White Denim: Progressions from Parque Touch
On August 13 and 14 Relix will host Austin psych-rock outfit White Denim over two-nights at Brooklyn Bowl. As we lead up to the shows, we had a chance to chat with White Denim bassist Steve Terebecki about the group’s genesis, the progression from garage-punk to progressive psych-rock and their approach to improvisation.
What led to the genesis of White Denim? Describe the band’s early days.
The early days…I guess Josh, the drummer, and James, the singer, met and started jammin’ around together and then they moved to Austin around the same time. They just wanted to play basically rock ‘n roll and their friend Lucas Anderson, he was around for a while and they started a band called Parque Touch, which was Josh playing drums, James playing guitar and Lucas singing. They played for a few shows. I was playing in a band called Peach Train and we played at Beerland with Parque Touch and they didn’t have a bass player, so immediately following the show they asked me to play bass. Eventually, Lucas moved to Russia and we changed our name to White Denim. That was about in 2006, I think. A lot of the first shows were either we were playing Parque Touch songs or still really Parque Touch-inspired songs, really straight-forward rock and roll stuff. That’s pretty much how White Denim formed.
What were some of the early influences of the band?
Maybe MC5…you know, I joined the band afterwards so I sort of came in after that was maybe discussed. When I saw them play live I put together a couple of things (laughing). It was really aggressive, in-your-face, almost as over-the-top, loud, flamboyant rock ‘n roll as we could make. Lucas would steal people’s whiskeys and drink them in from of them and stuff and then not buy them another one. It was just really confrontational—everything about it, from the music to the lyrics, and that was sort of the initial idea with Parque Touch.
That, in some ways, seems to have fed into the early stages of White Denim.
It did, but the band started to shift immediately. Lucas and James shared writing lyrics for Parque Touch and then after that it was all James. Actually, Lucas still writes some lyrics for some tunes for us. But it was less confrontational, more sort of an artistic vantage point from the lyrics perspective. Just the vibe of our band started to come down a little bit.
How did you guys arrive at that decision?
It was just sort of a natural progression, I think. We still played and still do play really loud, occasionally confrontational rock ‘n roll. It was just sort of a…I don’t want to say “ideology,” but just sort of a shift in the overall consciousness of the band. None of us had that immediate mentality when we were playing.
You said at the beginning with Parque Touch, a lot of it was MC5 inspired. Were there other influences that informed the progression into a more artistic band?
Since it was the three of us (me, Josh and James), we started becoming like a weekly project. We really enjoyed playing with each other so we’d get together every weekend because we all had full-time jobs and I was in school. So we’d get together on the weekends and we’d just talk about different stuff and really we started just pouring in everything that we could, everything that we liked. And of course from playing Parque Touch and hanging out we found out that we all love Frank Zappa and old prog, ‘70s rock n roll and jazz, and a little bit of everything. So in the process of our weekly sessions we’d sort of insert a little bit here and there or at least play different tunes that had way different vibes from each other. And Josh had a studio in an Airstream so we’d just record a lot of these ideas down and not really have to worry about being on the clock in the studio. We’d just record these ideas and then sort of add to them later. Sometimes we’d combine different ideas or different melodies from previous songs onto other songs and just worked that way over a long period of time. That’s sort of how our first EP, Let’s Talk About It, was made. It was probably…not sure exactly, but I wanna say maybe at least a year of just recording and adding stuff in the studio and coming out with five songs.
From listening to your music, it sounds like you guys have a lot of technical training. What is your personal musical background?
I started playing really early on, on keyboard. My dad has a really nice record collection and got me a keyboard pretty early on. I started playing violin in the 5th grade and then in college I was a music composition major for three semesters and that’s pretty much my formal training. So throughout that whole time I played other stuff and I started playing bass when I was 13 and pretty much focused on that through my teens.
What about the other guys in the band?
Josh the drummer’s mom was a jazz singer and so he has an upbringing from a musical family and he started playing drums from a really early age, I wanna say 13 or 14 as well. And then he did jazz studies in Texas and went to UTA (University of Texas, Arlington). Another thing that I should comment on is that none of us actually finished college (laughing), we all already were from 1-3 classes away from actually getting a degree. Including Austin [Jenkins], jumping ahead, on guitar, literally we’re all from the same exact boat. And then James, he’s always been a writer, like into literature, and he picked up the guitar at 17 and started hanging out with this guy named Joel Raif, who’s a close friend of ours, and that’s where he met Josh, from rehearsal studios. So he’s played with Josh since he first picked up the instrument.
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