Union Transfer


White Rabbits, Tennis

White Rabbits



Tue, March 6, 2012

Doors: 8:00 pm / Show: 8:30 pm

Union Transfer

Philadelphia, PA


This event is all ages

White Rabbits
White Rabbits
Here is it: “Milk Famous”: the brand new and highly anticipated third album by White Rabbits. Only this Brooklyn-based band’s combination of Midwestern roots and eclectic musical backgrounds could produce the balance of beauty and bombast that is “Milk Famous.” Produced by Mike McCarthy, “Milk Famous” will be on every person of wealth and taste's shortlist of Best Records of 2012. 

And what else is there to know about White Rabbits, you may ask? Well, plenty…

To begin, not one member of the band has ever perpetrated a ponzi scheme. This fact may sound alarming given how newscasts are, literally, riddled with stories on ponzi schemes these days. But I assure you that if you were to scour most of the internet or visit your local library’s microfiche machines you will not find one ponzi scheme associated with Stephen Patterson (vocals/piano/guitar), Alex Even (guitar), Gregory Roberts (guitar/vocals), Jamie Levinson (drums) or Matthew Clark (drums).
(NOTE: Thats not to say they wouldn't take your life savings given the chance, but they'll most likely do it by getting you to buy "Milk Famous" and tickets to all their shows and getting your friends to do the same... which is really not all that dissimilar to a ponzi scheme) 

Anyway, White Rabbits' roots go back to Columbia, MO where Stephen, much like fellow Midwesterner Iggy Pop, was making a living playing the drums in bands alongside much older jazz musicians (in Stephen’s case, authentic grown-up jazz cats—after a youthful run of hardcore punk bands, he was actively shunning popular music for a while), which helped him assimilate to other instruments and orchestration. “It was always a struggle for me early on to learn how to play instruments that had notes. Once I started viewing the keyboards as 88 drums, it really opened up the way I can play.” (It should be noted here that White Rabbits have two drummers, Jamie and Matt, far as I can tell from seeing them live).

It was also during Stephen's college years majoring in music composition and jazz drumming that he struck up a friendship with Greg while the two were pulling a "High Fidelity" at Streetside Records in Columbia, MO (I don't know which guy was John Cusack and which was Jack Black--you'll have to ask them). Greg, Matt and fellow future Rabbit and then-17-year-old high school student Alex needed a drummer for their ingeniously named punk band Texas Chainsaw Mass Choir (how did no one else ever think of that name?) so they asked Stephen to join and just like Michael Corleone in Godfather III, he was pulled back in.

The first White Rabbits incarnation, however, didn't lumber together until Greg bumped their original singer out of the lead vocal spot. They wrote, recorded, even toured with The Walkmen and Blood Brothers (with whom Texas Chainsaw Mass Choir had previously toured) in this early version--all the while saving every penny from the band's gigs and Stephen moonlighting as a waiter and house drummer in a Columbia MO jazz joint (where Matt also waited tables, while across town Greg was working a similar job at the Blue Note) in hopes of moving to New York. (Another note: These hopes and dreams probably didn't involve living together in the same one-room Brooklyn apartment, though it should be said that for Alex--having grown up one of nine siblings--nine!--it was probably a relief!).

The band's Big Apple prayers were answered, uh sort of, in the form of a fairly awful car accident that resulted in a settlement paid to Stephen that funded the journey to NYC--which is a strangely good analogy for the White Rabbits' signature trick of wrapping some seriously dark and twisted shit in really pretty packages. The band eventually relocated to New York, soon rearranging the lineup to split vocals and songwriting duties between Stephen and Greg, and working on the material that would become their first album--oh and and getting signed to a record deal after performing their first New York City show. You know, the same way it happens for NO ONE ELSE EVER...

...Except that it happened again between their first and second albums, when tbd Records head honcho Phil Costello (no relation to Elvis, though both have had momentous impact on White Rabbits in their own ways) accidentally caught a White Rabbits set while scouting another band at SXSW and offered them a deal on the spot. Crazier still, Costello turned out to have co-founded the Blue Note with Greg's old boss Richard King, who along with Costello was BFFs with Stephen and Greg's former boss, Streetside Records owner Kevin Walsh. None of the above was known to the Rabbits when Costello first approached them, which could lead you to think Damon Lindelof was writing their lives for them. 

So... the first White Rabbits album, “Fort Nightly” was released in May 2007 on Say Hey records.  Jamie, who had originally been brought on as manager, was recruited as an actual band member as the band realized their increasingly complex and intertwining rhythms required another drummer (and as a manager, Jamie was a fantastic drummer), and such was the beginning of the sound and material that would become album #2.
White Rabbits' critically acclaimed sophomore album “It’s Frightening” was released in May 2009, featuring what the band felt was a more stripped down, abrasive approach--you know, the tried and true formula for career suicide...  which resulted in the song, “Percussion Gun,” which racked up a million hits on Youtube and wound up featured everywhere from “Friday Night Lights” to FIFA World Cup. Do you have any idea how many people watch soccer?  Seriously, do you have the slightest idea?

