White Reaper has indeed done it again, releasing their third studio full-length You Deserve Love on October 18th, their first full-length on Elektra (pre-order and save options here). There are three advance single available for streaming now; “1F,” “Might Be Right,” and “Real Long Time.” All of these songs hint at new material that is more polished than what we have heard before - yet no less seductive.
Tony Esposito (guitar and vocals), Nick Wilkerson (drums), Hunter Thompson (guitar), Ryan Hater (keyboards), and Sam Wilkerson (bass) make some of the best jams in this current musical climate. Need some proof? Some of the videos for the new tracks are included below for streaming. Toronto people, make sure to circle the Horseshoe show on November 8th. And don’t sit on the fence; this show is close to sold out.
Just after performing at Riot Fest in Chicago, Tony Esposito, Nick Wilkerson, Hunter Thompson, and Ryan Hater took some time to talk with PureGrainAudio about the new album. It wound up being more of a roundtable of laughter, but that is part and parcel for White Reaper, one of the funniest bands in the world. The audio is included here via SoundCloud (complete with an Against Me! soundtrack in the background) if you’d like to listen along. The band is currently on the road and will be through to Christmas.
So is today the official start of the tour for your new album then? Is that how that’s going to go?
Hunter Thompson: “Maybe. Kinda.” Tony Esposito: “Actually that’s another couple of weeks, but yeah.” Nick Wilkerson: “In a way.” Tony Esposito: “It’s the first time our whole team is assembled and getting ready to roll into the next couple of months, yeah.”
How many new tracks did you play today?
“1F” is White Reaper’s latest music video off of You Deserve Love:
And were they the three singles that are released already?
All: “Yeah.” Thompson: “But we’ve got more in the tank.”
Is this your first Riot Fest?
And? What did you think?
Wilkerson: This lineup today is just blowing my mind. No matter where you go in the whole festival, it's just like going back in time or something. It's just incredible. The line-up today is amazing.” Esposito: “Yeah. A-plus.”
So does your new album mean that you are no longer the world’s best American band?
Esposito: “Hmm. That’s a good question.” Wilkerson: “No, we still are.” Thompson: “But now it’s even better.”
A month from now, every journalist is going to try and figure out how to compare this album to your last two albums. Why don’t you compare how they sound, and what you think is different about them?
Esposito: “Have you heard it?”
I've only heard the three singles.
Esposito: “Ok. Yeah, it’s definitely way different.” Wilkerson: “We try to make every album different. Like how all the Tony Hawk games are different? And this album is a whole new introduction of different levels that you can skate in.” Esposito: “The older records, they are a little bit lower-fi if you want to call it that. This one is a little bit higher-fi. We record everything pretty much live. But just with better sounds. I think that the engineers that we worked with were really great, and the producer that we worked with was really great. He made it really easy for us to just plug-in and get the sound that we wanted. In terms of the record, and the flow of it, I think it’s really eclectic. Like our most eclectic record. It’s got a lot of genre-hopping if you want to call it that. It’s not just one type of song on the new record.”
White Reaper at Riot Fest (Chicago, Illinois) on September 15, 2019, by Mike Bax:
Who engineered and produced this album?
Esposito: “Jay Joyce produced it. And his engineer...” Thompson: “Jason Hall.”
And? Did you like them? What do you think they brought to the White Reaper combo?
Esposito: “A chill and relaxed atmosphere that made us feel at ease.” Thompson: “Yeah. I think Jay did a really good job of convincing us not to obsess over our parts. And not go over the same parts with a fine-tooth comb every time. We kind of got these raw takes and he really encouraged us, forced us, to stick with them.” Wilkerson: “And we were kind of freaking out during it, but it turns out he’s right. Don’t obsess over it, because it will just be worse, probably.” Thompson: “Also, he had a lot of nice and very expensive equipment in a beautiful studio.”
Do you feel like any of the songs that you worked on in the studio turned out differently than how you demoed them?
