White Reaper is one of those bands who can’t necessarily be denied, no matter how seriously you choose to take them. Their blend of no bulls-t bubblegum power-pop and sleazy punk practically dares you not to enjoy yourself while listening to them. After signing to Elektra Records, the band that declared themselves to be the “The World’s Best American Band” on their last release have released their follow-up, “You Deserve Love,” which hits the same dopamine pleasure centers in your brain that can be occupied by the pop songcraft of ELO, as well as the youthful exuberance of punks bands like The Marked Men.
Since the band first started touring back in 2014, frontman and guitarist Tony Esposito, Ryan Hater (keys), Sam Wilkerson (bass), Nick Wilkerson (drums) and Hunter Thompson (guitar) have been refining and polishing their sound from their early visceral garage rock sound to a finely tuned rock band that hasn’t lost touch with their roots but has global domination in their sights.
“I think whenever you are younger and playing in a band, aggression and energy is usually a pretty big part of it. Because it’s usually what you are relying on to account for the fact that maybe your songwriting chops aren’t totally there yet,” says Thompson on the band’s refinement over the years. “I think that we’ve evolved into [focusing] on the songwriting aspect of it. How parts work together. I think we all have a real fascination with that and love classic songwriters, love classic songs.”
For “You Deserve Love,” that attention to how each song was crafted was a huge priority when heading into the studio. Even though the band was able to write the entire “Best American Band” album in the studio, that experience tested their limits. And with this record being their first with such a big label, they wanted to make sure they were ready. The band fleshed out demos that Esposito had sent out for the majority of 2018, and by the time they went into the studio earlier this year, all of the extra work was worth it.
“We went into the studio in January of 2019 and we knocked it out in 14 days,” Thompson remembers. “We did most of the tracking live and most of the songs were pretty true to how we rehearsed them. There were a few arrangement changes, sonic things we worked on in the studio. Everything was pretty true to the way we wrote them. The recording process was pretty painless.”
One thing that the band has always held above anything else is to have fun and to hope that their enthusiasm emits through the music they create. As Thompson sees it, it’s pretty unbelievable that their group of friends has made it this far by doing what they love. So, why take it more seriously than they need to? They could try to have a hardened exterior, but that wouldn’t exactly be genuine.
“We definitely have a healthy dose of irony to all of us and are very lighthearted and don’t take ourselves too seriously. That’s for sure. A huge part of our relationship with one another is making each other laugh. So there’s a lot of lightness to our music, our stage presence, our perspective on ourselves within the band and everything surrounding the band. It can be at odds with what managers and business people related to the music always want (laughs). Sometimes they just want pure earnestness. We’re grateful for everything that we have and what we’ve had the opportunity to do, but whenever it comes down to it, we’re just guys who ended up being in a band. There’s a lot of comedy in that alone.”
Make sure to catch White Reaper on the road this Fall.