With its third album, last year’s “You Deserve Love,” Louisville-bred rock band White Reaper jumped from the label of its first two records, Polyvinyl Record Co., to Elektra Records, a change that also saw the band slicken its sound. Working in the recording studio of producer Jay Joyce, one replete with various keyboard instruments, the Kentuckian quintet bolstered its brand of catchy power pop with increased synthesizer sounds as its members explored the sonic hardware of their new workspace.
The group produced a noticeably more synth-infused record as a result and will showcase its new sounds live along with its older, more guitar-driven fare during its latest tour, scheduled to stop by SOhO Restaurant & Music Club on March 3 for the group’s first ever headlining gig in Santa Barbara.
Last time White Reaper came to town, the band opened up for Spoon at the Arlington Theatre. As next week will mark the band’s first top-billing show here, singer Tony Esposito told the News-Press that he’s looking forward to seeing how the area’s turnout will be, not to mention being somewhere with nice weather, a far cry from the bitter Milwaukee winter that greeted the band at the start of its tour.
Last year, the band switched to Elektra Records figuring that the label would have a greater reach and more widely available resources for the band to use in increasing its profile. As far as Mr. Esposito can see, changing from a smaller independent label to a major one hasn’t produced any backlash from the band’s audience over concerns of maintaining indie credibility. That’s not too surprising, as White Reaper is a band that doesn’t shy away from the popular. In addition to getting along with the people at Elektra Records, Mr. Esposito remarked that the band joined the label in part because he and his bandmates are fans of its history, which includes some of rock and roll’s most famous bands from The Doors to The Cars.
Remembering the making of “You Deserve Love” and the plethora of sonic possibilities available to him, the twin brother bass-drum duo of Sam and Nick Wilkerson, keyboardist Ryan Hater, and guitarist Hunter Thompson, Mr. Esposito described the environment that bred the band’s latest record was “just a really fun world to spend time in.” Of all their new songs, the frontman selected the closing title track as his favorite, particularly because of how performing it live makes him feel.
“I think it’s really fun to play at the shows… It’s exciting for me when I see that one coming up in the setlist. It’s a blast to play that song,” he said.
White Reaper’s third album may sound more produced than its predecessors, but experimenting with new equipment and synthetic sounds never got in the way of the band retaining its bedrock: Infectious hooks. Gravitating toward older rock and roll acts like The Cars, Electric Light Orchestra, The Ramones, and Van Halen, Mr. Esposito and his bandmates constantly immerse themselves in classic rock bands whose classic statuses are a result of many memorable melodies.
“I think we like listening to really popular songs with strong hooks that get stuck in your head. I think that’s just the music we surround ourselves with and that’s why our output sounds that way,” he said.
That said, the guitarist and singer wishes he could more exactly place his finger on where catchy White Reaper hooks come from.
“Man, I wish I knew. If I knew we’d probably have a lot more songs,” he stated.
Tickets for White Reaper’s March 3 concert at SOhO Restaurant & Music Club cost between $16 and $18 and can be purchased online at www.sohosb.com. Doors to the venue will open at 8 p.m. and the show will start at $18. SOhO Restaurant & Music Club is located at 1221 State St.