of it.

I dunno where the fans are. If I did I'd be busking on they're street.

Finally, what is the one piece of advice you would like to pass on to any new band starting out today?

Go out and see and meet other people who do what you wanna do. I'm pretty shy, and because of it, I've never done enough of this. That said, when I was able to, the experiences and friendships and creative cross pollination was worth it's weight in gold.

 

You can download the 'Ghostlight Ensemble’ now via ATP Recordings.

 

Initially living in Brooklyn, guitarist/vocalist Brady Keehn and drummer/vocalist Melissa Scaduto made a jump to Los Angeles on a whim as the financial climate in New York became too much. Within months of being in LA, the two met bassist Kenny Elkin and guitarist/keyboardist Eddie Wuebben ...................

Your debut album ‘A Thousand Hands’ is due 21st August, how would you describe your songs for people that have not heard your music yet?

Primitive Post Punk from outer space

How did the process work that you found yourselves with a label and in a position to get studio time to record an album?

We played our first show at the Echo. Jeff at Felte saw us there and a week later we signed with him.

Where was the album recorded and over what period? Were the songs already complete before you went into the studio?

The album was recorded in LA, in the back shed of this place Brady was living at. It was quickly completed in a month and the songs were written during this period as well.

What is your song writing process and where do you tend to write. Any particular places you draw inspiration from?

Brady wrote most of the material. We tend to start with a simple sound, rhythm or some kind of progression, it all varies. It's always the music first, and then a vocal stream of consciousness to develop melody and rhythm. And depending on whether the lyrics during that part of the process work or not, we may go back and re-write proper lyrics to the idea. We draw inspiration from everywhere and anything.

Are there any particular stories you would like to share behind the songs on the record?

No, we'd rather not.

If you could choose to be on the cover of a magazine, which magazine would that be and why?

News of the World

Split 7" singles are quite the trend at the moment, who would you like to have on the other side of your 7" single?

Institute

And finally …. Your views on Apple Music are?

Shows are going to continue be the only way to make a tiny bit of money.

 

tiles

 

Facebook

How and when did the band come together and what are your early ambitions for your album?

We formed through number of years in a series of lucky timing and coincidental circumstances with enough Kevin Bacon degrees of separation to make it happen.  That's the short story at least.

I think our early ambitions for the album are for people to hear it, spread the word and get some traction on a few different fronts.  We've never put out a real album before, let along a 13 track, full length, so this is sort of our coming out.   We want it in as many people's ears and stereos as possible, preferably at high volumes.  Not to mention trying to find some licensing/commercial deals for some of the tracks.  And now that we have something to show people, we are starting to look for a label as well.  This first album is the foundation for all of that, hopefully. 

How important do you think it is for new artists in 2015 to find a label?

Good question.  I guess I wouldn't know because we don't have one... yet.  I think ultimately you need a label for sure.  Whether you create it yourself or not though, somebody is going to have to that work, and it's a LOT of work.  I don't think it's realistic or beneficial to have the band doing the artistic side and a majority of the business side as well because it takes away from both at the end of the day.  Plus, with a label, I think there’s more of a family vibe and they help immerse you into more of a community with a connection to other bands, people and places.   It takes a village…

How would you describe your songs for people that have not heard your music yet?

We have never been able to boil that down to a concise answer.   I’d say we are a blend of spices.   The main ingredient is gritty rock, with a heavy dose of soul, a handful of punk and a pinch of jazz.   The side dish would be funk and desert would be hip hop.    You combine all of that; you get a nice taste of the Benjees.

Where was your debut album 'Alright, Alright, Alright' recorded and over what period? Were the songs already complete before you went into the studio?

We recorded at Virtue and Vice Studios in Brooklyn, NY with Rocky Gallo and had a great experience with both.   But studios are expensive and like most bands, we’re broke- so being well prepared helped save us a lot of money.  We had an agenda, literally. I typed out a production schedule for recording because we didn’t have any time or money to waste and we needed to get a lot done.  We had already written and recorded 18 demo tracks to narrow down and choose from, before we hit the studio.  We pretty much knew exactly what we wanted to do, we just had to do it in a nice studio with a good engineer.  Two full days into night, a full moon, flasks of whiskey, beers, a few jazz cigarettes, Chinese food delivery and some Williamsburg pizzas later, we had recorded 13 tracks and the album was finished.   

How do you go about creating new music, do you have to be in a certain space, mentally and physically or is i t, when the spark strikes?

It depends on the song but usually the music comes first either way.  It also helps me to be in a really good mood or a bad mood.  Any extreme emotional state is gonna help dictate the nature of the song and those ones tend to write themselves more so than the others.  The emotion is there is just needs to come out.  Lyrics are a different story though.  They involve a lot of the same parallels, but I feel like they can’t just be pure gut feeling like the music is, because I want them to tell some type of story and that usually involves finessing things a bit more and re-drafting until there are some spots of clever word play and more of a through line to the character or situation.   But yeah, it’s definitely a “spark” kind of writing for me.  It’s there or it isn’t.  And it’s funny, some weeks are spark heavy, and others are the complete opposite and turn into practice weeks instead of creative weeks, so striking when the iron is hot is key for us.  Get it while the giving’s good.

