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|White Rabbits: Benefits with Friends|
|Music - Feature Stories|
|Wednesday, 02 April 2008 02:42|
For a band with one independent recording under its belt, the White Rabbits have a lot going on. They appeared on Letterman in July - "Maybe U2 cancelled," joked bassist Adam Russell - and a feature-film documentary is in production. (See http://www.whiterabbitsdoc.com.)
Russell credits the band's publicist with the Letterman gig, and filmmaker Andrew Droz Palermo is a friend of the band dating back to some members' high-school careers.
But Russell said these early successes are a sign that people believe strongly in the band. "Having close friends that work with you does pay off sometimes," he said.
The six-piece New York band - which got its start in Missouri - is certainly worth believing in.
The White Rabbits' sound is percussion-heavy - the band features a pair of drummers - with roots in the ska and punk of bands such as the Specials, the Clash, and the Jam, along with reggae and Style Council.
Those influences coalesced in a loft space in New York where the band lived. "None of us cleaned up or did anything," Russell said. "Nobody fixed it up. So we all just laid beds down, and literally shared everything but, like, a towel. So records were fair game, food was fair game.
"It [the sound] formed in that loft. ... It became an idea and something that we pursued."
The band calls what it does "honky-tonk calypso," and if that doesn't feel quite right, it at least captures some of the White Rabbits' melting-pot aesthetic. The group is too nimble and draws from too many sources to be easily labeled.
The two lead tracks on the band's debut, Fort Nightly, certainly grab one's attention, even if they don't reflect the band's interest in island rhythms. "Kid on My Shoulders" is rich without being thick, propelled by insistent keyboards and drums and muscled with just the right amount of guitar. "The Plot" initially sounds like standard driving indie-rock fare until it takes flight with the stair-stepping vocals of the chorus.
The remainder of the record is more casual, but it's not lackadaisical. Piano and percussion are most prominent, and they're effectively balanced by guitar. With three singers, the vocals are adaptable, and the harmonies give everything a warmth and softness. "Kid on My Shoulders" gets a brief, drunken saloon treatment on "Reprise," and the two versions bookend the band's impressive range.
Pitchfork was enthusiastic about the record: "Fort Nightly is that rare debut where potential isn't the operative word - White Rabbits deliver the whole package straight away. The NYC six-piece writes great songs that merge rhythmic intensity with grandiose melodrama in a seamless and inventive package."
The band is prepping its second record, Russell said, and he added that it will likely have a different vibe. The process of recording Fort Nightly involved the realization that the band needed a second drummer; it was a group figuring out how to reproduce its songs live.
The next album - which White Rabbits hope to release early next year - will reverse that. "We're learning how to write according to how we learn to play live," Russell said. "Over the course of touring on Fort Nightly, we learned to play as a unit ... ."
That will be captured by Palermo's movie, which Russell called a collaboration between the filmmaker and the band. (The director lives with three members of White Rabbits.) "I hope that it's perceived as a tonal piece as opposed to a narrative form," Russell said. He added that it's "not a huge fanboy documentary thing."
He said he's pleased with what he's seen so far. "It makes us look interesting and funny," he said. "It's that good."
Russell said that he would love White Rabbits to record a session at Daytrotter while they're in town. He said the Web site is an illustration of the current music market, with indie bands often on equal footing with heavy hitters. "I view it as being something that people can look back in 20 or 30 years and be like, ‘This is emblematic of what was going on in that time in the music industry,'" he said. "‘Everything was up-for-grabs. Every band was on the same level practically.'"
For more information on the White Rabbits, visit (http://www.whiterabbitsmusic.com).
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