Words and Images: Chris Chew

White Denim’s eighth studio album Performance is out August 24, 2018, and I’m beyond excited to hear the tunes the Texan rockers cooked up in their new Austin studio, Radio Milk. I didn’t interview them about this record, though. To get to where this interview came from, I need to go back about a year to when I saw White Denim play two nights in Boston and interviewed James Petralli (songwriter, guitarist) and Steve Terebecki (bassist) outside the venue.

And before I get to those interviews, I need to go back another year, to when I saw the band for the first time since their major line-up change and following the release of their seventh album, Stiff. To be honest, I had my reservations going into the night. A group that I’ve loved for years and seen countless times had gone through a major shake-up, losing two long-time members who helped craft the band’s signature sound. To be more honest, my reservations felt warranted after watching them play that night. The performance wasn’t bad by any means; the set was well rehearsed, but the band seemed a little, well, stiff. Though the energy felt different than I’d hoped, I was still glad to see White Denim in its new form put themselves out there, even if they were still finding their footing.

White Denim at Great Scott, Boston, MA. June 17, 2017

Fast forward again to the two nights in July 2017 at Great Scott, a small bar/club in Boston. Maybe they didn’t seem at 100% in my eyes last time around, but I still didn’t want to miss them. When I saw that one night was sold out, an idea came to me—I write for a blog (this one) on occasion, and I’ve always wanted to do more music writing. Maybe I can get a press pass, see both shows, and interview some of my favorite musicians. What will be super obvious by the end of this article is that I was not prepared to interview anyone, nor am I great music writer. My questions were half-baked, and anyone who knows me will tell you my normal speaking voice is an incoherent mumble. I think I spent more time asking about burritos than music. It was a subpar interview on my part, but I had to start somewhere, right? I had to put myself out there, even if I was just finding my footing. While doubts about my ability to use anything from the interview still loomed, all of my doubts about White Denim’s ability to put on a captivating performance were cast aside as soon as the show started. Even with additional lineup changes since the previous tour, the band, helmed by core founding members Petralli and Terebecki, had clearly figured out how to confidently breathe new life into the same material while maintaining that distinct White Denim aura.

Ok, back to the present, finally. One year after the interviews and White Denim announce their new album, leading with a batch of rollicking rock and roll singles. One year after the interviews and I’m still sitting on stuttered-through voice memos and some grainy phone pictures. I figured, with the forthcoming release of Performance, now might be as good a time as any to breathe some new life into this old material. And hey, if my trajectory is following White Denim’s by about a year, maybe my next interview will be a hit.

***

Steve Terebecki
June 17, 2017

Steve probably unsure why I’m asking him about burritos.

Hey, Steve! I haven’t really done interviews before. I don’t really know what I’m doing, so I’m just going to ask three really quick questions.
Hey, sounds great.

Who is your favorite contemporary artist?
That’s a tough one…I guess the guy I listen to the most probably is Cass McCombs for like newer stuff.

Would you say you listen to more classics—older stuff?
Mostly, yea.

Do you have one record that’s like a prized record?
I have a bunch of old Bugs records that are in perfect condition. Those records are sort of terrible (laughter), but they’re like collectors items. They’re super valuable on the market.

What’s the best burrito you’ve ever had?
Best burrito anywhere? Probably in Santa Fe at Maria’s New Mexican Kitchen

If you’re looking for a burrito around here I’d recommend Felipe’s right in Harvard Square.
Really? Cool, what about pizza?

The best pizza I’ve had is in Connecticut I’d say.
Oh, is it that New Haven place?

Yea, Pepe’s. And there’s a few other big ones. If you’re ever in New Haven, you gotta try to get there.

***

James Petralli
June 18, 2017

James probably wondering why I’m taking pictures with my phone instead of a real camera.

Hey James, thanks for taking a minute to talk. Like I told Steve, I haven’t done this before, so I just wanted to come up with some easy questions.
Yea, Steve said you’re interviewing for a food blog or something?

Oh…no, I…I just have a stupid question about burritos.
Anyways, I’ll just ask you the same questions. Who is your favorite contemporary artist?
It’s gotta be Pat Thomas. He’s really good. Chris Cohen, Cass McCombs.

Nice, Steve mentioned him too.
Yea, a bunch of good people. That Pat Thomas stuff is really, really good. The new Delicate Steve record is really good too. Super cool.

Do you have a prized physical record?
I have a record by this guy Mayo Thompson called Corky’s Debt to His Father. That’s probably my most prized, and the Shaggs’s first record—I guess the Shaggs’s only record.

I think they reunited or are going to really soon. At Wilco’s MASS MoCA thing, maybe.
Are they doing Solid Sound? I heard something about that.
Yea, so those are probably my two most rare records. Favorite record that I probably listen to the most is Music of My Mind, that Stevie Wonder record, or Whole New Thing by Sly and the Family Stone.

The last thing about the burritos is: where was the best burrito you’ve ever had?
Where? I can’t think of a specific burrito…

Yea, I realized that wasn’t the greatest question. Not everyone’s so food focused.
Well, California is a great burrito state. They take it pretty seriously. Texas is more of a taco place. Probably some trailer in California had a really great burrito.

What about pizza? Steve mentioned pizza and we talked about New Haven.
Pizza…I don’t really know, man.

It’s cool, this doesn’t need to be a food interview (embarrassed laughter).
Yea, I mean, I like to eat (laughter). I like all pizza.

***

Performance is out Friday, August 24, 2018 on City Slang.

Listen on Spotify