White Rabbits talk It's Frightening, reveal album cover

March 13, 2009  |  8:15am
When Paste rang up Stephen Patterson of White Rabbits yesterday, he was groggy, but not without a sigh of relief.

"We just finished the album cover at 3 a.m. this morning," Patterson explained. "We're getting it all approved today; that's the big news for us. Our friend, Andrew Droz Palermo, who's working on the documentary and has been doing a lot of the photography for us for the past couple of years, we did a photo shoot at our practice space [with him]. It's kind of an abstract thing with a couple of us from the band, playing our instruments, which sounds kind of hokey, but it turned out way better than it sounds in words. It's photos of us, but you can't really tell."

white_rabbits_frigtening_co.jpg With the cover art confirmed and a tour announcement coming shortly, White Rabbits have time to relax for a moment in advance of the new album. Produced by Spoon frontman Britt Daniel, It's Frightening drops May 19 via TBD Records (Radiohead, Other Lives). We asked Patterson to reflect on the impending sophomore release, and as it turns out, it all started with a text message.

Paste: How did Britt Daniel first get involved with the new album?

Stephen Patterson: I met Eric Harvey, who plays keyboards for Spoon, at a show in Ithaca a couple years ago and we kept in touch. We were on tour in 2008 in Minneapolis and Spoon was also in Minneapolis. They had the day off, so Eric had the whole band come out and see the show. Britt really liked it a lot, so we kept in touch. We actually kept running into each other because of the routing of our tour. Britt asked us to go out on tour with them, and we became better and better friends.


Actually, it's really funny. We were in Portland; that's where Britt lives now. He was hanging out with us and this was when we were really thinking hard about what producer to work with, whether we'd want to do it ourselves or whatever, just throwing out a bunch of names. That night, after hanging out with Britt, I think it was Jamie [Levinson, drummer] who said, "What if we had Britt do it?" [Jamie] had a friend he was texting about it whose name also began with a "b," and he accidentally sent—this is a true story—the text, like, "We're thinking about having Britt Daniel produce the next record. What do you think?" to Britt Daniel. Britt's response: "Who is this?" I started talking to him on the phone after that, but that's how it really started—an accidental text message.


Paste: That's hilarious. You can definitely hear his influence on certain tracks, though. Did he help in working out songwriting kinks?

Patterson: The songwriting process, the pre-production and all that, was that we would send him demos and he'd send back notes. There was a couple where he helped us edit it down a bit. Sometimes he would sit down with a couple of us with a guitar and help us figure out a few things, but the main thing was an, I guess, typical production approach—helping with arrangements and encouragement or discouragement.


Paste: I read a story that talked about his role as a mentor in the studio. Can you talk about some of the things you guys learned from him?

Patterson: The biggest thing for me, personally, I guess, was that I was really nervous about sending him some of the new stuff, just because I was really putting myself out there to someone that I really respect. But he was extremely enthusiastic. The first song I sent him was the first song on the record, "Percussion Gun," and he was really enthusiastic about that one. The same with "They Done Wrong/We Done Wrong," the third track from the album. Those were the first two I sent him and he was really into them. The big thing for me was to get over that hump and hear him be enthusiastic about it. It sounds corny and all that, but it really helped the confidence level of the band once we had his approval on those sort of things. It's the second record, and we went through a lot of the same apprehension that I think a lot of bands do on their second record. It made it a lot easier working with him and knowing he's been doing this for a long time and he knows how to be successful without comprising.


Paste: Do any other particular influences come to mind thinking back on the recording process? Were there any other things you guys were listening to, stuff like that?

Patterson: We were listening to a lot of stuff. I think I talked about this a lot when we were doing interviews for Fort Nightly, but we wanted the next record to have more of a live feel to it. A few of us were listening to a lot of The Clash just to keep that in the forefront of our minds, to make sure the energy level was staying up. If we were finding ourselves going down a perfectionist route, we'd listen to that and realize it's best to do what is most likely the first idea that came out. I was listening to a lot of The Beatles form an arrangement stand point. Nothing too out there, I guess. [laughs]


Paste: It's interesting that you bring up the live feel, because I'm having trouble trying to describe the different feel of It's Frightening compared to Fort Nightly. It almost seems like it's scaled back or restrained somehow. Was there anything in particular you were going for this time out?

Patterson: Yeah, the biggest reason why it's happening that way is because we moved into the practice space of The Walkmen. They had all their old gear from their old recording studio just piled up in this back closet. When we moved in, we cleaned everything out and found all this stuff that they never use anymore that I'm sure they're sick of but we were excited as hell to find. We set up a makeshift studio down there and were able to pretty legitimately record demos. Not just four-track home stuff. We were able to try out a lot of arrangement ideas really quickly. We were able to give the arrangements some time in the practice space. A lot of it wasn't necessarily written from playing for six months in a room live, like, "It sounds good in the practice space, let's go to the studio," which is pretty much how we did Fort Nightly.


With a six-person band, you're going to have a really dense arrangment for every song, especially when you're figuring songs out. The biggest thing was not having the need to reflect the line-up [this time]. After playing that last record live for two years, I got kind of sick of realizing all six dudes were just playing as loud as they possibly could, all the time, the entire set. We tried to give things some more space this time.


Paste: I imagine it feels kind of good to pull back.

Patterson: It definitely does.


Paste: It sounds like you're doing most of the singing on this one, or at least it's more front and center. Is that the case? Was this a decision you guys made?

Patterson: Yeah, it just kind of came about while working out songs. It naturally went that direction. It was never a decision we all sat down and made, I suppose.


Paste: Have you had a moment to reflect on the new album now that it's finished, or have you been able to step away from it enough yet?

Patterson: I listened to it for the first time in a while two nights ago while we were working on album art. We were closing in on it and I wanted to listen to the record and look at the image. I'm really, really proud of it. It's just been such a long process and we've gone through a lot of stuff. I think it's absolutely the best thing we could have done. I don't know how to reflect back on it. We recorded it in four weeks, so it felt like, I think Britt even used this analogy, it felt like summer camp. Now it's just this distant memory that's kind of a blur. It was surprisingly smooth. No one really argued or anything like that.


Paste: I was looking on the documentary website and it was claiming an early 2009 completion. How's that coming along?

Patterson: Well, I don't know if you saw, but Andrew [Droz Palermo] got robbed and all of his entire set up was stolen from his apartment. He was with a few of the other guys and the apartment got broken into. His computer was stolen, his camera was stolen and all this stuff. It was a pretty major setback which directly affected it getting finished in early 2009. Luckily, he still has all the tapes, but hours upon hours upon hours of editing was lost. That stuff takes forever. It was a real drag. He's still talking about coming out with us on tour, so maybe it'll be a never-ending making-of tour documentary. He'll probably just keep on doing it.


Related links:

News: White Rabbits' It's Frightening gets tracklist, release date

Feature: 22 Up-and-Coming Artists You Ignore at Your Own Peril!

WhiteRabbitsMusic.com


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