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Crazy To Think About: An Interview with White Reaper

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White Reaper. Photo: Jesse DeFlorio


Kentucky garage rockers White Reaper will begin their tour in Houston, filling as direct support for pop-punk group SWMRS. While this may be the first time that some will hear the name White Reaper, it’s worth noting that the group has landed on the radar of musical legends such as Eddie Vedder and Billie Joe Armstrong. Fresh off the release of their sophomore record, The World’s Best American Band, the band is likely to make a name for themselves within the next few years. Lead vocalist Tony Esposito spoke to Free Press Houston about their discography prior to their show on Sunday at Walter’s Downtown.


Free Press Houston: What makes you guys the world’s best American band?

Tony Esposito: You need to make a really good record, kind of like we did. We’re just the world’s best American band.


FPH: It seems like Billie Joe Armstrong is no American Idiot, as he’s a fan of the band. What was it like reading something like that?

Esposito: It was just crazy, that’s crazy to think about. [Green Day songs] are songs I’ve heard my whole life. I grew up with that music. It’s crazy to think that he’s listened to our band and likes it. Yeah, that’s wild.


FPH: And now you’re touring with his son! What is Joey Armstrong like? Does he resemble his dad? Is it basically like touring with Green Day?

Esposito: I’ve actually only met Joey once, very briefly, before the tour. The tour starts really soon. If you come to the Houston show, I can come outside and tell you what I think [of Joey].


FPH: Eddie Vedder has also given you guys a shout out. Are there any others that we should know about?

Esposito: You know that movie Cat in the Hat with Mike Myers? One of the kids in that movie’s a fan of the band. It’s pretty funny.


FPH: Have you officially done it again with this album?

Esposito: Yeah, I suppose you could say that.


FPH: There are some obvious differences with this one, though, in terms of the sound being more rhythmic compared to the garage-er sound of the last one. Before you started writing these, were you out to do something entirely different?

Esposito: I don’t know if we wanted to make something that sounded completely different, but we wanted to challenge ourselves. I think we worked a lot harder on this one. We just spent more time on the studio, and a lot more time on the songs. I think we wanted to see how we could challenge and improve ourselves with the instruments.


FPH: Who took that photo for the cover for the new album? Is it you holding the guitar?

Esposito: Yeah, that’s me on the cover. A buddy of ours, Jesse DeFlorio, took the photo. It was a really fun shoot; We went to the studio with a white background and took, like, 300 photos. We finally got the image we were looking for, so then we just partied.


FPH: How exactly do you outdo yourself when your last album was described as “A half hour onslaught of sugary psychedelic keyboard leads and fierce-dirty hook filled garage punk?”

Esposito: Well, it’s hard to outdo an onslaught. We put all of that stuff to the side and did this one like we’ve never done a record before. So, we didn’t want to worry about the last record while making this one.


FPH: Let’s talk about Kentucky rock bands. It seems like one group from there has become one of the largest touring bands. Do you have any history with Cage The Elephant?

Esposito: I’ve met them at a show in Nashville, I think.


FPH: But you have some ties to My Morning Jacket. How important was it to you to have this record produced by Kevin Ratterman?

Esposito: Kevin is a really good friend of ours. He worked on the last record too. It’s hard to imagine making a record without him at this point. It was awesome, and he’s basically another member of the band. He was really important in a lot of the decisions made about the songs, so it was great working with him.


FPH: Tone is arguably the most important faction of a record. What kind of tone can you get out of a hot dog?

Esposito: It can be anything: baseball themed, etc. A hot dog means something different to each person. The possibilities are endless.


FPH: What gear are you using on this tour?

Esposito: Well, the kind folks at Gibson in Nashville gave me a Les Paul. I’ll also be playing a Marshall 900. There’s a lot of interesting stuff we bring in our little trailer.


White Reaper plays Walter’s Downtown on Sunday, April 23rd with SWMRS and No Parents. The all ages show has tickets available for $17 at the door.