My family lives in southern Illinois so they always drive up to see us in Chicago…and by see us I mean standing in the front row wearing White Rabbits t-shirts and cheering me on…I’m fully aware that most musicians do not get that kind of support from their family, so I always get a nice reminder in Chicago that I’m a lucky boy.
story by Kara Henderson
Since the 2007 release of their debut album Fort Nightly, White Rabbits have noticeably progressed and changed their sound. This year’s Milk Famous, carefully produced with the help of Spoon’s Mike McCarthy, shifts from jumbled synth to reverb to rhythmic drumbeats while remaining melodic and lyrically interesting. There is no singular sound pattern followed on Milk Famous. “I’m Not Me” is like a punch in the gut while “Hold It To The Fire” maintains an ethereal sound quality.
Chicago Innerview spoke with White Rabbits vocalist/pianist Stephen Patterson to discuss the band’s progression, writing process and live show experience.
Chicago Innerview: What is your songwriting process as a band?
Stephen Patterson: We don’t really write songs as a band. We’ve tried writing songs by jamming in our rehearsal space, but it just never really works out. Once we get into the studio and hear it back, it just doesn’t seem to translate the way that we thought it would. There’s plenty of exceptions to that but for the most part, writing is a small group or individual effort. The majority of the songs on Milk Famous started as acoustic guitar/piano demos that myself or [guitarist] Alex [Even] recorded. We knew that we wanted to use a lot of sounds we hadn’t used before on this record, so Alex and I would make sure that we were happy with the song in its most bare form [and] then everyone would contribute to the studio creation.
CI: One of my favorite aspects of your discography is your obvious musical progression and change. It seems this difference is even exemplified in Milk Famous’ bright album cover compared to the darker ones of It’s Frightening and Fort Nightly. What elements do you think set Milk Famous apart from your previous records?
SP: We came into this record with no preconceived idea of what we wanted it to sound like. We knew we wanted a ska/calypso/Great Gatsby kind of thing on Fort Nightly. And we went into It’s Frightening knowing that we wanted a floor tom/piano/raw vocal sound. With this one it was wide open. On top of that, all that we went through during recording/touring It’s Frightening messed us up quite a bit. Our personal lives were upside down and our relationships with each other had gone south. So this record was us trying to put all of those things back together. Oddly enough, as it was unfolding I realized that we were creating a really shiny record. Not slick, but shiny with really bright sounds. I can’t say the same thing about our other records.
CI: It seems that the band has significant experience performing in Chicago venues. What is your favorite/a unique part about playing in the Windy City?
SP: I think we’ve played Chicago more than we’ve played New York and Columbia, Missouri, combined. I can’t complain though, you guys have no shortage of great Mexican food which I think is essential to playing a good show. I’ll never understand why New York is so sub-par when it comes to Mexican restaurants. Also my family lives in southern Illinois so they always drive up to see us in Chicago…and by see us I mean standing in the front row wearing White Rabbits t-shirts and cheering me on. That always makes for a unique experience onstage. I like it though, they’re proud of me and that makes me happy. I’m fully aware that most musicians do not get that kind of support from their family, so I always get a nice reminder in Chicago that I’m a lucky boy.
White Rabbits :: Lincoln Hall :: October 17.