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White Rabbits

The recording sessions for White Rabbits’ latest album seemed to fly under the radar. Not much was talked about, not much was heard – but the truth was, the band was simply approaching the process in a more leisurely, dare we say garage-band-y way, than their schedule had previously allowed them.

“We had to record the last record quite fast – something like four weeks,” explains the Rabbits’ guitarist, Alex Even. “So we knew this time around that we wanted more time to really workshop the songs and some room to stretch out musically.”

They ended up spending about three months in Austin, Texas recording with Mike McCarthy (Spoon/Craig Finn/Alberta Cross), setting down temporary roots in what Even calls a “quaint little surburban home” next door to St. Edwards University.

“We would record five days a week at his studio, and on the weekends we would set up instruments in our garage and continue to write and work on ideas which was quite nice, actually,” Even recollects, “some of my fondest memories of that time are of playing in that garage with the door open as the hot summer day cooled into evening.”

Calling McCarthy an “uber-talented fellow,” Even praises the producer’s ear, attention to detail, and ability to get interesting sounds.

“His skills are all unmatched,” Even says, “I always learn so much when working with producers and from him. I learned not to take advantage of my instrument, that it’s cool to be dedicated and disciplined, and to work hard to be the best and most creative musician you can be. That might sound obvious or silly, but for someone who grew up listening to punk and hardcore with its emphasis on emotional immediacy over technical skill, it wasn’t necessarily intuitive for me. I’ve tried to keep that lesson close to heart ever since.”

The result of White Rabbits’ sessions with McCarthy is Milk Famous, an album that is more textured and eclectic than previous efforts. “Back For More” sprinkles shoegazy vocals over busy electronica; “Temporary” starts chilly and heats up to more focused pop-rock; and “The Day You Won the War” shows off their more experimental synth side. It’s a fairly marked difference and a somewhat richer sound as opposed to the more desolate, precise production that marked previous set It’s Frightening.

“Sonically, Milk Famous feels a bit more lush to me,” Even explains. “There are lots of exotic sounds and textures weaving their way through many of the songs, whereas It’s Frightening maybe felt a bit more austere. The tunes that make up It’s Frightening were mostly composed in the middle of the night, and I think they reflect that sense of calm uneasiness that comes with feeling like you’re the only one awake in the world. There is a vulnerability in those songs.”

In contrast, Even calls Milk Famous “more extroverted.”

“It’s as if, even if some of the the same topics are addressed, namely issues involving identity, love, making sense of your past, uncertainty about the future, it does so in a more unwavering way,” he says. “There’s no flinching. Instead of retreating into insularity, it dives out into the world.”

The Rabbits themselves are already taking their new songs out into the world via their current slate of tour dates. Their travel time began in Even’s Missouri hometown in the States, where they shot a music video for Milk Famous’ first single, “Temporary.” After that, it was off to New York City for more rehearsal, and then, suitcases packed, onto the tour bus. Even, for one, is thankful that the band got a little more prep time ahead of the album’s promotion.

“We’ve had quite a bit more time after the completion of this record to get everything up and running than last time. I’m pretty sure the first time we ever played ‘Percussion Gun’ live was on television, which is absolutely mental now that I’m thinking about it,” he chuckles. “We had to have played at least one million shows on the last record, which was trying at the time – but I think ultimately it made us a better band and surely influenced the direction of the new material.”

“By the end of the touring cycle we were playing nearly every song in a way that we hadn’t recorded it,” Even continues, “we just kept trying different arrangements to keep ourselves interested, and in the process ended up discovering a bunch of new ways that we could play together that we didn’t know we could beforehand. By the time we really started writing the songs for Milk Famous, I felt like we were so much more dexterous and versatile than at any time before, and I think that’s totally reflected on the record.”

So what is he looking forward to the most about their upcoming road trek this time ’round?

“I really like performing for people,” Even says. “It’s so fascinating to watch the journey of a song as it travels from being just a fragment of an idea in one of our heads into a song that people, who I’ve never met, find meaningful and something that speaks to their own hopes and fears. It’s kind of incredible, really, and it’s a phenomenon that is most palpable and enjoyable at live performances. There’s a feeling of connectedness there that is hard to find elsewhere.”    – Kristi Kates