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Five Questions with … White Denim’s James Petralli

September 10th, 2014

House List favorites White Denim (above, performing “Pretty Green” on Late Show with David Letterman) are back in town this week for three shows at Music Hall of Williamsburg. Friday’s is already sold out, but tickets still remain to see the engaging Austin, Texas, four-piece tonight and tomorrow. And last week frontman James Petralli checked in from the road to answer Five Questions.

You guys have played New York City for several years now. Are there certain places you like to revisit when you return? And do you ever feel like you could live here?
There are so many great places in NYC, and we are always so busy when we come to work that I generally hit new places every time I visit. One place I always find myself, though, is La Esquina—great food there. I’ve never done any of the popular tourist destinations or visited any of the multitudes of museums and galleries either. It is kind of a shame really. I need a few days off there someday. I could live in NYC, but I couldn’t see myself settling there. I need to have fast access to the countryside. (Preferably the Texas countryside.)

And do you notice your music being received differently in New York City?
There are so many things to do in the city each night that we feel honored to have developed a loyal audience there. People are pretty similar everywhere you go, in a good way. Except for Lufkin, Texas—terrible, villainous folks in Lufkin. Kidding.

Do you have any crutches when writing a song—are there certain words or styles you feel you lean on too much?
I am not always great at writing bridges or getting past a first chorus. I always have to force myself to write a third part and sometimes it takes long enough to lose interest in the tune entirely. I have hard drives full of single verses and choruses. I’m also probably either too oblique or too bang on in my lyrical approach. Still looking for balance there.

Do you have to be depressed to write a sad song? Do you have to be in love to write a love song? Is a song better when it really happened to you?
No, but I do believe it helps. I think that actual experience can really help a performer connect with the material and thereby have a more significant impact on an audience. As far as writing goes, though, I think it behooves one to be as imaginative as possible. I’m told research and observation can be nearly as effective as actual experience.

It’s 4 a.m. and last call has come and gone. What’s your next move?
Bust out the flask and keep my eyes out for a cool place to barf. —R. Zizmor