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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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Rev Up

Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.

via GIPHY

Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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