White Reaper Is Too Busy To "Be Good At The Internet" And Too Buzzed To Care
Originally published on Slant.
All this week at SXSW, White Reaper has been tearing it up at venues across ATX with their noisy, hook-laden rock show. Hailing from Louisville, the band owes as much of their sound to melodic British punk like The Buzzcocks as they do to mid-2000s NYC garage rock like The Strokes.
White Reaper's attitude reflects their deep reverence for old school rock and roll that's raw, wry and doesn't really give a shit what you think.
We talked ahead of SXSW about why Kendrick Lamar is overrated, the reason they're always touring, and why, when they're not downing Budweisers or shots of tequila, they're keeping hydrated with artisan water (or Aquafina, if they're in a pinch.
SD: Where did you guys grow up?
WR: We grew up in Louisville, Kentucky. Most of the band grew up kind of on the outskirts of the city in a county that’s outside of Louisville a little bit. So we kind of came up in a smaller town. We grew up in just the suburbs and became friends that way in grade school, we’ve been friends for a really long time.
SD: How did you guys get into writing and playing music? When was that the decision of like, okay, this is what we’re going to do?
WR: We’ve all been playing music in Louisville since we were like 13 or 14 years old. We got into the all-ages punk shit scene, that whole deal. We got into that really hard in early high school. We all had our own punk bands and did that kind of thing for a long time. Then by the end of high school, we were like, we should start writing stuff that could be bigger than that. That’s when we started trying to make bands that could be more than just like punk high school bands.
SD: What’s the Louisville scene like?
WR: It’s pretty cool. I love it here, I love the people here. It’s kind of up and down sometimes. Like every five years it kind of dies out a bit and then we’ll somehow bring it back. It’s really different. There’s a whole bunch of different stuff that goes on here from like rock to hip hop to metal and hardcore stuff. There’s a scene for everyone here and it’s all pretty good. You could catch good shows in any kind of music that you like.
All of the older dudes are really supportive of the younger dudes and that’s the most important thing. Countless older dudes help us out and help us get to where we’re at today and give you advice and help you book shows and stuff like that. It’s really good. The scene here fosters creativity and growth. It’s pretty supportive.
SD: That’s awesome. And how did you guys settle on White Reaper as your band name?
WR: I think it was just picked from a Halloween decoration. I’m pretty sure that’s the story.
SD: That’s a great story. You guys have this punky, grittier sound but there’s these bigger pop hooks. That’s why the songs really get stuck in your head, what’s your process when it comes to writing songs? How do you guys start that process?
WR: Tony just kind of hears it in his head and tries to translate it to instruments and vocal stuff. I feel like you just kind of go with that hook and then you just try to make it into a song.
SD: Do you guys all write together or is it one dude doing it principally?
WR: Tony pretty much writes everything. We’re actually making a new record right now and we all talked it out more this time because we wrote the whole record in the studio. It’s been different this time around. I don’t know if I should answer the questions the way it has been or the way it is now because everything’s totally different. We kind of stepped back and have been in the studio for a whole month making something totally different.
SD: Who are some of your guys’ earlier influences?
WR: Black Sabbath. Black Sabbath’s playing right now, which is funny. The easiest way to answer that question is just classic rock and roll. We’ve all just have always wanted to be rock and rollers.
SD: A lot of bands at SXSW blow up mostly because in one corner or another corner of the internet people are getting really excited about their stuff. What kind of role do you think that the internet as played in your growth as an artist? Have you guys used it in any specific way or any different way to get your name out there?
WR: I guess so. I know it’s crucial and the internet is making the stars these days. I never really felt like the internet community liked us all that much. I don’t think we ever blew up online or anything, but maybe that’s because we don’t use it as a tool for that. We just try to be funny. We’re not really good at the internet (laughs).
I feel like we purposefully didn’t want to be one of those bands and we wanted to do the old school way where you just wrote a record and then tour it a whole bunch. You didn’t like write a record and put it online and just sit and wait for people to love you. I feel like a lot of bands do that and that’s the easy way out. I don’t really believe that like that’s what it’s supposed to be like.
SD: Yeah and then I think it becomes a little bit less about the music.
WR: It’s about being popular online.
SD: Exactly, being good at hashtags.
WR: We’re not really about that. We’re more of just about going out and doing it.
SD: For sure. What would you say is your least favorite thing or the hardest part about being a musician? And then what’s the part that you love the most?
WR: Apparently we’re professionals? That’s awesome.
SD: You’ve been anointed.
