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
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.
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
—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
—an accidental text message.
Paste: That's hilarious. You can definitely
hear his influence on certain tracks, though. Did he help in working out
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
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
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
News: White Rabbits' It's Frightening gets tracklist, release date
Feature: 22 Up-and-Coming Artists You Ignore at Your Own Peril!
Got a news tip for Paste?