Which brings us to the band’s new album, “Milk Famous,” set to be released on March 6th.  The title of the record, “Milk Famous,” Stephen explains as meaning, “To be known but not for something you intended to be known for.” Which you may have figured out on your own. Or you might have wondered for a while what it meant if he hadn't said that. Or just wondered what becomes of the truly "Milk Famous" late in their careers. Like Bobby Brown. Is he alive? I mean, how stupid are you going to feel if you're trying to think of other people who are “Milk Famous” when Bobby Brown could be lying face down in a ditch?

“Milk Famous” is both the third White Rabbits album, and the band's second release for tbd records, the label most famous for being Radiohead’s current home. But technically White Rabbits signed to tbd before Radiohead. And Radiohead just added that second drummer, didn't they? So I'm not accusing anyone of following in someone else's footsteps or anything... I'm just saying. 

You’ve probably already heard “Heavy Metal,” the first track from "Milk Famous" to go public, which will prepare you for the upcoming single, “Temporary.” Singles are a funny thing, y’know? That is, in terms of someone choosing which song you should listen to first. But with an album as hauntingly textured yet awe-inspiringly pop, we could all benefit from some assistance on a solid starting point.

And your starting point may be loving "Heavy Metal" or it may be loving “Temporary.” But you’ll equally love other songs such as "Back For More” (which Stephen and Alex produced themselves), “I'm Not Me,” “The Day You Won the War," "I Had It Coming"... Hell, there isn't a clunker in the bunch. And if you disagree, you are listening to music incorrectly. Go back and start from scratch.

Finally, and somewhat unrelated, I’m told Bobby Brown is definitely not in a ditch. Maybe Elvis Costello could write a sweet tune about Bobby Brown dying in a ditch. I bet it would be vaguely creepy but ridiculously catchy. Kinda’ like the new White Rabbits record. Make sure to ask the band what they think about that when you see them live on tour this year.
Tennis continue their extensive North American tour in celebration of their fourth full-length album, Yours Conditionally. After a cross country tour in the Spring/Summer supporting artists including Spoon, The Shins and Father John Misty the band is primed to head out on a Fall Headline tour crisscrossing the United States; their largest to date.

Yours Conditionally—out now on Mutually Detrimental via Thirty Tigers and available at all record stores as well as via iTunes and Spotify— continues to receive praise from NPR’s “Weekend Edition,” Interview Magazine, W, New York Magazine and many more.

The new record was composed both on land and at sea during a five-month sailing trip through the Sea of Cortez. Upon returning, Tennis’ husband-and-wife team of Patrick Riley and Alaina Moore self-produced the record in a small cabin in Fraser, CO. It was mixed by Spoon’s Jim Eno at Public HiFi.

Now based in Denver, Moore and Riley began writing music together as a way to document the history of their time living aboard a sailboat. The result was their first release, Cape Dory. Moore and Riley followed Cape Dory with Young and Old, which The New Yorker described as “winsome as it is ebullient” and debuted #1 on Billboard’s Heatseeker Chart and #1 on CMJ Top 200, where it remained for three straight weeks. The album also debuted on Soundscan’s “New Artist Chart” at #1, remaining there for nine consecutive weeks. Their newest record comes on the heels of the group’s most recent release, 2014’s Ritual in Repeat, which received rave reviews from The New York Times, NPR’s “All Things Considered” and “Fresh Air,” TIME, Vogue, Pitchfork, The FADER, Entertainment Weekly and many more. The band has performed on “The Late Show with David Letterman,” “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” “Conan” and “Last Call with Carson Daly.”
Question: just how do you go about trying to match an album as peerless, wholly immersive, and as widely acclaimed and adored as Daughter's 2013 debut 'If You Leave?' Simple: up the ante on every level. Building on that record's gloriously dark intensity, wracked emotion and come-hither diaphanous textures, 'Not To Disappear,' the new full-length release from the London-based trio -- singer/guitarist Elena Tonra, guitarist/producer Igor Haefeli and drummer Remi Aguilella -- is a mighty declaration of intent. Profoundly ruminative and lugubrious, bold and direct, it's arguably even more assertive and compelling than its much-lauded predecessor.

