White Reaper revive rock ‘n’ roll’s roots with their latest album, The World’s Best American Band. And that title? They believe it. No Problem DJ Olivia Gehrke spoke with Tony Esposito, lead singer and guitarist for White Reaper, about what goes into being the world’s best American band.
White Reaper will be playing Nov. 9 at Brighton Music Hall with Post Animal and Rival Island.
Of course when you talk about the latest album, you have to bring up the title, The World’s Best American Band. And I know you guys believe it, but is it one of those things where if people see it enough, they’ll begin to believe it? What was the thought process behind that?
Yeah, I mean I think if people read that and they see our name anywhere near it, then it’ll become synonymous eventually, maybe.
And the music, too, for The World’s Best American Band, has been noted for being more diverse in terms of tempo and style compared to your earlier stuff–was that a conscious decision? Did it make it make any difference in the songwriting process?
Yeah, we definitely looked at each other and said “Let’s make songs that sound different from each other,” and that was one thing that we really wanted to emphasize while we were crafting the record.
It sounds like you kind of go back to the roots of rock ‘n’ roll in this album, and was that making a statement at all about the current state of rock? Do you think that going back to the roots is something other bands should be doing as well?
I mean I guess there are some people that are kind of doing it, but I don’t know. I think the older stuff is more fun to listen to, at least for me. It’s mostly what we listen to–older bands and older records. We don’t really have our ear to the ground these days.
What would be one non-musical influence that played a role in the latest album?
Would Burt Sugarman? I mean I guess that show is musical, right? I guess that doesn’t count. I guess you could say hot dogs and hamburgers–just pretty classic American cuisine.
So going for the classic American record, then?
Yeah, it’s like a classic hot dog, hamburger record.
You guys are from Louisville, and you hear of cities like Chicago and LA that seem to be hotbeds for new rock bands. What’s the scene like in Louisville? Is it a strong scene? Are there any Louisville bands we should be playing on-air?
Strong scene, strong scene for sure. There’s lots of cool bands, and they’re all unique. There’s not really two bands from Louisville that sound alike right now in my opinion, which is really cool. There’s a cool band called Tropical Trash. There’s a cool band called Cereal Glyphs. There’s a cool band called Boa. These guys are all our friends–guys and gals.
Is that a rock kind of sound? You said it varies, but is rock predominant? Or is it like experimental or indie pop?
Honestly, experimental and indie pop are both demonstrated among the group of acts that I just listed. It’s a very wide range of influences and Louisville people like to listen to a lot of different records in our town, and it shows in the music they make.
I don’t know if you guys listen to any sort of pop music, but is there a world’s best American pop artist in your eyes?
I mean, wow, that’s tough. Probably Michael Jackson, right?
In terms of your evolution as a band, do you still like or relate to your older material, or have you outgrown it at all?
The older stuff? I mean, no. I think we had a lot of fun playing it. I think we maybe have outgrown those songs as songwriters, but we haven’t outgrown them as a live band. It’s still very exciting for us to play some of those older tracks.
How have you outgrown them as songwriters? Lyrically or thematically or in terms of song content?
Both. I think lyrically and thematically we wrote about entry-level things, like break-ups and such. And the songs were very: here’s this part, here’s that part, and here’s the chorus and then repeat. It was maybe a little formulaic, maybe not. A lot of people like those records, so I’m not trying to drag them. But yeah, we’re growing boys in and everchanging world and we’re just trying to adapt, you know what I mean?
Out of all the elements that go into being a band and putting out music–from writing to recording to touring and everything in between–do you have a favorite and least favorite part of that process?
I really like recording. I think it’s really fun, just kind of writing and recording songs. But it can get super stressful sometimes, so that can also be the worst part. But I think it’s the best part. And then touring is fun. We’re touring right now. We’re on the highway right now. And that’s fun. It’s great.
How’s that been going?
It’s been great. We’re all very sleepy today. None of us really slept very much last night. We were up late last night singing karaoke with our friends in this band called Omni. They’re from Atlanta. They’re really cool.
If you could ever have any band or artist cover one of your songs, what song would it be and who would be covering it?
Actually, there’s this band called SWMRS that is covering one of our songs right now.
Oh no way! What song are they covering?
They’re doing our song, it’s called “Judy French.” And it’s kind of weird that you asked me that, because it’s literally happening right now. It’s funny, but there you have it!
Would you ever have Metallica cover it or KISS, any of your songs?
That would be sick. I would love to hear that.
Your album has been noted as being like arena rock. Is that a goal of yours to play some massive arena somewhere? Or if you were to, where would it be?
I would really like to play an arena. I also think it’d be pretty cool to play a speedway. Maybe the speedway could be in Monaco or something like that, something crazy. I’d like to play the KFC Yum Center, which is the arena in Louisville.
Tune into No Problem on wtburadio.org Oct. 21 at 12-2pm to hear the interview on-air!