Don't You Think They Know? An Interview with White Reaper

by Jon Harvey

14 August 2017

"I wouldn't say I'm too caught up on maturing: I mean I play in a rock band for god's sake."
Photo: Jesse De Florio 
cover art

White Reaper

The World's Best American Band

(Polyvinyl)
US: 7 Apr 2017

The internet never killed rock ‘n’ roll, but it for sure killed much of the mythology that rock ‘n’ roll existed upon. If the journey into the afterlife is anything as portrayed in Starz’ American Gods, then those who pray to rock gods may be greeted by one Tony Esposito, lead singer, guitarist, and songwriter of White Reaper. 
  
White Reaper’s sophomore endeavor, The World’s Best American Band is, an album fueled by bravado and hunger. This isn’t another declaration about how another band is our new rock ‘n’ roll savior because nobody has time for another one of those. This is a declaration that White Reaper is here to shred guitars, shake hips, and melt faces, through tried and true classic rock stylized after titanic rock bands like Thin Lizzy, Kiss, Van Halen, and Cheap Trick. If you’re wondering where they get off on such a bold, braggadocios claim of an album title, then look no further than Tony Esposito himself “Because we are the best. Just like Muhammad Ali was the greatest, you gotta say it out loud for people to believe it.”

“I know you asked non-musical, but I think this still kind of counts,” he tells PopMatters. When asked about other character influences, he goes straight for an appropriate muse: “Gene Simmons from Kiss. Because they all totally suck, and he’s so full of himself, and they still come out and bring it, and just make it happen. Also very much boxers in general, Floyd Mayweather and Rocky Marciano, people talking big game and bringing results.”

Following up their major label debut, White Reaper Do It Again, the songwriting on the latest is several leagues removed from the garage. The song structure and dynamic emotional arcs are smarter, sharper and more deliberate.“It’s definitely a good combination of both focusing on improving and just playing so frequently.” Says Tony, ” The more I do this, the more I learn to write music more effectively. As I mature as a person some of the decisions that I make in the music are now more mature as well.”

The band has strengthened their song writing intuition for when to scale back, or go full force, where to take the middle eight, and how to properly bring the song back home. It’s moments like these that bring into focus what an exciting and dynamically layered the new record is. “You know normally I write all the songs before coming into the studio,” Esposito continues, “but this time we didn’t really have anything before going in. So we ended up writing and putting all these songs together in the studio.”

Recorded in La La Land studios, Louisville KY, the performances, and production can often feel massive, evoking a swagger that demands your attention. The guitars are scorching, the bass punches like a KO from Mike Tyson, and songs like “Another Day” feel like someone smashing your head inside a bass drum. “The guy who produced our album, our friend Kevin Ratterman, is a genius. We told him we wanted the album to sound like it was made in the 1970’s and he just fuckin’ killed it. We recorded the instruments as raw as possible so we wouldn’t have to spend as much time in the mixing phase while recording.”

In a time where many bands seem to be rostered with hired guns, White Reaper lives the teenage fantasy of rocking in a band with your best friends. The vibrant personalities shine through every note. “The other guys in the band are more like, and I still wish I could find a better way to describe them, but like advisors and editors. We’ll be going over something, and they’ll say, ‘Hey: maybe we should try this here, or replace this with that.’ It’s part of what makes up for some of the more interesting dynamics to these songs.”

But with all this development is maturation where Tony Esposito has his sights set on? “I wouldn’t say I’m too caught up on maturing, I mean I play in a rock band for god’s sake, so I’m just trying to get the most out of this that I can and live it up before my body craps out on me.”

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