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The members of White Denim are in an Austin recording studio, where, after years of recording in drummer Josh Block's home studio (a trailer on the outskirts of the city), they have finally learned to be comfortable around high-tech equipment and a limited amount of time.
They aren't working on a new record yet, though members Steve Terebecki and Austin Jenkins tell me over the phone that they're starting to consider it. It's not a huge priority, as they're still working to promote their 2011 release, D, with yet another extensive tour, sending a streak through the calendar until August. Life on the road can be a grind for many bands, but for White Denim, it's where their music is born and grows up. And, now that they're in a proper recording studio, preparation is more valuable than ever.
"It really is kind of a time thing," Jenkins says. "You can work on something infinitely, but if you're recording a record in a studio for two and a half weeks, you know where you're gonna be ending the whole date. It's not just endlessly tweakable."
Working this way is a far cry from the marathon sessions they put in at Block's studio, when time wasn't an issue. It's easy to hear the difference when comparing their self-recorded material to more recent recordings. Songs on earlier albums bled together in unconventional ways, whereas D's output, while still capturing the band's signature jazz-meets-rock style, is more concise.
It's all part of the way signing to a big label has changed the band. When they first signed with Downtown Records (after 2009's Fits), there was pressure from the label to work on songs with bigger choruses and hooks. The band, seeing it as a musical challenge, acquiesced, but after the sessions were over, they needed a break, which turned out to be quite unconventional. They took a month and made 2010's Last Day of Summer, the band's final album recorded at Block's studio.
After the success of D, which was a staple on 2011 year-end lists, the band began to warm up to the idea of having a bigger label.
"We've been kind of enjoying a really successful relationship with them that I'm really stoked on," Jenkins says.
Both Jenkins and Terebecki agree the band is enjoying the benefits of being on Downtown, which include strategic planning and better marketing — something the band thought little about in the early days. They were lucky early on to receive mentions on major blogs, and find a champion in Dallas' Gorilla vs. Bear, most of which happened without the band's knowledge.
"That's how we found out about music blogs," Terebecki says. "We didn't really know they existed until we saw ourselves on Gorilla vs. Bear, and we were like, 'What is this?'"
Now, acquisition of fans and promotion of the band carry more importance and can only be sustained via careful planning by their label, which the band has finally yielded to.
Terebecki admits it's definitely for the best: "If we were left to our own devices, we'd make and put out an album every three months, and only sell like 350 copies of each, if we were lucky."