Singer/pianist Steve Patterson and guitarist Alex Even talked about their tours with Tokyo Police Club and down south, their would-have-been tour with the Kaiser Chiefs, making Fort Nightly (QRO review), their plans for the next record, moving the band from Missouri to New York, having two of nearly everything, playing Letterman, Canada, and much more…
QRO: How was your last tour?
Steve Patterson: It was good. It was really long. We got to play with The Pogues in San Francisco, which was awesome.
Alex Even: The first half was with Tokyo Police Club, and they’re all really good guys. It was good times.
SP: The South was a bit rough at times.
QRO: We interviewed Graham (Wright) from Tokyo Police Club right before they started that tour (QRO interview). How did the two compare, opening for Tokyo Police Club out west vs. being the opener down South?
SP: Well, it was our first time in a lot of those cities, so it’s always rough, just kinda building a fanbase.
Birmingham was really fun, there’s a really cool club there called ‘The Bottletree’. Atlanta was awesome…
AE: Atlanta was great.
SP: Just sort of the highlights.
QRO: What happened with your tour with the Kaiser Chiefs?
SP: Their story is that they wanted to take time off to write and record new material, but what that actually means is that they didn’t sell enough tickets.
QRO: Did you do any dates with them?
SP: They were kind enough to let us play their New York show.
What was really, really inconvenient was that we had already left to go meet them in Dallas. So we were in Denver, or somewhere in the Mid-West, when we found out that was our destination. ‘Okay, now we just gotta drive from Colorado to New York City, just like straight home.’ It was cancelled last-minute; it was kind of a pain.
QRO: Why this one final one-off to end 2007?
SP: I don’t think it was ever set out to be that way, it just kind of ended up being that, so it’s a nice send-off.
QRO: Does this feel any different than when you last headlined Bowery (QRO venue review), back in June, before all the touring?
AE: We’re in a much better place now.
SP: We’re a much better band.
QRO: That night, The Mystery Jets were supposed to headline but cancelled. What’s with you guys and British headliners not coming through?
AE: Ask our booker…
QRO: Do you have any U.K./Europe tour plans?
SP: Yeah, we’ll probably go, when, in March or so?…
Aaron Romanello (manager): Hopefully, it will be a couple days in England, then Amsterdam…
QRO: When is Fort Nightly coming out in Europe?
AR: It’s coming out late February/early March.
QRO: What was making Fort Nightly like? It’s been a while…
SP: It has been a long time. A bonding experience for all of us, we had never really done anything like it.
It was really long, really fun, but really arduous at times. It took about a year, mainly because we had to sneak in to the studio after hours and on weekends, when people weren’t using it. But it was great; we’re best friends with Chris Zane, the producer.
Every artist goes through the same thing: they put the record out, and then looking back, they wish they could’ve changed some things. It’s the same story. I’m very proud of it, though, it being our first.
QRO: How much new, post-Nightly material do you have written?
SP: We have like, a few tracks. We’ve been on the road a lot; it’s hard to write on the road for a six-piece band with two drummers.
QRO: Do you play any of it live?
SP: Yeah, we’ll play a couple of the new ones live.
White Rabbits playing the new “Sea of Rum” live @ Bowery Ballroom, New York, NY, on December 13th, 2007:
QRO: Where are you on thinking about a second album?
SP: We’re focusing hard on it now. Pretty much ending tonight, we’re finished touring.
AE: We’re done; we break up after this show. Only to reunite in a few of months…
SP: I think this is pretty much gonna be the last time we’re going to do the show mainly for just this record. The stuff we’re going to do in the next few… I don’t know when we’re all going to be back in the studio.
QRO: Do you think you’ll release anything in the meantime, like a 7”, digital release, older stuff, etc.?
SP: In January, we’re putting out a 7” on Gigantic. An old track of ours, that we kind of re-did, and a cover [“Cotillion Blues”, and a cover of Randy Newman’s “Beehive State”].
QRO: Will you be doing anything special between now and your Mid-West tour with The Walkmen in January?
SP: Be more time to be writing.
QRO: You all met at University of Missouri-Columbia. Are you all originally Midwesterners?
SP: We all grew up, more or less, in the St. Louis area. Alex and Adam (Russell, bass) grew up in Jefferson City, which is like two hours from St. Louis.
QRO: Did you all come to New York City together, en masse?
SP: Yeah, we were all a band in Columbia… Jamie (Levinson, drums) moved to New York after we already here.
AE: After we’d been here for a while.
SP: The other five, we were all a band for about a year.
QRO: Is there anything particularly special about when you play the Mid-West, as opposed to other parts of the country?
SP: Yeah, whenever we play St. Louis, or Columbia, it’s always a nice homecoming vibe.
AE: Family comes out, grandparents…
SP: Chicago, St. Louis, Columbia, it’s always great – people appreciate the fact that we’re from there.
QRO: How long have you guys known the Harlem Shakes (QRO interview)?
AE: I think we met them through Chris Zane, our producer.
SP: He worked on some stuff they did.
QRO: You guys seem to have a lot in common – this bill, Brooklyn, same PR company, Chris Zane, guest horns from Jon Natchez (Beirut), two word names that don’t start with a ‘the’ but end in an ‘s’ and have the same number of letters in total, twelve…
AE: Really, huh? Fascinating…
QRO: But what I really want to know is: who wins in a knife fight?
AE: We have the numbers…
QRO: You guys have two lead singers (Greg Roberts & Steve), two guitarists (Greg & Alex) – even two drummers (Matt Clark & Jamie). Why so much overlap?
SP: A lot of it just kind of happened.