Thompson: “Yeah.” Wilkerson: “Just naturally, probably all of them.” Esposito: “I think ‘Might Be Right’ came a long way.” Thompson: “It was like one whole thing when we took it in, and it became a whole another thing by the time we left. That was the biggest transformation, probably, of the demos. Honestly, I think we stayed in a lot of instances pretty close to the demos.” Wilkerson: “We sped all the songs up. Every single one of them.” Esposito: “That's for sure. Yeah. Every song was faster.”
I like how you described your old sound as lo-fi. I feel like these three singles that I’ve heard have a polish on them that hints at bigger production and are more ambitious.
Hater: “I think it’s really just the guys and the gear that they had. I think they have these things dialed-in and know what they like. Their gear is really cool and straight forward. If you want a ‘65 Bassman, the classic amp sound, you’ve got that. If you want a cool guitar, you’ve got that. You could plug right into that, and it sounds good.” Wilkerson: “They had assistants, Jimmy and Chris, who would take pictures of everything and make sure everything was archived in case you wanted to go back to that sound or something like that.” Esposito: “It was pro-shit. Pro-level shit.”
“Might Be Right” is also one of the other singles that have been released off of You Deserve Love:
So, my ultra-clear vinyl is ordered. I'm drinking the Kool-Aid.
Wilkerson: “That’s the one I would have got.”
I wanted the shoelaces. I’ve gotta say, but you had to buy the whole enchilada to get the shoelaces.
Hater: “What? Really?” Wilkerson: “Crazy.” Esposito: “We could probably bring some shoelaces to Toronto.” Thompson: “We can get you some shoelaces.”
Whose idea was the shoelaces?
Thompson: “Our manager Sarah.” Hater: “And we were like, ‘That’s a pretty good idea!’” Thompson: “I like it a lot. I’m going to turn them into a lanyard and wear it around my neck.” Wilkerson: “Sometimes we’re not good at stuff like this. So she has a great perspective on it for us.”
Are you yourselves vinyl aficionados? Do you like the vinyl?
Thompson: “We like vinyl.” Esposito: “I don’t know that I’m an aficionado, in any field, but...” Wilkerson: “I was saying this earlier, I usually just buy records that are my ‘best-of’ collection.” Thompson: “If I had a little more disposable income, I think I could get into it. If I had a house, a record player, and some money, fuck yeah, I’m an aficionado.”
If you had a house, you couldn’t afford the record player.
The record player is kind of intuitive of the bachelor life, right?
Thompson: “My records are in storage right now. But I’ve got some good ones that I copped off some people. I had this guy that was my dad’s friend, and when I bought a record player at a garage sale, he gave me all of his dad’s records just to try playing them on. And he just never got them back. So I’m just stuck with all of these incredible records. That I probably should return, but...”
White Reaper’s third studio album You Deserve Love will be released on October 18th via Elektra Records:
So that’s perfect, really.
Thompson: “Yeah, it really is. Some good stuff. Walt Chambers. His name’s on all of the record sleeves. A shout out to Walt.”
The last time you went through Toronto, you came through with The Struts. Was that a lengthy tour for you?
Esposito: “It was. It’s actually the longest tour we’ve ever done.”
And how was it? Did you enjoy touring with them? Are they cool guys?
Esposito: “They are one of the nicest bands that we have been on the road with. They have become really close friends of ours. They are so sweet.” Thompson: “They are great guys. I think (at the time) we were really itching to get at a headlining run, but it really fun to go out with those guys and see what they are doing and the show that they are putting on.” Esposito: “We learned a lot about showmanship. They are one of the most dedicated bands that I've ever met.” Wilkerson: “Hell of a show.” Esposito: “A hell of a show.” Wilkerson: “Their singer Luke is a true showman. And the rest of the band.”
He's got some pretty wild fashion sense too.
Wilkerson: “Yeah. One night Hunter here went on stage to play a guitar solo, and he wanted to wear his hat. But that was a no-go.” Hater: “Hunter did get to wear one of the shirts.” Thompson: “I wore Jed, The Struts' bassman's vest. And I did not wear a shirt underneath it. It was a good one.” Wilkerson: “Now I want to make it clear here that they have resigned the hat. So there is no more hat in The Strut's show. As of now.” Thompson: “So it's kind of like, maybe they should have let me wear it, you know?”
