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Exclusive download & interview: White Denim’s woozy “Street Joy”

Exclusive download & interview: White Denim’s woozy “Street Joy” (photo)

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“At what point does a waterfall of surprises become just another drowning crush of predictable unpredictability?” asked Paste critic Jason Ferguson at the start of his mostly spot-on review of D, the fourth album by Austin quartet White Denim. Conduits of eclecticism in an indie rock atmosphere where such post-modern magpie tendencies have become increasingly common, White Denim indeed jumps from place to place on D, springing from jittery indie rock to psychedelic adventures at a clip that’s sometimes a bit unsettling.
But “Street Joy,” the first real mid-tempo moment of the band’s career, is appropriately a song about settling down and finding a truthful core. Though it’s not going to be a summer anthem for anyone, “Street Joy” does show that, despite all the surface-level jumpiness, there’s a strong songwriting core within White Denim. We caught up with frontman James Petralli while the band tried to find a hotel in downtown Chicago to talk “Street Joy,” which you can download here.

I haven’t seen you live on this tour, but I’ve noticed through a few live reviews that you’re leaning heavily on the new album, D, for the shows. Do these new songs mold well with the previous material?

It’s pretty continuous. We feel like all of our music lends itself well to the live area, so we’re able to segue the tunes. The new material fits nicely.

One aspect of your band seems to have long been changing older songs on stage. Has that started with the songs from D yet?

Yeah, but this record, more than any of the others, we’re true to what we recorded. That has to do with the pre-production we put into making D. I’m sure that, by the end of the next tour we do, we’ll be stretching out and working arrangements into new things. We never like to stay in one place for too long, but at this point, we’re pretty true to form. We’re definitely cutting sections and lengthening sections and doing different arrangements of some of the older tunes. It depends on what we’re feeling at the moment.

What’s your favorite new tune to play live right now?

I think I’d probably play “Anvil Everything” right now. It’s fun to lock with the band on that.

Tell me about “Street Joy,” the song just before “Anvil Everything.” It’s such a change of pace.

It was a late addition to the record. I wanted to write three more tunes for the record, and I put that one on the list thinking that it wouldn’t end up being something everyone was into. But it was quite the opposite; everyone got really excited about it, and we cut it. It’s kind of a different song for us. We’ve never really done anything super mid-tempo and stripped down like that. It was exciting, a completely different approach for us.

Why did you think the band might not take to it?

I assume that the band likes the up-tempo stuff, or would go for that. People generally do go for up-tempo over mid-tempo. It’s a moody tune, as well. It has an intimate, personal feeling, and I figured maybe that would be funny because it was so different. I sent them a demo of it, and I sent it in an e-mail. In the body of the e-mail, I said, “I’m not sure if you’re going to like this.” They listened to it once a piece and were really excited. I got super enthusiastic e-mails back within 10 minutes. It was pretty immediate for them.

How does White Denim work in terms of songwriting structure? Does the rest of the band add parts to your songs, or is it more collaborative than that?

It’s been different for each record. With D, I did a lot of demoing at home. The band spent the same amount of time listening. I was basically sending scratch tracks and all that stuff via e-mail, and we ultimately familiarized ourselves with the parts and got together and rehearsed everything for an extended period of time before we started tracking. All the arrangements and instrumentation changed, so it was definitely a more collaborative thing.

What’s “Street Joy” say to you or about you?

I think that this record, for me, deals with getting older and trying to make space for the goals that you have when you’re young and what that does to you as you’re aging. I think that’s what “Street Joy” is about.

What are those goals?

I think they’re always changing. I hate to be really political, but I think, at least for me, when I first started working on this thing, I just wanted to make pleasing but antagonistic punky rock. There was a lot more sarcasm involved in the writing. There was a lot of distance there. My goals shifted, and I wanted to say something that was a little more representative of who I actually am. I was projecting less.

That seems like a difficult change as a rock musician, giving up some of that bravado for more honesty.

I think this record, for all of us, was an opportunity to do something that was a little less self-conscious in the making of it. Everything is right there. All the parts are clearly audible, and we really focused on getting honest performances. On all levels, this record was that for this band.

Did that make the studio more stressful, just in terms of getting the parts right and not hiding behind an image at all?

In some ways, it was a little bit more difficult because we weren’t really allowing ourselves the luxury of punches. There was a little more pressure on the performances in the studio, and we upped the quality in the studio as well. We didn’t obscure things with effects as much. We wanted it to be like an early ’70s record, so there was that pressure. But over the years, I think we’ve realized that we can play well together in the live context. We wanted to try to apply more of that, so in that sense, it was more relaxed. We didn’t have to do much in post-production. It was more about the work we’d done beforehand.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.