Split 7" singles are quite trendy at the moment, who you like to share your split 7" record with?

We have played some shows with the Whiskey Bitches and they know how to have a good time and are a great band on top of that.  We love you bitches. 

How do you approach getting your music heard and making an income and what are you feelings about Social networking as a means to musical recognition?

If I had a good answer to that we’d be a richer band.  We do the usual Facebook, and Twitter and Instagram, Bandcamp, and blah blah blah  and all the other sites… but we have tried to take an interesting approach in some aspects because we make short sketch videos to help promote whatever we are doing at the time.  Check out our our youtube page, we probably have 12 of them by now maybe,  www.youtube.com/thebenjeesrock .

I would say PR is also important. If a band makes an album in the middle of the woods and nobody hears it, does it make a sound?  The answer is a hard “no”.   And when it comes to making money playing music… I’d say licensing is the best option to get paid an actual amount worth bringing to the bank.

I think musical recognition stems from repetition and having good songs that people will share on media or pick up on blogs and whatnot.  It has to be good music first and foremost, but creative music videos can help a band stand out from the crowd too.   I think anything creative and unique that helps the band show their personality will help with recognition.

What are your plans for the rest of 2015 and how far do you actually plan ahead when it comes to your musical activities?

We will be debuting our second music video in August, recording another  music video during the summer and a tour is happening in the early fall.  Then we're going to head back into the studio and record another album in late fall.  We’ll have shows in the city throughout that time and will keep making promo videos.  In general, we try to plan ahead a fair amount because everybody in the band is busy.   We have our record release show on July 10th at Bowery Electric and want to pack it out as well!  So mark your calendars. 

What was the first gig each of the band ever attended?

The first show I saw was the Roots, Joe’s was a Jurassic 5 I think. Martin's was Linkin Park... and Grahams..?  Not sure.

And finally …. Your views on Apple Music are?

There are so many platforms available now for “selling music” and they are all basically the same, to me.  Spotify, Pandora to Apple, it’s the difference in fractions of a penny to an indie artist.  I don’t think the music or television industry knows what to do with itself at the moment because the internet changed everything.  And the contracts and bureaucracy can't keep up with the speed of technology and the dramatic change in entertainment consumption.  At the end of the day, most musicians are not profiting on plays from any of those platforms and could probably make more money selling five T-shirt at a show than they would for a quarter’s worth of profits from one of any those places.  What’s 10,000 plays of a song multiplied by .007 of a penny?  Grocery money.  But $70 goes a long way at C-Town.  We could cook you a tasty meal with all that.

Website

 

Wow, 40th Anniversary tour … where has the time gone?
No shit!

The band came together in 1969/70 Do you collectively still have any ambitions left or is it now about enjoying the legacy?
When your ambitions die you will die with them. We do enjoy ourselves immensely when we play. I personally want to work on Broadway! Maybe the West End stage in London also!!!

What can we expect on your 2015 tour, is the old magic still there?
Absolutely! Our current show features 7 or 8 character/costume changes. We are a 5 man band now, 4 original members. The production is not as gigantic as it was in the 80's but still very high energy and enjoyable!

How do you approach getting your music heard by a younger generation and what are you feelings about Social networking as a means to musical recognition?
We are still old school. Not a big fan of social media. Too many haters. Our fans bring their kids now and they dig it.

How would you describe your songs to that younger generation who may not have heard your music yet?
Complicated, interesting, not your typical 3 chord rock, Sarcastic, parodic, sometimes pedantic!

What was the music you listened to back in School/College days, that you still draw inspiration from today?
Zappa, Hendrix, Captain Beefheart, Sinatra, Pavarotti and of course Beatles!

Where did you play your first gig and last gig.  Any particular memories of both?
Our first gig was in the cafeteria of the San Francisco Art Institute. Haven't played our last gig yet, I hope! Playing Vegas on Saturday! Hate Vegas!!

What was the most satisfying record you recorded and why?
The Completion Backwards Principle. First time working with producer David Foster. First rock record he ever did. First big radio hit.

How do you feel the music industry sits in 2015? Is it a better place than 1975?
No, not even close. It's all a very corporate business now. No people just analytics.

Is there any place that you have not played that you still need to tick off the list?
Many places. South America, need to play polo in Argentina!

Some of the Tubes songs or even The Tubes story would fit onto a Broadway or West End stage, do you any ambitions to write music for theatre or films?
I want to act on the Broadway stage and the West End stage more than anything!!!

 

THE TUBES 40TH ANNIVERSARY UK TOUR

3 Aug Bristol, The Fleece

4 Aug Brighton Concorde 2

6 Aug Southampton, The Brook

7 Aug London Clapham

8 Aug Manchester Club Academy

9 Aug Glasgow, The Art School

11 Aug Leeds Brudenell Arts Club

12 Aug Edinburgh Liquid

13 Aug Wolverhampton Robin 2

 

 

 

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