You've got one of the coolest names. Hunter Thomson is a fucking awesome writer.
Thompson: “On the website, my parents didn't know what was happening.”
“Real Long Time” was the second single and music video released off of You Deserve Love:
He did a little dope though.
Thompson: “Well, don’t we all?” (laughter)
Are you going to stick around today and see some music, or are you staying in the press area?
Thompson: “I’d really like to see The B-52s. And I’d like to see Taking Back Sunday. There’s Ween.” Esposito: “I was just watching Against Me!” Thompson: “Against Me! I wish we had been here yesterday to see Bloc Party, but...”
Bloc Party was pretty cool.
Thompson: “Did you see them?”
Yeah, I did. I photographed Slayer, and then I ran over and photographed Bloc Party.
Thompson: “That’s a good back-to-back.”
That's a good combo of music, really. Only at Riot Fest, right?
Thompson: “Yeah, for real, dude.”
Where did you record the new album? Did you stay in Kentucky and record it?
Thompson: “Nashville.” Wilkerson: “In January.”
The land of music.
Wilkerson: “The whole month of January.” Esposito: “I think that’s what they call it, yeah.” Hater: “Music city, or some shit like that.” Thompson: “Overpriced taco city, or some shit like that.” Esposito: “Taco city.” (laughs) Wilkerson: “We drank a lot of wine and watched a lot of Survivor.”
Watch the music video for “Judy French” from the band’s 2017 album The World’s Best American Band:
So, any backup plan? If White Reaper didn’t work out, did any of you have something to fall back on?
Wilkerson: “Definitely nothing besides the service industry. Hunter here has had a pretty interesting past, career-wise.” Thompson: “I’ve got a degree in business. I could go to work for the man. But I don’t think I’m eligible, after the things I’ve said all over the United States of America.”
The man will always take you, and will always work you.
Thompson: “Maybe they will, but I pray to God that’s not the case. Hater: “The man forgives.”
That sounds like a Coen Brothers movie right there.
Thompson: “It does. The man forgives.” (laughs)
The video you did for “1F” looked like it was a lot of fun to shoot. Was that a single day, or did you have to do that over multiple days?
Esposito: “That was a single day.” Thompson: “It was a lot of fun though.” Wilkerson: “It was a single day, and the director, Mason, made it super easy and fun for all of us and we just all got along super well. We shot it in LA, and we rented this badass old (to the band); what was it?” Esposito: “It was a Mustang. It was a ‘65 Mustang.” Wilkerson: “Yeah. Rented it; Mounted a camera to it; It was really fun. We got to drive it around. It was pretty scary to drive.”
Was there a concept to it? Or did you just say we want to play in a garage and roll some fruit on the ground?
Thompson: “That’s pretty much exactly what we said, right there.” Hater: “We just wanted there to be a car and strobe effect. That is literally all that was said.” Wilkerson: “The song, to put it simply, is about cars. In a way.”
The World’s Best American Band album, the band’s second, was released through Polyvinyl on April 7, 2017.
So why the fruit? Why was the fruit rolling on the ground?
Esposito: “Well that was Mason’s idea. I like it, though. I like fruit. And we all like fruit.” Thompson: “I said this to my mom, it’s green-light lime, and yellow-light lemon and red-light apple. Beautiful.” Hater: “I didn’t even know that.” Wilkerson: “That’s the colour element.”
Will you drop a fourth single from the new album before it gets released?
Esposito: “I don’t even think we know the answer to that.” Thompson: “We actually don’t know. We talked about it.”
Three seems kind of excessive, but that’s the norm now.
