Band of the Week: White Rabbits

Music Features White Rabbits
Share Tweet Submit Pin

Hometown: Brooklyn, N.Y.
Fun Fact: Their mishap-prone van has broken down in the desert and recently caught on fire.
Why They’re Worth Watching: Fresh off a late-July appearance on David Letterman, the band's six members—whose live shows feature two drum sets and enough moxie and tambourines to blow your eardrums—will open for Kaiser Chiefs in the fall.
For Fans Of: The Walkmen, Cold War Kids, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah!

London is rather fond of unyielding, smash-everything-in-sight rock.

Which is why the stoic response the city gave White Rabbits on their recent England jaunt is surprising, especially when you consider the six members of the band specialize in locomotive piano rock that gives the impression that they’re a nose hair away from demolishing things.

“It wasn't until the last London show that I felt like people were really into it, and that's probably because we were drunk and trashing our instruments,” says piano-playing vocalist Steve Patterson. “I guess they seem to like that over there.”

“More than the music,” adds guitarist and vocalist Greg Roberts.

But White Rabbits, originally hailing from Columbia, Mo., are used to adverse conditions. After packing up and moving to the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn, almost every tour they’ve embarked on has been highlighted with their van throwing a tantrum. During some dates a few weeks ago, the van decided to take a break in the middle of the desert. Most recently it caught on fire.

“We're like seasoned World War II bomber pilots or something,” Patterson says. “Every accident that happens now, we're just like, 'Eh, fix it with tape.' It just doesn't really affect us anymore.”

The robust outer shell comes in handy. After the Mystery Jets couldn’t secure visas to join White Rabbits on tour (something that “seems to happen to a band once a week now,” Patterson says), the Midwestern expats decided to head out on their own. After all, they had to support their stunning debut album, Fort Nightly.

“We had already quit our jobs,” Roberts says.

“There was no turning back,” Patterson adds.

Produced by Chris Zane (Calls, Les Savy Fav), the majority of Fort Nightly was written upon moving to New York. Layered with percussion, churning hooks and the occasional epic sweep, the album teeters between a sound The Walkmen introduced seven years ago and something else slightly more intangible.

“We just kind of wanted to make a meat-and-potatoes, straightforward record,” Roberts says. “It doesn't matter if it was made now, two years from now or five years ago.”

As for the songwriting process, the guys didn’t have a grand scheme in mind. “I wish I had some long theory about why we sound the way we do,” Patterson says. “A lot of that stuff just naturally happened. The darker stuff just sounded good at the time.”

Others have been inclined to agree. This fall, White Rabbits will tour with Kaiser Chiefs. And recently, David Letterman also gave them his stamp of approval, the band appearing on the Late Show on July 19. “There's no way anybody less popular has played,” Patterson says. “I don't know how many millions of people watch that show.”

“We’re gonna get them all,” Roberts says.