San Diego

White Reaper: The Best American Band in the World

White Reaper hit Soda Bar to prove that they're the "world's best American band"

Soda Bar, you're on notice: The world's best American band doesn’t care for apathetic crowds.

“All-ages shows are fun and 21-and-up shows are awful,” White Reaper’s guitarist/vocalist Tony Esposito told me during a recent phone call. “I mean, it’s not like they don’t like the music. The older crowds like it, but they just stand there and watch it, and it’s not fun to play to them.”

We can only hope their San Diego faithful bring a youthful exuberance come June 26 then. For the Louisville, Kentucky-based foursome (which aside from Esposito consists of Ryan Hater, Sam Wilkerson and Nick Wilkerson), the show’s just one in a long trek out in support of their brand new, jaw-dropping hook-fest “The World's Best American Band” (out via Polyvinyl).

The record is, simply put, rock & roll at its finest -- paying tasteful homage to beloved genre behemoths like Kiss and Thin Lizzy to the Cars, Van Halen and Queen. One listen to the album’s power-pop title track, and you’ll be instantly transported to Detroit Rock City via a 1977 Pontiac Trans Am whilst donning a tattered, patch-covered denim vest and throwing up the most righteous of devil horns (Gene Simmons be damned).

The 10 exhilarating songs (like my personal favorite "Judy French") make it all seem so easy -- like the greats often do. However, Esposito admitted that writing the new album was no walk in the park. For starters, they felt the need to up their game from 2015’s debut, “White Reaper Does It Again.” 

“We weren’t like, ‘Let’s make this record different,' we just wanted it to be better,” the frontman explained. “We thought we could do better. I thought there was a lot of things our music was missing. I thought our music was un-detailed and linear. I thought it could have a little more dimension and texture, and just try to be a little more complex in our ideas. It does sound different from the last record, but that’s just ‘cause we’ve seen a lot of s--- and been a lot of places, and we’re different from the kids who made the last record. And by the time we make the next one, we’ll be different than we are today.”

However, rather than slogging through the usual practice of demoing song after song until a bunch are down pat, Esposito and Co. threw caution to the wind and let the good times roll -- booking a grip of studio time without any ideas in mind. Turns out, the best American band in the world can wing it, too.

“Well, it was 100 percent insanity,” Esposito said when reminiscing about those recording sessions. “There were some days we were [in the studio] until noon to midnight and came away with nothing. It wasn’t like everyday we were like, ‘Oh, this song rocks!’ And the next day, ’This song rocks too!’ It was like, ‘F---, I think we might have f---ed ourselves. I mean, there is some straight-up garbage from those sessions. [laughs] Certain days, it felt like an emergency, or like we made a mistake, but we were too far in to turn back. Somehow we came away with it.”

That they did. And it’s glorious. When it came time to name the beast, Esposito said they just wanted to call it something eye-grabbing.

“We’re trying to sell records so we called it ‘The World’s Best American Band,’” he said. “We tried so hard on making all this music and we wanted to make sure that the title of the record was going to make someone who had never heard of us pick it up and listen to it."

Is it true though?

"Some days, I wake up and go, ‘Yea, we’re the f---in’ best.’ Other days, I wake up and go, ’There’s a billion bands out there that are better than us.’ It doesn’t matter. [laughs] Some days I wake up and go, ‘It’s not a joke,’ and some days I go, ‘It’s a total f---in' joke.’ I don’t know yet. I guess time will tell.”

White Reaper play Soda Bar on Monday, June 26, with Ron Gallo and Naked Giants. Tickets are available here

Dustin Lothspeich books The Merrow and blogs at Gear and Loathing in San Diego. Follow his updates on Twitter or contact him directly.

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