Produced by Haefeli and Nicolas Vernhes (Animal Collective, Deerhunter, The War On Drugs), 'Not To Disappear' finds Daughter evolving in interesting ways. Recorded in New York, at Vernhes' studio in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, there are the usual intricate dynamics at play -- Tonra's gauzy, fragile voice, delivering powerful, anguished words detailing her inner turmoil, fusing seamlessly with Haefeli's tight, melodic guitar sounds and Aguilella's rolling drums -- but the sound, oozing with depth and resonance, feels infinitely richer. It's properly intoxicating stuff: "Numbers" soars and swoops through exhilarating crescendos, as Tonra recites the song's mantra -- "I feel numb/I feel numb in this kingdom" -- over and over; and "Fossa," like some majestic convergence of Radiohead and Sigur Rós, is possibly one of Daughter's most euphoric moments yet.

"A lot of it started with individual ideas," says Tonra. "Igor would write some instrumental stuff, and I would go away and write more tracks, learning how to use Logic, and how to realise something in a fuller way than just guitar and voice. As it moved along it went through various stages, sounding better and better."

The signature motifs are still very much in evidence, but there's a real sense of the trio opening up to new ideas. Although making the record wasn't the easiest of rides, co-producer Vernhes was key in bringing the group out of themselves. "Nicolas was wonderful," says Tonra. "We'd been living in London, and demoing and writing here -- we're perfectionists, pulling in different directions -- so it was really beneficial to go somewhere else to record it, just for a change of scene. Working with Nicolas was a real injection of energy."

"I'm a control freak, so it's hard to let go," adds Haefeli, "but I found a lot in common with him, as much in our positive sides as in our faults. He brought a quality of recording that wouldn't have been possible otherwise. And he's just a fun person to be around."

Haefeli has spoken previously about wanting to expand the band's sound into increasingly widescreen realms, and 'Not To Disappear' duly bigs it up; this time, there's distinctly more dramatic ebb and flow, as quiet intimacy lurches into thrilling kaleidoscopic expanses, noticeably more epic and ambitious in scope than the Daughter of just a couple of years ago. "To me, music is like a very fragile Jenga," he says. "You move one piece, then you have to move another piece to balance it. Elena is much more of a 'pure' artist -- for her, it's always about capturing the 'moment'. In that way, we're polar opposites, but I think that's what brings some of the magic to it."

Magic is right: this time, Daughter feel like an entirely new, different and increasingly fearless proposition, the alchemy of their music -- more resonant and emphatic, even louder in places -- somehow doubly alluring. They go flat-out and turn up the volume throughout, as Haefeli's beefed-up, majestic guitar lines surge and reverberate with renewed urgency and purpose, cut through by Aguilella's unflinchingly muscular, red-blooded drumming -- all of it gilded by a gorgeous electronic undertow.

The lyrics -- always Tonra's domain -- are more forthright, too, an even more honest reflection of her ever-questioning state of mind. "Expressing your emotions isn't a weakness but a real strength," she says, somehow empowered, her new-found confidence palpable. "I think with this album, there's less hiding. I used to hide a lot of my themes in poetry, but now, there's no veil.

"The first song we wrote for the record, 'New Ways,' was like opening another window. The album title comes from that song, and for me, as the lyricist, it's an important message. The older I get, the more I'm saying 'this is who I am'."

'Not To Disappear' has its unexpected bursts of uptempo energy, as on the propulsive stomp of "No Care" -- consciously striving to mix things up, and about as lyrically direct and embittered ("There's only been one time where we fucked, and i felt like a bad memory") as Tonra has ever been. "I go around collecting memories and feelings, and when I press record, stuff just... spills."

"Drifting apart like two sheets of ice" sings Tonra wistfully on "Winter" (from 'If You Leave'), and lyrically, it's an over-arching motif that carries through here, with loss, alienation and loneliness as prevalent themes. On "Alone/With You" in particular, she's brutally forthright ("I hate sleeping with you/Just a shadowy figure with a blank face/Kicking me out of his place"), laying bare her innermost feelings and neuroses. "Writing has always been a bit cathartic for me," she admits. "It's almost therapeutic -- I don't know how I would be if I didn't write."

Famously guarded about revealing the meaning to her lyrics, the singer remains keen to retain a little mystique ("I never want to explain things too much -- what I've said in the song is the most I want to say, and the rest is up for interpretation"), but, emotionally unshackled, she seems less worried these days about how her words might be interpreted. "It's a little bit 'fuck you' now," she says, bristling with defiance. "The new songs came out in a way where my writing was different from before. Initially, it freaked me out because I thought I had writer's block, but I realised it was just how my brain was working.

"On this record, I've gone to places I maybe wouldn't have been that comfortable with before. I guess there are a lot more sexual references, that kind of lonely interpretation of sex -- I don't know if many other people have spoken about it that way. But I thought, if my brain isn't trying to hide this stuff, then it obviously means I should talk about it. It feels like I'm being braver, which is liberating."
Venue Information:
Union Transfer
1026 Spring Garden St.
Philadelphia, PA, 19123