Hot For Reaper: White Reaper’s Tony Esposito On Riffs, Tour Vibes, And The Band’s New Album

White Reaper - Jesse DeFlorio

To sum it up for you: summer is coming in hot and that means… road trips. Whether you’re packing your best friends into a van or taking off on a romantic getaway down south, you’ll need a quintessential classic rock playlist that mixes in your favourite Deep Purple bangers and Led Zeppelin epics. It’s also the year 2017, so you should probably — no, definitely — include one (or six) of WHITE REAPER’s odes to the golden age of rock ‘n’ roll, from their latest LP The World’s Best American Band.

With face-melting licks and the dazzling strut of some blessed Cheap Trick and Van Halen mashup, the Louisville-based foursome’s new record is no joke. The hooks are devilish (“The Stack”, “Little Silver Cross”), the drums induce some serious dashboard banging (“Tell Me”), and the riffs (“Daisies”, “Judy French”) rage on like the house party you never want to end. As a whole, the effort is more polished and punched up than White Reaper and Does It Again combined, and it’s why we had to chat with guitarist Tony Esposito about the group’s new found confidence. In our opinion, The World’s Best American Band is not only one of the best rock albums of 2017, it’s kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

So what makes you “The World’s Best American Band”?

Our new record is really, really good. I would say it’s some of the best rock music to be played in some time and because we wrote it, it makes us the world’s best band.

What made you decide to name your new album The World’s Best American Band?

We didn’t really play around with any other titles. It happened like this: we went into the studio and we didn’t have anything. I only had a couple voice memos of like song ideas and we didn’t really have any complete and finished songs — we didn’t have anything like that. We didn’t have a name for the record and we didn’t have a name for any songs because there weren’t any songs so we basically just made the record out of thin air. We went into the studio and just fucked around and jammed with each other, just to see what would happen.

At the end of that process, we all really liked what we came up with and thought it was the best record we had ever made by far. So, we decided we should call it The World’s Best American Band. It kind of started out as a joke but here we are with a record called The World’s Best American Band.

What was it like writing and recording together this time around?

It was a lot better. It was a lot slower at times because not everybody agreed on every decision. So, it took a lot longer but we ended up with a much better result.

The album is obviously influenced by different generations of rock music so who did you guys find yourself listening to while writing the record?

We were listening to a ton of David Bowie, a ton of AC/DC, and a lot of KISS. We were also just listening to a bunch of classic rock radio stuff, like a lot of Van Halen, VCR, Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen… all kinds of good stuff.

Okay, well here’s a tough one: The Who or Led Zeppelin?

I think Keith Moon is a cooler drummer than John Bonham… but my gut says The Who but I’m really not sure so I’m just going to say that. Let’s say that and move on (laughs).

Eric Clapton or Jimi Hendrix?

Hendrix. Easy.

Nirvana or Pearl Jam?

I’ll go with Pearl Jam because Eddie Vedder has been very nice to us.

How so?

He invited us to play this festival that he was throwing last summer [Ohana Festival]. He’s also buddies with Nick and Sam’s dads — who play bass and drums in the band. He’s a good guy.

Speaking of festivals, NPR, NME and other music publications said you guys played some of the best sets at SXSW last month; what was the fest like for you guys this year?

SXSW was super super busy for us this year. We played like 10 shows in four days and I know that doesn’t seem like much because I think we played more shows last year, but it seemed more spread out last year. This year, it was very much like play a show, load out, drive to the show, play that show, load out, drive to the other show, play that show… it was crazy.

Did you get an opportunity at all to do something cool in Texas?

We ate some really good tacos. We have a lot of buddies that live in Austin, so we got to hang out with them. On the way back, we ate at a Texas Roadhouse. I know that’s not like a “Texas thing” but I’m excited to get back to Austin because we didn’t really have a lot of time to enjoy what that beautiful city has to offer. We spent most of it running around and trying to plug our shit in to play a show (laughs).

White Reaper - Marie Rupolo

White Reaper - Marie Rupolo 2016

So are you guys excited to do some full tours around the new album?

Yes… oh my God, yeah. I can’t wait to tour. I seriously can’t wait. We haven’t been out since October… it’s time.

You’re just itching to get out there, huh?

Oh yeah. Yeah. So bad. So excited.

What’s your favourite part about being on the road?

That I actually have something to do. That I have things and activities that can fill up my entire day whereas on days like today, I wake up and I just have all day to sit around and do nothing. When I’m on tour, I’ve gotta wake up and drive to wherever the hell I’m going and that usually takes five hours and is a big chunk of the day, but I’m occupied. Then when I get there, I gotta load in all my shit and I’m occupied again. Then I play the show and then I can drink with my friends and everything’s great. I love everything about it.

If you were heading out on a road trip what would be the first five songs you’d listen to in order to set the tone for the entire ride?

I would definitely listen to “Free Ride” by Edgar Winter and “Highway Star” by Deep Purple. Those are both pretty long but whatever, it’s gonna be a long drive. “Radar Love” by Golden Earring would be one. “Running With The Devil” by Van Halen and then I guess “Highway To Hell” [by AC/DC].

Are there any particular albums you would want to bring along?

There’s plenty of those. I really like Bruce Springsteen’s Live 1975-85. It’s just a bunch of live songs and it’s really good. I’d also bring along David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars, Van Halen’s first record Van Halen. There’s so many. Like other music is good too but if you’re driving, I think that’s what you need to listen to.

What’s your favourite song to perform off of your latest album?

We haven’t played all of them yet so I don’t know for sure, but… maybe the second song on our record. It’s called “Judy French” and that one is really fun, plus the fifth song on our record, “The Stack” — that one has also been really fun to play live. Those are my top two.

Any particular reason why?

I know this is super vague but those two are just really, really fun for some reason. I like to play the riff in “Judy French” and then with “The Stack”, I get to harmonize with Hunter, who’s our guitarist, and that’s really fun. Fun is a vague word but they’re just really fun.

How would you define success for White Reaper as a whole?

I think it would be cool if we could just sell out shows. I think we’re pretty close to selling out a few on this next tour, so that’s pretty cool. I mean, we don’t have to be on billboards and crazy shit like that. We’re having fun as it is, so it’d be cool to sell out a few more shows.

Do you guys have any personal goals you would like to achieve in 2017?

I’m trying to think of cities we’ve never played in before. It would be cool to play Miami as I have never been there before. That’s kind of how my personal goals go now that we’re touring so much — I just want to see new places. It’d be cool to tour Europe because I’ve never been there before. We’ve only done Spain so maybe if we went to Berlin or Paris. That would be really cool.

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