Esposito: “You got it. You’ve really got to wring out all of the attention that you can these days.” Thompson: “I guess I didn’t realize that it comes out in less than a month.” Hater: “It’s coming out soon. While we are on tour, it will come out. And, I don’t know, there’s one song, and it’s the title track off the new record, and it’s the last song on the record. I would love for that to get a little highlight.” Esposito: “Yeah me too.”
strong>Thompson: “I would love that too.”
Is it different from the rest of the album? I mean, it’s got a kind of striking title.
Wilkerson: “It’s a great ending.” Thompson: “It’s a great ending.”
Everybody does deserve love.
Thompson: “It’s definitely a White Reaper song. You would recognize it as such. But I think there’s a lot of; I don’t know...” Esposito: “There are other songs that are more out of left field than this one.” Esposito: “Yeah that’s probably right.” Wilkerson: “I think that we will probably have some more previews. Maybe not track releases, but definitely some more previews and some looks into the album.” Hater: “Some secret peeks.”
From their 2015 debut record White Reaper Does It Again, watch the music video for the early Reaper track “Make Me Wanna Die:”
But you have not filmed a fourth video.
They would have to jam that in there if they were going to.
Esposito: “I hope we won’t have to.” Wilkerson: “I don’t think that’s going to happen.” Esposito: “The last video came together really quickly though. There wasn’t a whole lot of planning.” Hater: “In weeks.” Esposito: “We just decided that we were going to be in LA and Mason was going to be in LA and we did it all in a matter of eight hours. So never say never. It’s not impossible.”
That sounds dubious.
Thompson: “It is.”
Do you ever get to watch your videos on the big screen? It feels like it’s all on small screens now.
Thompson: “I think I’ve only ever watched them on my iPhone.” Esposito: “What do you mean by big screen?”
A tablet? Your iPad? I don’t know. A television?
Wilkerson: “If I was at my grandma’s house, she would put them on.” Hater: “I saw a cute video of my mom with my niece and my nephew dancing around the living room to ‘1F’ the other day on the big screen. And it was heartwarming.” Thompson: “Yeah, the only time I ever see it on a TV is when I’m at a family function. And they are like, ‘Put it on the TV!’”
Pop culture; Did you guys watch Game of Thrones?
Were you happy with the ending?
Hater: “I was.” Esposito: “I’m fine with it.” Thompson: “I’m not going to knock it. What can you do?” Esposito: “What would you have done?”
I actually would have had the Baratheon bastard become the king. Full circle.
Thompson: “I would have liked this to happen. This was Ryan’s theory to me; the White Walkers should have killed everyone except for the new first men. Which would have been like ten people. And they would have started the new kingdom.” Hater: “A restart.” Thompson: “Restart. An Ice-age basically. An Ice-age allegory.” Wilkerson: “Someone has told me not to watch it. I haven’t started it. Well, maybe I watched the first episode.”
Also from White Reaper Does It Again, check out the music video for “Pills:”
You could be the wisest one amongst us.
Wilkerson: “Someone told me to not watch any of it, because of how bad the ending was.” Hater: “That’s over the top.”
People hated the end of The Sopranos. I’d argue that it’s one of the best endings...
All: “Sshhhh. We are all watching it right now.”
You’ll love it.
Wilkerson: “I know the ending of The Sopranos, but I am still kind of watching it when I can.” Hater: “I do not know it, and I’ve watched ten episodes in two days. These last two days.”
I think people just don’t want their shows to end.
Hater: “That’s the problem.” Esposito: “No one can make an ending that’s going to make everyone happy.” Thompson: “It’s like getting broken up with. You’re like, ‘fuck you! I didn't even like you.’” Esposito: “It’s over? Pfff.” Wilkerson: “This is a pretty cliche show, but Breaking Bad, I fucking loved all of it, man.”
It’s the best show ever.
Thompson: “That’s a great ending.” Wilkerson: “The ending was great.” Hater: “That’s a great ending, but there’s a lot of boring shit in Breaking Bad.” Wilkerson: “I wasn’t bored through Breaking Bad.” Hater: “I was bored for like three whole seasons.”
You’re talking about the Fly episode.
Hater: “That one was interesting. But that whole season was a stinker.”