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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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Hard Out

Comedy From The Closet

Janice and Jeffrey Available Now On IFC's Comedy Crib

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She’s been referred to as “the love child of Amy Sedaris and Tracy Ullman,” and he’s a self-described “Italian who knows how to cook a great spaghetti alla carbonara.” They’re Mollie Merkel and Matteo Lane, prolific indie comedians who blended their robust creative juices to bring us the new Comedy Crib series Janice and Jeffrey. Mollie and Matteo took time to answer our probing questions about their series and themselves. Here’s a taste.

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

Mollie & Matteo: Janice and Jeffrey is about a married couple experiencing intimacy issues but who don’t have a clue it’s because they are gay. Their oblivion makes them even more endearing.  Their total lack of awareness provides for a buffet of comedy.

IFC: What’s your origin story? How did you two people meet and how long have you been working together?

Mollie: We met at a dive bar in Wrigley Field Chicago. It was a show called Entertaining Julie… It was a cool variety scene with lots of talented people. I was doing Janice one night and Matteo was doing an impression of Liza Minnelli. We sort of just fell in love with each other’s… ACT! Matteo made the first move and told me how much he loved Janice and I drove home feeling like I just met someone really special.

IFC: How would Janice describe Jeffrey?

Mollie: “He can paint, cook homemade Bolognese, and sing Opera. Not to mention he has a great body. He makes me feel empowered and free. He doesn’t suffocate me with attention so our love has room to breath.”

IFC: How would Jeffrey describe Janice?

Matteo: “Like a Ford. Built to last.”

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Mollie & Matteo: Our current political world is mirroring and reflecting this belief that homosexuality is wrong. So what better time for satire. Everyone is so pro gay and equal rights, which is of course what we want, too. But no one is looking at middle America and people actually in the closet. No one is saying, hey this is really painful and tragic, and sitting with that. Having compassion but providing the desperate relief of laughter…This seemed like the healthiest, best way to “fight” the gay rights “fight”.

IFC: Hummus is hilarious. Why is it so funny?

Mollie: It just seems like something people take really seriously, which is funny to me. I started to see it in a lot of lesbians’ refrigerators at a time. It’s like observing a lesbian in a comfortable shoe. It’s a language we speak. Pass the Hummus. Turn on the Indigo Girls would ya?

See the whole season of Janice and Jeffrey right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Die Hard Dads

Inspiration For Die Hard Dads

Die Hard is on IFC all Father's Day Long

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIPHY

Yippee ki-yay, everybody! It’s time to celebrate the those most literal of mother-effers: dads!

And just in case the title of this post left anything to the imagination, IFC is giving dads balls-to-the-wall ’80s treatment with a glorious marathon of action trailblazer Die Hard.

There are so many things we could say about Die Hard. We could talk about how it was comedian Bruce Willis’s first foray into action flicks, or Alan Rickman’s big screen debut. But dads don’t give a sh!t about that stuff.

No, dads just want to fantasize that they could be deathproof quip factory John McClane in their own mundane lives. So while you celebrate the fathers in your life, consider how John McClane would respond to these traditional “dad” moments…

Wedding Toasts

Dads always struggle to find the right words of welcome to extend to new family. John McClane, on the other hand, is the master of inclusivity.
Die Hard wedding

Using Public Restrooms

While nine out of ten dads would rather die than use a disgusting public bathroom, McClane isn’t bothered one bit. So long as he can fit a bloody foot in the sink, he’s G2G.
Die Hard restroom

Awkward Dancing

Because every dad needs a signature move.
Die Hard dance

Writing Thank You Notes

It can be hard for dads to express gratitude. Not only can McClane articulate his thanks, he makes it feel personal.
Die Hard thank you

Valentine’s Day

How would John McClane say “I heart you” in a way that ain’t cliche? The image speaks for itself.
Die Hard valentines

Shopping

The only thing most dads hate more than shopping is fielding eleventh-hour phone calls with additional items for the list. But does McClane throw a typical man-tantrum? Nope. He finds the words to express his feelings like a goddam adult.
Die Hard thank you

Last Minute Errands

John McClane knows when a fight isn’t worth fighting.
Die Hard errands

Sneaking Out Of The Office Early

What is this, high school? Make a real exit, dads.
Die Hard office

Think you or your dad could stand to be more like Bruce? Role model fodder abounds in the Die Hard marathon all Father’s Day long on IFC.

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Founding Farters

Know Your Nerd History

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs via Giphy

That we live in the heyday of nerds is no hot secret. Scientists are celebrities, musicians are robots and late night hosts can recite every word of the Silmarillion. It’s too easy to think that it’s always been this way. But the truth is we owe much to our nerd forebearers who toiled through the jock-filled ’80s so that we might take over the world.

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Our humble beginnings are perhaps best captured in iconic ’80s romp Revenge of the Nerds. Like the founding fathers of our Country, the titular nerds rose above their circumstances to culturally pave the way for every Colbert and deGrasse Tyson that we know and love today.

To make sure you’re in the know about our very important cultural roots, here’s a quick download of the vengeful nerds without whom our shameful stereotypes might never have evolved.

Lewis Skolnick

The George Washington of nerds whose unflappable optimism – even in the face of humiliating self-awareness – basically gave birth to the Geek Pride movement.

Gilbert Lowe

OK, this guy is wet blanket, but an important wet blanket. Think Aaron Burr to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. His glass-mostly-empty attitude is a galvanizing force for Lewis. Who knows if Lewis could have kept up his optimism without Lowe’s Debbie-Downer outlook?

Arnold Poindexter

A music nerd who, after a soft start (inside joke, you’ll get it later), came out of his shell and let his passion lead instead of his anxiety. If you played an instrument (specifically, electric violin), and you were a nerd, this was your patron saint.

Booger

A sex-loving, blunt-smoking, nose-picking guitar hero. If you don’t think he sounds like a classic nerd, you’re absolutely right. And that’s the whole point. Along with Lamar, he simultaneously expanded the definition of nerd and gave pre-existing nerds a twisted sort of cred by association.

Lamar Latrell

Black, gay, and a crazy good breakdancer. In other words, a total groundbreaker. He proved to the world that nerds don’t have a single mold, but are simply outcasts waiting for their moment.

Ogre

Exceedingly stupid, this dumbass was monumental because he (in a sequel) leaves the jocks to become a nerd. Totally unheard of back then. Now all jocks are basically nerds.

Well, there they are. Never forget that we stand on their shoulders.

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC all month long.

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