.

White Denim's James Petralli and Austin Jenkins Psych It To You

Guitar pair reflect on band's ear-shattering first decade

James Petralli of White Denim performs in Southwold, England.
Caitlin Mogridge/Redferns via Getty Images
May 27, 2014 1:25 PM ET

Welcome to Young Guns, our series exploring the most notable guitarists from the next generation of six-string legends. For more interviews with the guitarists inspiring us right now, click here.

WHO: Guitarist James Petralli has been helping the Texas quartet White Denim churn out ear-shattering psychedelic blues rock for nearly a decade – and in 2010, new guitarist Austin Jenkins came on board. On albums like last year's Corsicana Lemonade, the band has nailed a heady fusion of jazz, punk, stoner rock, experimental noise and Seventies-style arena pomp (check out their Jimmy Page-biting steez in "At Night in Dreams"). Jenkins credits their chops to lots of fiddling around during free time: "I practice be-bop or western swing," he says. "Jazz is one of the most rhythmic vocabularies out there – there's a lot to be mined." Back in 2005, White Denim were gigging in Austin clubs and recording in drummer Joshua Block's converted 1950s-era Airstream trailer, but their national profile is finally rising – in March, they had a hometown heroes' welcome with a performance on Jimmy Kimmel Live during his South by Southwest residency.

See the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time

TOUCHING ALL THE BASES: Frontman Petralli comes from a remarkable lineage of baseball players. His brother plays in the minor leagues; his grandfather Gene Petralli had stints with the Yankees and White Sox in the Forties and Fifties; and his father, Geno Petralli, was a catcher for the Texas Rangers and Toronto Blue Jays in the Eighties. While Petralli's dad didn't understand his son's musical ambitions at first, he's come around. "He's seen me play a couple of times," the junior Petralli says. "Baseball is so big for him, like music is for me. So we try to make comparisons to our crafts when we talk." (Cool fact: Block's grandfather was also a pro baseball player, for the Washington Senators.)

AWKWARD INTRODUCTION: Though Jenkins was "totally a fan" before joining, his entry into White Denim was preceded by an embarrassing encounter. "I got totally trashed at a show and said to them, 'You guys are the only band playing music anymore! You're not afraid!,'" he now recalls with a laugh. "I felt ridiculous but I meant it." When first asked to join, he was reluctant. "I thought about saying no, not because I didn't want to do it, but because the trio was such a ferocious thing. Since I've joined, James has some room to stretch out in a different kind of way."

TWEEDY'S TUTELAGE: During the sessions for their most recent album, White Denim sought Jeff Tweedy to produce. The group holed up at Wilco's Loft studio in Chicago and had a blast messing around with the impressive collection of vintage gear there. "He encouraged this group dynamic that made for a lighthearted atmosphere," says Petralli. Perhaps too lighthearted: "We were super unprepared." The band only ended up keeping two tracks for the final album, but Petralli hopes the rest will eventually get released. "We had this 20-minute kraut-rock thing," he notes. "We'll definitely put that stuff out one day."

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

prev
Young Guns Next

blog comments powered by Disqus
Around the Web
Powered By ZergNet
Daily Newsletter

Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
marketing partners.

X

We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

Song Stories

“Bird on a Wire”

Leonard Cohen | 1969

While living on the Greek island of Hydra, Cohen was battling a lingering depression when his girlfriend handed him a guitar and suggested he play something. After spotting a bird on a telephone wire, Cohen wrote this prayer-like song of guilt. First recorded by Judy Collins, it would be performed numerous times by artists incuding Johnny Cash, Joe Cocker and Rita Coolidge. "I'm always knocked out when I hear my songs covered or used in some situation," Cohen told Rolling Stone. "I've never gotten over the fact that people out there like my music."

More Song Stories entries »
 
www.expandtheroom.com