Six-piece Brooklynites White Rabbits released Milk Famous in May of this year. I spoke to lead singer and pianist Stephen Patterson about his music press pet peeves, love for Beyonce and memories of his group’s show in Indy last year. See them at Radio Radio this Thursday.
NUVO: I first saw you with the Walkmen and Spoon in 2008 right after the release of Fort Nightly. What’s changed since your early days of touring as an opener? What’s still the same?
Stephen Patterson: Our hair has gotten a lot longer and our clothes probably aren’t as fancy. We’ve also gone through a lineup change —— our drummer Jamie (Levinson) had to leave because he and his wife are expecting their first child. So we have a new guy named Dave Scalia on drums and he’s doing just great. As for what’s the same, we are still very often the opener.
NUVO: I’ll be at ACL, in Austin, Texas, this week, which you played in 2010. What’s your take on big festivals? Do you prefer smaller club settings or gigantic fests?
Patterson: Smaller clubs for sure. Festivals are cool because you get to see a lot of other bands perform, and the people-watching is always top notch. Festival stages are just too big in my opinion and there’s always a big gap between us and the crowd. I just don’t like being so far from the audience; it makes me think too much about what I’m doing.
NUVO: I love groups that are fronted by a strong piano player. What are some of your favorite piano-playing vocalists? I love A Silent Film, Muse, etc.
Patterson: I adore John Lennon, Stevie Wonder, Fiona Apple, Randy Newman and Harry Nilsson.
NUVO: You’ve mentioned you’re influenced by Beyonce. I, like any human being, have strong love for Princess B. If you and Beyonce could spend a day together, what would you do? And, more seriously, how are you influenced by Her Majesty?
Patterson: I’d love to see how she is in the studio —— to see specifically how she works out her vocal parts and stuff. That video Jay-Z took of her backstage singing “1+1” makes me think that it probably goes very quickly. She has such control over her voice and I really admire that. And I get the feeling she still oversees and cares deeply about every detail that goes into “Beyonce.” I think that’s impressive considering she’s so astronomically famous. Most importantly I find her to be first and foremost a genuine music lover, and I don’t see that in many pop stars.
NUVO: I’ve also got a serious love for double drummers. What are the benefits of having double drummers? is it ever a drag?
Patterson: It’s only a drag when it’s interpreted as some sort of gimmick. Like most people, I don’t like being labelled, so I don’t enjoy it when people say we are “that band with two drummers.” There’s worse things to be known for, but I really dislike how that tag creates an expectation for listeners that all of our songs are gonna be big ol’ drum bashers. We’ve never approached our music that way. However, the benefit of having two drummers is that when we are indeed feeling that way, we can do it and we do it well.
NUVO: Are you sick of being associated with Spoon?
Patterson: Nah, it’s more that I’m sick of music press as a whole. I love the guys in Spoon and they’ve been nothing but great friends and supporters since the day we met. And I don’t know why the majority of the music press keeps spinning that as a negative thing. Musicians can be friends and share ideas and enjoy collaborating so just relax y’all.
NUVO: Speaking of things you’re sick of, what one thing are you tired of reading about your band (if there is one)?
Patterson: I am so tired of reading our band name without the “s” at the end. We’re asking you to read two words here; it’s not that difficult.
NUVO: You were in Indianapolis at Radio Radio last year in December. That’s where you’ll be back this October. Do all the clubs blend together —— or is there something about Indy and that show that sticks out in your memory?
Patterson: That show was really fun for me, and I remember it vividly. We were trying out a lot of the songs on Milk Famous live for the first time. But perhaps the most memorable part was that the basement dressing room was flooded, so our socks were soaking wet when we were onstage. We played great that night though —— perhaps that should be a new pre-show ritual?