But it all just kind of happened as the band developed.
It started off, very, very ‘rock band’ – one drummer, two guitarists, singer, and bassist. And… I don’t know… Just to keep things moving, things shifted around, and we finally found the best way we possibly can.
QRO: Does it keep you on your toes; do you have to compete?
AE: No, we’re not competitive.
QRO: Does Adam get too self-assured, knowing he’s the only bassist?
SP: We’re looking for a second bassist.
QRO: A little Ned’s Atomic Dustbin?…
SP: Yes, exactly…
QRO: Jon Natchez played horns for guys on “I Used To Complain, Now I Don’t”, as he did for The Harlem Shakes. Is he really sought-after, or does he just have a lot of time on his hands?
AE: Um… I don’t know…
SP: He’s a really great player, and he just turned out to be in our same circle. I don’t know how much time he has.
QRO: What do you do for horns on the road for that song?
AE: We don’t.
SP: This’ll be the first time we’ve included horns in a long time.
QRO: Who’s doing it tonight?
AE: John and Kelly Pratt (Arcade Fire). It’s gonna be great.
QRO: Where is the footage from “The Plot” video from? Is the concert footage from Highline Ballroom (QRO venue review)?
AE: Actually, yeah.
SP: That was just pretty much from that period of time, until the U.K. trip.
QRO: When were you in the U.K.?
SP: I think it was in the summer…
AE: June or July of last year?…
QRO: Back on June 19th [of this year], you played on The Late Show with David Letterman. What was that like?
SP: It was really cold, like 55° in there. You could see your breath and everything.
We pretty much had no idea why were asked to be on it in the first place, so it was just kinda like, ‘Okay, fine…’
QRO: When did you find out?
SP: We found out a long time ago, way before we were actually on the show, that it was a possibility. Then we didn’t hear anything back for like two months, and we’d already told our parents, and they were all freaking out…
AE: I think we found out a couple weeks before.
SP: U2 cancelled or something…
QRO: Two days later, you guys played The Village Voice’s Siren Music Festival on Coney Island. Do you do anything differently when you play outdoors, vs. indoors?
AE: We haven’t really mastered playing outdoors yet. It always sounds a bit off.
SP: Ask any band: it’s always better to play indoors.
QRO: You’re headlining tonight, but you’ve done a lot of supporting work on your tours, and will again in January. Which do you prefer?
SP: It’s a tough question. Honestly, it depends on where you’re playing. We’re totally comfortable here [in New York], Chicago, wherever else… back home…
But a lot of times, places that you haven’t really made your mark, it’s best to hop on the back of somebody else who has more success. It’s always fun to go out and make friends with bands. It’s really a case-by-case basis.
QRO: Are there any songs you really like playing live?
SP: We all really enjoy playing stuff that isn’t on the record right now, newer stuff. I don’t know… We just reworked a track off the album, so that’s exciting; “Walk Around the Table” is a pretty good time.
QRO: Are there any songs you don’t like playing live, don’t play anymore, or you can’t play live, just because of the arrangement?
SP: Yeah, we never play “March Of the Camels” live. That’s such a studio creation.
I don’t think anybody’s really thrilled about playing “The Plot”.
QRO: But you feel like you still have to play it, because it’s your single?
AE: Yeah, sure.
SP: It’s not that bad, you just kind of get sick of it.
QRO: What cities or venues have you really liked playing in?
SP: Portland is great, Denver is great, I had a really good time in Birmingham, like I said, where else?…
AE: Chicago’s always fantastic…
AE: Washington, DC is always good, New York…
QRO: Are there any places that you haven’t been that you want to?
AE: We’re not allowed in Canada.
QRO: You’re not allowed in Canada? With Tokyo Police Club, you weren’t…
AE: Youthful indiscretion…
SP: One of the guys, who I won’t name, had a little bit of a run-in with the law or whatever when he was younger, so that’s…
QRO: There’s a lot of bands…
SP: It’s really common.
QRO: Have you ever played in Canada?
AE: Nope, never. We tried once, we hung out in Niagara Falls ‘cause we couldn’t get in. We got maybe thirty yards in, and were turned around.
QRO: Do you have a favorite tour story?
SP: Matt, can you think of any highlights? There are a lot of good ones…
Matt Clark: The one time you saved us from hitting those deer.
SP: Oh, yeah, that was exciting. Two deer on the road; happens to everyone, not just bands.
AE: Just, like, hanging out with The Pogues…
SP: Them telling us that we were the best band they’d played with in the past ten years was the highlight of my year.
QRO: Do you guys know if you’ll be doing another video?
SP: We might try to do one early next year.
AE: I think it would be cool to do a full, proper video for one more song.
SP: It would probably be “Kid On My Shoulders” or “While We Go Dancing”.
QRO: How do you guys know Chris Zane?
SP: Through Aaron, actually. Aaron caught our first show in New York City. Through his label’s operation, he knew Chris. So he introduced us to him, and it just made a lot of sense.
QRO: Why did you all decide to move together to New York City? How did you do that?
SP: I try not to romanticize it too much. You know, people go to school to get their degree, and then they move away to somewhere, where best suits their career.
That’s the main reason, but a few of us had just graduated from college, made a lot of sense. We wanted to pursue the thing, a full-time, real, career sort of thing. We love Columbia, but it just doesn’t compare to being here.
We talked for a good… I don’t know how long, like four or five months? And then when the decision came, it was really casual, ‘So, are we going to be moving? Okay…’
AE: Just started saving up money. It was just this thing.
White Rabbits playing “Tourist Trap” live @ Bowery Ballroom, New York, NY, on December 13th, 2007: