White Reaper have unleashed their second full-length album, The World’s Best American Band, upon the masses. This ten-song offering, released in multiple formats via Polyvinyl Records, should win over the hearts and minds of any fans of snappy, up-tempo power-pop. A few weeks ago guitarist/vocalist Tony Esposito chatted with me about the album’s release, and how relieved he and his band-mates are that it’s finally out!
When Tony calls, I graciously turn down the The World’s Best American Band, which I’ve had blaring on my stereo for the days leading up to this interview. He laughs and asks me if that was intentional, or if I honestly like their music.
I love your music, sir. I was worried that The World’s Best American Band might not resonate with me. I still play your debut album quite heavily. Kudos on delivering a follow-up album that lives up to your debut.
Esposito: Thanks, man.
One of my favourite Instagram posts so far this year is that graphic you put up a few weeks ago that has you beside Metallica and Nirvana on a google search for The World’s Best American Band. That totally made me laugh.
Esposito: Yeah. That made me laugh too.
Was that legit? Or did you system that in?
Esposito: No. If you try it, it should work. I haven’t checked it since we posted it. But to my knowledge, if you Google search who is the world’s best American band, we pop up. It’s been a few days. I don’t know if they fixed it or not.
What’s to fix?
Esposito: Hey. Actually you are right.
Check out the video for the song “Judy French”
Was that intentional? Is that why you titled the album the way you did? To riff off of that searchability? Or was that just a happy accident? That sort of thing will continue to happen over the lifespan of this album now.
Esposito: You know, I think it’s kind of a little bit of both. It was slightly intentional. I think in the back of our minds we knew that naming the record The World’s Best American Band would make stuff like that happen. Now, to see it actually happening, it feels like a very happy accident.
Nice. So did you all have anything in mind when you starting writing to follow up Does it again? Anything, in particular, you wanted to do, or maybe did NOT want to do, prior to creating some of the music?
Esposito: We wanted to make a record where every song worked in its own kind of unique way. We wanted to make a record where the writing didn’t seem formulaic or anything like that. We wanted to make a record that nobody could call garage punk, or anything relating to garage or punk. We just wanted to make a rock and roll record.
Ok. Cool. I’m of the vintage where if you saw me in the crowd at one of your shows, you’d probably think “what’s that old guy doing in the audience?”. I’m almost 50. I like the glam rock that I’m hearing in White Reaper’s music. And I’m talking about the good shit. 1972-75. I totally hear that sound spewing out of your last album and I hear it coming out of your new album as well. I’m curious if you guys are into that era of music. Do you play stuff like Sweet, T. Rex and The New York Dolls?
Esposito: Yes. We love the New York Dolls. We listen to them in the van when we are on tour. Yeah man, that stuff is really cool, and we are really into it, and I’m glad that you can pick it up from listening to our music.
Right on. I think it’s great that your generation is encapsulating that sound and pushing it forward in your own unique way. A lot of music that goes by decade by decade runs the risk of becoming stale or unimportant because it’s not a genre that is popular at that moment. I think it’s interesting that White Reaper are rocking it, and having some success with it.
Esposito: It’s been fun so far. We are really excited to get back on the road and we really just want to play these songs live. It’s been almost a year now since the record was finished. So we’re very very excited and ready to get back on the road.
What does that time really feel like to you, Tony? That span of months prior to an album coming out where you are all waiting for your new material to be released? You are saying this has been a year of waiting. I’m sure you are genuinely chomping at the bit to get out there and start rockin’ it.
Esposito: It feels like ten years. It felt like so long. I can’t even explain how good it feels. It’s not that the ball was rolling, but just to push it a little bit and kind of see the slope that it’s about to roll down. There’s that sense of relief that people are actually going to hear this music finally. It feels so good.
In this current era of everybody recording everything they do with their phones, you can’t really bust all of this new music out live pre-release for fear of it being misrepresented online with shitty phone recordings that aren’t going to service the unreleased new songs very well.
Esposito: Yeah. We are only going to play some of the new stuff at SXSW. We are going to play as much as we can though. I think the new stuff sounds pretty good live. I’ll say that.
You’ve got two songs out already, in advance of release day, right? You can stream “Judy French” and also the title track at the moment, right?
Esposito: Yes. Those are streamable. You can Google them. You can YouTube them. But, you know, risk aside from an iPhone recording going live on YouTube, we’re going to play some more new stuff.
Cool. I’m starting to see some dates pop up online. Mostly in the States. Don’t forget your friends up here in Canada.
Esposito: We will not forget you. Are you in Toronto?
Mike: Yeah. Just outside of it, but Toronto is my musical marketplace for sure. I live in Kitchener, an hour outside of Toronto.
Esposito: Ok, cool. We love Toronto.
I think the worst question in the world for an artist is “Where do you get your ideas from?” So I’m not going to ask you that. But I’m curious if there is a zone that you guys write the best in? Be that liquor induced, chemically induced, post video gaming, be it after watching a cool movie or TV Show. What kind of gets your juices rolling?
Esposito: You know man, I wish I knew. It’s all over the place. I hate to use the word inconvenient, but I find that it happens at inconvenient moments. I always find myself using the voicemail feature on my iPhone. I’ll be at a party somewhere and have to go into a corner and kind of hum to myself – a guitar riff melody or something like that. I wish that I knew a way to kind of force those ideas out of me because that would be great. I could then do that all the time. The fact of the matter is that it’s very unpredictable and I have no idea why it happens or what makes happen. It just seems to run its own schedule. When it does happen, I try to record it or make a note of it. Anything that I can do so that I don’t forget it.
Having a device that can take recordings where you can put tempos and song structure into that way is the equivalent of a writer putting something down in a Moleskine.
Songs like “Eagle Beach” and “Little Silver Cross” have these lovely little keyboard parts in them. I’ve not seen White Reaper live yet. Is that something you can replicate when you are playing live? Or do you have to track that stuff?
Esposito: Oh no. We aren’t playing any tracks. Ryan has been working very hard to play all the keys on the record. He’s doing a good job.
Yeah? And that’s something you do live as well?
Esposito: Oh yeah. I don’t think we could play to tracks. We would play too fast.
Cool. What do your demos sound like Tony? Are they really close to the finished songs that we are hearing? Or do you find that they really come together when you are in the studio?
Esposito: Funny that you asked that. We didn’t really have any demos going into the studio for this record. The majority of this record was written in the studio. All I had, going back to those voice memos, I had about three things on voice memos I liked, and that was it. We spent about a month in the studio just kind of fucking around, for lack of a better descriptor. It took us a long time to finish this record just because there really was no outline for it.
Which is the way it was before – I had each song demoed which we could send to the engineer and the producer and whoever was working on the record with us. They would have an understanding of how things were supposed to sound or how things were going to sound. But this time it was not that way. We didn’t have much of anything, really. (Laughs) Three voice memos, none of which were an entire song. All of those were just little snippets of riffs that I had come up with. We just kind of worked off of that, and ended up with what you are hearing now. So to answer your question, the majority of the record, and the majority of what you are hearing in the songs, was all hashed out in the studio.
Check out the track “The World’s Best American Band”
Jesus. That’s pretty impressive. I hold both of your albums in pretty high regard. To walk into a studio with almost nothing and pop out with what you’ve done on The World’s Best American Band is an accomplishment.
Esposito: Thank you, man.
I don’t really follow metrics. I don’t know how you score the performance of your material or anything like that. I just tend to know when an album is good or not. And the folks I know who are into music like I am, tend to feel the same way about most of the same bands. With an album as good as Does it again I tend to worry that a band might not be able to follow it up. Did you all have any concerns following up that debut? Especially walking into a studio with almost nothing pre-written – I’d be worried I couldn’t pull the mojo out again.
Esposito: Without kind of knocking or shitting on our last record, we went into the studio and I’ll say that we weren’t intimidated at all about coming up with a follow-up. Not to say that weren’t proud of the last record. I think we were all 100% positive that we could do better.
The last album is great. I’m an artist, not a musician, but a commercial artist, and I can look at my stuff after it’s done and say that I still like certain things that I’ve created. But for the most part, I tend to think my past work is flawed. That said, I’ve passed the Apple Music link to Does It Again around to a few of my friends and all of them are totally into it. It’s not an album I’d downplay. Although I’m sure you are more than ready to play some fresh stuff.
Esposito: Thanks, man. (laughs)
Let’s do a few quick pop culture questions. Are you into Star Trek, or Star Wars?
Esposito: I’m more of an Indiana Jones person, myself.
Marvel Comics or DC Comics?
Esposito: (sighs) Oh man. I don’t know. That’s tough. I really love Spiderman. And I also really like Batman. Spiderman was really cool growing up. I love that character. I still have a bunch of Spiderman shit in my room to this day. As far as actually reading comic books goes, I think Batman is better. I like DC because it’s a little darker and grittier. At least in my experience. I hate to be a cliche, but I don’t know that I can lean any certain way on that. Man, you really got me there.
Iggy Pop or David Bowie?
Esposito: Another tough one, but it’s David Bowie.
Potato Chips or chocolate?
Esposito: God. These fucking questions. Um, potato chips.
Vinyl or CDs?
Esposito: I can bring CDs into a car, and that is where I always am. So it’s CDs. Records are really fucking cool. I love records. But more often than not, I’m in the car when I play music, so I’m a CD guy.
I’m the same. I buy both. But I tend to bring CDs into my car and jam them there. Video games or movies?
Esposito: Movies for me.
And lastly, the best TV show that you have seen recently?
Esposito: I just watched Eastbound & Down. That was pretty cool.