Son of Former Texas Ranger, James Petralli of White Denim Talks New Album

White Denim plays Three Links.
White Denim plays Three Links. Pooneh Ghana
White Denim is based in Austin, but they still have ties to North Texas, including tunes on their forthcoming album, Performance.

Frontman James Petralli was born in Sacramento, but he grew up in Arlington, as his father, Geno, played for the Texas Rangers between 1985 and 1993.

“Every day that I wasn’t playing baseball, I was at Wet N Wild,” Petralli says from his home in Austin.

Petralli and bassist/vocalist Steven Terebecki are at the core of the band after multiple lineup changes over the years. The way they run things now is having multiple guests and collaborators for their albums, then finding touring members on drums and keyboards. On Performance, Crowley’s own Jordan Richardson, aka Son of Stan, plays on a couple of songs.

“He’s amazing,” Petralli says of Richardson. “Just an all-around killer musician.”

Though the new album won’t be out until Aug. 24, the band is already working on another album, using more material they did with Richardson.

“This record, we wrote in the room, essentially,” Petralli says. “The tunes that Jordan were on were more of [an] old school way of doing things. This record was super, super collaborative. All the musicians who played on it definitely [influenced] the way the record sounds. Jordan’s no exception to that.”

“This record, we wrote in the room, essentially." – James Petralli

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Working this way is like starting a painting with a blank canvas and no preconceived ideas. “We’ve done it every way,” Petralli says. “We don’t really have a favorite way. I think we’re always trying to get back to the spirit of how we felt when we were making the first two records, like super optimistic and excited about everything.”

Performance‘s nine songs sound like a punk rock band that’s not afraid of the jazzy flair of Steely Dan. Petralli doesn’t mind the comparison to that band.

“Any group that employs cool chord voicing and still rocks is interesting to me,” he says of the band behind such classics as Aja and Can’t Buy a Thrill. But White Denim didn’t sit down and listen to those records and make a carbon copy for Performance.

“I wouldn’t say I’m a huge Steely Dan guy,” he adds. “I’d much rather sound like the Pretenders.”

As they begin a tour with Texas shows and festivals — including two sets at Three Links on the day of the release — they don’t mind doing two hours of material.

“It’s good practice,” Petralli says. “It feels more natural to play smaller rooms with new guys.”

With a new drummer and keyboardist, the band is excited and rejuvenated. Drummer Greg Clifford has especially made his presence known.

“I have a new level of tinnitus since he joined the band,” Petralli says.

With how long the band has been around, Petralli is excited to play with people who are young enough to be influenced by the early days of White Denim.

“We found these two young guys that had grown up listening to our records and much cooler records,” Petralli says. “They’re the dudes now.”

White Denim plays two sets Friday, Aug. 24 at Three Links.
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Eric Grubbs is a Dallas-based writer who has published two books, Post: A Look at the Influence of Post-Hardcore 1985-2007 and When We Were the Kids. His writing has been featured in Punk Planet, Popdose, Fort Worth Weekly, The Dentonite and LA Weekly. He supports Manchester City and will never root for Manchester United.
Contact: Eric Grubbs