WR: The best part is touring for sure, going everywhere. You get to tour around and they just have a party set up for you when you arrive and you just get to hang out and have a lot of fun. The hardest part is making money. I also hate emailing people. I hate that shit, that’s like the worst part. You have to email people all day long and they yell at you when you don’t answer their email. I hate that shit.
SD: So emails are the worst part about being a professional musician?
WR: Maybe. That sounds like a stupid answer, but I hate emails.
SD: It’s way better than a lot of other answers I've heard.
WR: Touring: best, emails: worst.
SD: What are you most excited about going back to SXSW for? What do you dislike about it?
WR: It’s so hard. I like it all, I love it. There’s just a party from 11 am to 5 am every day. You just don’t sleep and you just get shoes and people give you beer sometimes and you can just drink in the streets and no one cares. There are no rules. We have a ton of friends down there, too. I love Austin, it’s a lot of fun. I slept on a hardwood floor every day last time and I just had the best time of my life.
SD: Who are some of your favorite artists right now?
WR: We don’t really listen to a lot of new music, which is bad, but we just listen to a lot of old stuff. The boys in Twin Peaks, those are our good buddies and I love them to death. They’re great people. There’s a high school band from Nashville called Jawws and I love them to death. I think they’re the coolest band around. They’re just the coolest dudes ever. I wish I was half as cool as they were when I was in high school.
I’ve been getting into a lot of really heavy shit lately. So that’s about it. We also listen to a lot of the radio. Just like Top 40 hits.
SD: Is there any stuff that you hate that’s on today? As somebody who likes classic, older music, are there any artists that come on and you change the radio? What beef are you choosing to start right now?
WR: We don’t really like Grimes. That’s a whole like internet thing.
SD: That’s a really good example of that for sure.
WR: I’m sure she’s fun to hang with. I’m sure she’s cool. But I don’t really care for her music. Same with — I’m not going to say any names — but that whole like "bedroom-guitar-guy" BS thing that’s real popular right now. Where you like have the overalls and the hipster hat and you make music in your bedroom with your girlfriend and then put in on Bandcamp. You know what I mean?
SD: I hear you. A lot of those bands are at SXSW.
WR: The chill rock thing that’s going on right now.
SD: I feel you.
WR: We’re not too into that either. Not to say that those dudes aren’t cool either, and I know a ton of people that make that music and I’m really good friends with them.
SD: You’re just not vibing on that.
WR: Oh, here’s a good one. We hate Kendrick Lamar.
SD: Yeah? What about him?
WR: He just sucks. It’s all hype. It’s not good. I mean, obviously his message is great and I feel it. I just don’t think his music is very good.
SD: You’re just inviting the internet to hate you with these responses, which I love.
WR: Like I told you before, we’re not really good at the internet. So the internet doesn’t like us very much. We think Big Sean is better than Kendrick Lamar. Big Sean rules. I want to hang out with him. It’s not a popular opinion, but it’s our opinion.
Some people like stuff just because everybody else likes it. They’re like, it’s cool, and I’m not going to do that. I like it if it’s good. I don’t care if a ton of people like it. If it’s good, then it’s good. Tony just said we like Katy Perry a lot. She’s awesome. She’s a great musician. Katy Perry is way better than Kendrick Lamar.
SD: What’s your guys’ drink of choice when you’re out on the road touring?
WR: Do you want like a type of drink or a specific brand?
SD: What are you guys drinking when you finish a show?
WR: Beer constantly. Shots of tequila. Lots of tequila and and beer. Sometimes we switch it up and get some Long Island iced teas just because. You take two of those and, dude, you are done for the night. You are literally out.
Also, Fiji water. We’re way into artisan water. Fiji’s way better than Smartwater because it’s prettier. But we will go for Smartwater if there’s no Fiji left.
SD: Good to know.
WR: Aquafina’s tight too if you’re going for that like low-level stuff.
SD: What kind of advice would you newer bands?
WR: Tour. Tour. Tour. Tour. Just tour as much as you possibly can, tour everywhere. Even if it’s shitty, even if it’s a bad tour, even if you’ve gotta sleep on people’s couches, just constantly tour until people care about you. Touring is more important than putting out 100 records. Just tour.
Don’t tell the internet that you hate Kendrick Lamar. Actually, no do that. Trust yourself and tour all the time. Be nice to people, because you know you should just be nice. If you’re nice to people, they’ll be nice to you. Follow general rules of kindness.
Go to shows too, don’t just sit back and be the cool guy who’s in a band. You should go and watch other people’s bands and be like, I support you because that’s important.
This interview has been slightly edited for clarity.
Cover photo: YouTube