Interview: White Denim’s Josh Block – 8/11/13

white denimHaving just recently returned home from what one can only imagine was an exhilarating and mind warping US tour opening for psychedelic kingpins The Flaming Lips and beloved Aussie’s Tame Impala,  White Denim’s drummer, Josh Block, describes what’s it like being back in Texas.

“It’s pretty good. Just kind of relaxing and hanging out with the dog.”

For a band whose latest release Corsicana Lemonade is partially an ode to their home state of Texas, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the band were preparing to relax following the tour. Alas, Block admits that, “We’ve got a couple of days off at home before we go to Europe.”

It should come as no surprise to find that White Denim are a prolific recording act. Corsicana Lemonade is their fourth full-length release since their 2008 debut album, Workout Holiday. If you were to also lump in their Live At Third Man EP – released on Jack White’s Third Man Records – and Takes Place In Your Work Space from 2011, it’s hard to argue that White Denim are a band who enjoy resting on their laurels.

Block explains that they are a troupe that like to tinker in the studio. “We do have a lot of stuff. Due to getting access to more studios, there’s stuff on numerous 2″ and 3″ reels that are full of songs, jams, and stuff we worked on the last couple of years. A few we’ve played live but haven’t released yet.”

They’re a band who come with one hell of a live reputation, and with the addition of guitarist Austin Jenkins in 2010, it’s one that has only grown in stature. So, why haven’t White Denim made it to our Australian shores yet?

“Yeah, heck, I wish I had something to do with it,” Block laughs. With a hint of regret, he continues. “We probably should have tried to figure it out sooner, but I think every time something came through we seemed to have other stuff already on the books. We just couldn’t make it work. Maybe it was just a few clubs, and it’s a pretty long journey for just a few shows.”

After hanging out with Tame Impala on a nightly basis and hearing stories from their Antipodean brothers, Block feels pretty giddy about their upcoming appearances at the Falls Festival and sideshows as co-headliners with Hanni El Khatib.

“It’s got me really excited ‘cause they just talk about how great it is there. I can’t wait, as I’ve never actually been myself.”

On the subject of Perth’s favourite sons, he professes, “Watching them do their thing, they’re pretty unique as far as their stage sound and performance goes. It was amazing to see on a nightly basis.”

The main reason White Denim are finally managing to get over here in support of Corsicana Lemonade is all thanks to the Falls Festival organisers. “That’s why what the Falls Festival is doing kinda works out for us. They make sure you have an actual whole tour and a way to make the whole thing work.”

White Denim are renowned for their unorthodox approach to song structures and rhythmical beats as well as a love for all things punk, southern country-boogie, funk, jazz, and blues.

Fan’s ears pricked up with excitement when it was announced that Wilco’s main man, Jeff Tweedy, would produce tracks on Corsicana Lemonade for the group renowned as Austin’s finest purveyors of psychedelia. It is a relationship that stemmed from when both acts toured together in the first part of 2012. Earlier this year, Tweedy got in touch with the band to announce that he had a free five-day block, and that he hoped the four-piece could make it to his Chicago studio in time.

Not many bands would have songs ready at such short notice. But with White Denim being, well, White Denim, Block explained, “There was material James had written, material the group had played, material we had demoed, and material David have demoed. It was more a case of, ‘let’s see what can we nail together so that we don’t look dumb in front of Jeff Tweedy!’”

Due to the time constraints they were under, both parties got straight to it. Block enthuses, “We went in there with like two to three songs we could play all the way through, and then two to three ideas that were extremely open that we played around with. We let Jeff just direct where they were going.”

“He was really big on listening to the playback [of the record] and trying to imagine who is playing in the room – not specifically what member of the band is playing what, but that you can imagine a group of people playing those songs together.”

Once their time was up in Chicago, the band decamped back to Austin and spent nearly two months locked away in a windowless lake house/ready-made studio organised by their record label Downtown. Under the stewardship of long-time collaborator Jim Vollentine, it was in the lake house where they completed their near-flawless new record.

Tweedy produced two songs on Corsicana Lemonade: ‘Distant Relative Salute’ and ‘A Place To Start’. Block illustrates how these songs emphasise how important the “Tweedy sessions” were to the whole vibe of the album.

“I guess what ended up being great about the situation was that we let the spirit of those two tunes grow. How they worked in the loft kind of directed how we worked in the lake house, so I think we always had the idea they’d make it. To me they represent similar things, like the openness of playing together.”

It’s most definitely paid off for the band, with Corsicana Lemonade being their most fluid sounding release to date.

It’s a tour that no doubt has White Denim’s Australian fan base licking their lips with anticipation. At the same time, the upcoming dates will allow the band to finally showcase what they’re all about in a live setting.

In no more than five words, what can their fans expect from a White Denim show? “Plenty of hands in motion,” he divulges. No doubt there will be many more limbs in motion when it comes to White Denim’s forthcoming and mouthwatering arrival.

This interview was written for Tonedeaf (An Australian music site)


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