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Paint the Casbah White Denim

Austin’s funky garage-rockers bring refined grit to San Diego on Sunday



    Josh Block is all in. It’s immediate and palpable when you speak with him. He listens intently before interrupting you midsentence to describe a scene from Ghost World that you just reminded him of, then he gloms on again.

    He talks with a smile in his voice about San Diego memories and the city’s distinct vibe. He carries a conversation away from scripted answers and then apologizes for being candid and jokes about the musically talentless being able to pick up drumming. And he takes all that energy, that charisma, and pours it into his own drum set on Sunday, Feb. 9, as he and the rest of Austin-based garage-rockers White Denim blow out the Casbah.

    It’s an energy that the band’s become known for, playing past stage monologues and crowd banter, taking few breaks and filling the venue with as much a constant stream of music as the set time allows.

    "We’ve done it intentionally," Block said.  "We’ve always tried to keep everything pretty strong from beginning to end."

    In the seven years that Block, James Petralli (vocals, guitar), Steven Terebeck (bass), and later Austin Jenkins (guitar) have been writing and performing music together, White Denim have produced five studio albums, each experimental in its own way and no two alike. The sound has wiggled around and grown, from loose clunk rock with fantastic swank vocals to funkadelic temptation with blues undertones and now to a tighter version of it all. Though more refined, White Denim maintains the edge that earned their following. The grit remains -- there’s just less debris.

    "I don’t think it’s age, specifically -- it’s more experiences," Block said of the band’s progression. "We’re all getting very involved in what we do, individually. It erases some of the blurry lines and makes it sharper."

    Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, who worked with White Denim on October’s Corsicana Lemonade, influenced that honed sound. It’s the first album on which the band enlisted the voice of an outside producer, someone to tell them "no." And Tweedy did just that. He encouraged the group to define each piece of the 10 tracks. The resulting record is the most honest the men have made. There are no mystery instruments -- there’s less chaos -- and it’s clear where each sound develops, which was Tweedy’s primary charge.

    "If you’re listening to the record, our hope is that you can picture us playing it," Block said. "You can picture from left to right the sonic scope of the band -- where every sound was coming from, we wanted to hear and see that person."

    But come Sunday night, there’s no need to imagine anything. Just open your eyes and take in the White Denim light.

    White Denim plays the Casbah on Sunday, Feb. 9, sold out, 21+. Clear Plastic Masks open.

    Hannah Lott-Schwartz, a San Diego native, recently moved back to the area after working the magazine-publishing scene in Boston. Now she’s straight trolling SD for all the music she missed while away. Want to help? Hit her up with just about anything at all over on Twitter, where -- though not always work-appropriate -- she means well.