Alex Even is a member of the NYC (via Missouri) based band White Rabbits. Their sophomore LP “It’s Frightening” has received praise from media outlets like The New York Times, Pitchfork, and Rolling Stone.
So how did White Rabbits start?
Alex Even: I started playing guitar when I was, maybe, 12, and then I met the guys from White Rabbits when I was 17 in a university town—Columbia, Missouri. We moved to New York shortly thereafter. We’d been touring on “Fort Nightly” for like a year and a half, something ridiculous. We were discussing how we wanted to do the second record, and we all came to the conclusion that we didn’t want to work with someone who was a “producer” by trade because we kinda wanted to do it ourselves, just a little different. So Britt Daniel, Spoon makes the coolest records in my opinion, we asked him if he would be interested in working with us and he said yes. It was an amazing experience. He just kind of encouraged us to be ourselves, take risks and not necessarily worry about how anybody else was going to perceive it. So we recorded it in four weeks. It was like a summer camp, basically.
You mentioned working with Spoon’s Britt Daniel on “It’s Frightening”…what is his production style like?
I dunno. I think…most of the songs were written and pretty much arranged before we got into the studio. The record definitely sounds like Britt Daniel produced it, but clearly I think his production in the studio…I think that all comes out in mixing. I can’t really say what the style was, I wasn’t really aware when we were doing it, I guess.
White Rabbits has received lots of good press. Does it ever seem like it all happens too fast?
No. Not really. It doesn’t really feel like things are moving quickly. We’ve been playing together for a very long time. It actually seems like…I look around at other successful bands in our realm, not like U2 or anything, but bands we could be compared to, it seems like things move much faster for them then for us. It could just be like, the grass is greener on the other side. It’s all been pretty natural and gradual, I think we’re fortunate that we’ve gotten some of the breaks that we have.
What kind of things pop up in White Rabbits’ music? Any particular ideas or themes?
I think it’s fairly clear that we’re all excited by the rhythmic aspect of music…I’m not the right person to ask about that, but I can try. I think on the heels of the last record we kind of started to see the arrangements and the ideas within the songs to be a bit bloated and we kind of wanted to on this record to attempt to make a White Rabbits album that was trim and lean and like a 30-minute rock album. So that was kind of guiding us a little bit when we were writing. As for the lyrical themes, I think it’s important for people to able to be forced to reach their own conclusions about what we’re saying.
Was there any specific moment that sticks on in your mind where you first realized that you’d made it as a musician?
I don’t really think about it in terms like that. The moment that’s happened on this tour was we played in San Francisco at a place called The Independent and there were like 500 people there. I thought back to the first time that we played in San Francisco and there were like 20 people there. And we were really excited when those 20 people first showed up. It was just kind of like, “Oh, amazing. This is really cool.”
What kinds of music do you listen to?
Hip-hop. Pop music. To me some of the greatest music is being played on like, Hot 97. That sort of stuff. I grew up listening…I had an older brother, he introduced me to Dischord Records. I was into Minor Threat…stuff like that.
When did you guys move to New York and what was the reason?
We moved to New York in 2005. That’s when the second form of White Rabbits took shape only because we kind of pressed ourselves into a situation where we didn’t know anybody, all we had was each other, so we were forced to solidify what we wanted to say and what kind of band we wanted to be. That’s pretty much what the move to New York did. It also gave us the opportunity for people to listen to us.
I think the last of us graduated college in early 2005 so it just seemed like time to move on, you don’t want to stay in Missouri anymore. We just kind of picked New York randomly. It could’ve been anywhere.
What’s the White Rabbits approach to the live show?
Especially this time around, we consciously tried to separate the recording process from the live process, the live show. The way a record lives on in people’s memories is different than how they remember a show. I think, at its simplest, just a large gathering of people who are really into enjoying music, we just try to have a lot of fun live and make it engaging and hopefully give people something to remember and something to have an entertaining evening.
I’ve heard really good things about the tour so far.
It’s been great. Definitely a lot more people than we’re used to coming out and it’s been really fun. We’re able to continue to take chances live and do different arrangements and everyone in the crowd is really excited about that and so are we. It’s really fun.
Do you write or record while you’re touring?
Personally my approach is that when we’re on the road, there’s just not enough time to focus on writing as much as just kind of always having a notepad around, stockpiling a bunch of little ideas for when you get home and have time to detail them. We work on alternate arrangements and stuff on the road, but there’s hardly any writing, per se.
Does anything inform the live show? Or does that all come naturally?
I think our philosophy is, an arrangement on the record, while it might sound good on the record, isn’t necessarily going to translate well live. So I think the approach to our live arrangements is just whatever sounds the best. Sometimes, like we’re doing an arrangement of a song on the record called “The Company I Keep” right now, it’s definitely one of the quieter moments on the record but live it’s loud and it sounds really cool so we do it that way. It’s very much a practical and pragmatic approach.
Are there any songs on the record that you’re particularly proud of?
I haven’t listened to the record in a while but I remember the last time thinking that I still thought it was all pretty good. The last song we wrote for the record was the last track on the album “Leave it at the Door”…it’s still exciting for me to hear because it’s pretty far removed from anything we’ve done before. It went through a few different phases. I still listen to that song and I’m excited by it.
What’s the greatest accolade you’ve received from another musician that you admire?
The only moment we’ve had like that was we got to open for The Pogues in San Francisco a couple years ago. One of the guys came backstage after we played and told us we were his favorite American band since Murder by Death. So, you know, rockin’.
What are your goals for the near future?
We’ve only been on the road for four weeks. It’s still pretty fresh right now. But I would imagine in about four months or so, we’re going to be chomping at the bit, ready to get going again, creatively. Right now, everything’s great. The sun rises every day. We still like each other. You hold on to the little things at this time.
—White Rabbits Interview