White Rabbits certainly live up to their namesake. Much like the beloved character from the Lewis Carol story--a seemingly innocuous creature that inevitably leads Alice down a dark, mysterious hole--the band entices its listener with catchy hooks and head-banging percussion, only to catch them up in their more sinister soundscapes.
After drawing acclaim from the critical community for both their 2007 debut album Fort Nightly
and their 2009 follow-up It's Frightening
, the band garnered further attention for their explosive, energetic live shows. Their much-anticipated third album Milk Famous
was released earlier this week and finds the band experimenting with loops, tape hisses and combining dissonant sounds with poppy hooks.
On Sunday, the band is set to bring their raucous live act to Atlanta's Variety Playhouse. In what promises to be one hell of a double bill, the band is joined by last year's breakout act War on Drugs. The Wheel
caught up with White Rabbits guitarist Alex Even to get the lowdown on touring, reviews and fake Wikipedia info.
Emory Wheel: Do you have particular preparations before setting out on a tour?
: Quite a lot actually. We’ve been rehearsing for the past month. We’ve put out three albums now so we have a lot of material to learn—or, not learn, but make sure we don’t embarrass ourselves.
EW: How do you feel the band has changed since you first started touring?
: Well, we’ve gotten better [laughs]. We’ve been playing together for a long time now—seven or eight years. With the exception of [pianist/vocalist] Stephen [Patterson], most of us are self-taught. So, there’s been a bit of a learning curve. The consistency with which we’ve played together over the last few years somehow led us into being a good band live.
EW: Milk Famous seems to have a far darker tone than It’s Frightening. Was that a conscious effort on your part?
: That’s interesting, I don’t really hear it as being darker than the last album. I feel like generally it’s a little less vulnerable than the last record. There’s’ a bit more of an extroversion of the record. I think there’s something about us and the way we write songs that there’s something dark deep within that wants to come out whenever we write songs.
EW:Where did the title Milk Famous
:We were brainstorming ideas for album titles and none of them seemed to be totally interesting or entertaining or encapsulating of what the record meant to us. We sort of threw that idea out and it immediately caught my ear. I just thought the irony of the sentiment was really intriguing—the idea of being famous for being missing. That resonated with me. In the way writing songs and being on the road and being away from family and loved ones—that being what you’re known for. That’s the personal applications for me.
EW:What’s the experience of releasing a new record. Is it exciting or is their anxiety about how people will receive it?
: Definitely both. There are times when I feel really anxious about it and then there are times where I’m excited for it to come out— simply, so it’s not mine anymore. I’ve been living with these songs for a year now and it’s nice to feel like, whenever the record comes out, those songs aren’t yours anymore, they’re somebody else’s. The weight is taken off of you. It’s always a spicy brew—nervous, anxiety and excitement and hope that people will find it as meaningful as you do.
EW: Do you read reviews or do you stay away from that kind of stuff?
: Yeah, I read reviews, I think it’s interesting—within reason. If I feel like I’m starting to take it a bit personally, I know it’s time to back away. But yeah, I enjoy reading about other people’s experiences with the record as well.
EW: You’ve gotten to tour with many high-profile acts—Spoon, Interpol, Muse, The Walkmen—do you have any anecdotes about those shows or was it all pretty straightforward?
:I don’t know. Bands ask you to play, you play, and you hope you can steal some of their fans. If all things work out, hopefully we try to learn something musically from them that no one else could teach you. Probably The Walkmen and Spoon are the bands that we’re closest with. When we started as a band, The Walkmen were like rock gods to us. Then, we got to work with them and they’re all really funny guys—same for Spoon.
EW: Is it ever hard playing as an opening act knowing that you’re not the band audiences paid to see? Or do you take that as a challenge?
: It can definitely be challenging. The secret is to see it as an opportunity and that’s what we’ve always tried to do. But it’s no big secret. We love playing music, so every time we get a chance to play in front of people, it’s a chance and we have fun.
EW: You mention being self-taught. Was it always your aspiration to be in a rock band or was it just something that happened?
: I started guitar when I was 11 and for the rest of my teenage years I was convinced that I was meant to be a musician or an author. I ended up meeting up the rest of the guys in the band and we just kept playing. When we started off, our manager was like, “just don’t quit because eventually you’ll be good enough and it’ll be worth it.” I like to think that’s the case. I did always fancy myself as “one day I’ll be in the band.”
EW: How did your parent’s take your decision to become a musician?
: Well, [my parents] bought me my first guitar and sent me to lessons. They made all my siblings learn an instrument. I remember I had a choice of either going to college or going to New York and trying to be in a band. They encouraged me to follow my heart and try out the music thing. I think they’re probably regretful of it now because they probably thought I wasn’t going to make it and I would go to school[laughs
EW: You guys started off in Columbia, Miss. Did the city influence you in any way or was it more when you moved to New York?
: We were in Columbia for a short amount of time as a band. We formed the band there and immediately decided we would move. It was good in the sense that it was cheap to live there and wasn’t high pressure and we could make those first clumsy, baby steps as a band without too many people watching and we were surrounded by friends and families, so it was a nice place to set out from. There was one band from Columbia who later moved to Chicago called Mahjongg that were defiantly an influence on me musically and personally.
EW: I was perusing your Wikipedia entry and found this quote, “Even and Patterson currently live in Brooklyn with their pet hamster Ning and two poseable mannequins they've raised as their children in lieu of flesh and blood offspring.” Is this true or is someone messing with your page?
:No, there’s no hamster. I do live a human named Martin whose nickname is Ning. I imagine he probably put that on there [laughs
— Contact Mark Rozeman.