Writer: Zachary Kolesar.
Most of the musicians covered by In The Record Store hold anecdotes that serve as rousing testimonials toward the Columbus music scene. While our city doesn’t get mentioned often amongst the Nashvilles and Austins of the music world, the multitude of musicians who claim Columbus as their homebase beg to differ.
While White Reaper, a hard-and-fast, slightly psychedelic rock ‘n’ roll act, was formed in Louisville, the group has firm and formative roots in the soil of Columbus’ musical garden. Whether aware of it or not, White Reaper is an honorary hometown band.
“There's some young kids that are excited about shows in Louisville, but I think in Columbus there's a lot more younger kids that are really excited about shows, which is always really a cool thing to see when there's kids getting into it,” lead singer and guitarist Tony Esposito said.
Yeah, there’s an abundance of excitable youth in the city, but White Reaper gives them a reason to be so with its raucous live performances. While on the phone with Esposito, whose parents met in Columbus, we got on the topic of the band’s past trip through the town.
For CD102.5’s $10.25 concert series earlier this year, Tony said he couldn’t remember feeling more sick than he felt hours before White Reaper’s set at The Basement. A crowded and unsuccessful trip to urgent care left Esposito, fighting bloody noses and cold sweats, with only one option.
“(Someone from) The Basement was like, ‘We know this guy that can totally give you a shot in your ass and it will make you feel better,’” Esposito said. "We did it. He came and gave me a shot and it was better.”
A week ago after talking with Tony he was just overcoming a cold, so he predicts he will be 100 percent for his performance just a stairwell above the scene of his miraculous recovery at A&R Music Bar this upcoming Monday.
Over two years ago the group debuted its five-piece in Columbus, forever changing the structure the band took during its first two conceptual years and first full-length. Keyboardist Ryan Hater, twins drummer Nick Wilkerson and bassist Sam Wilkerson and Tony joined forces with guitarist Hunter Thompson live for the first time at A&R.
“There's so much more we could do,” Esposito said. “Two guitars really go a long way, especially for the music we play. It's great.”
Part of doing much more included the group’s recording process for “The World’s Best American Band,” a project released this April.
“The record before this record I had demoed out all the songs, and we knew exactly what we were going to do the whole time we were in the studio,” Esposito said. “We had a map, but this time I only had like three or four voice demos, so we didn’t have any full songs, so we made it all there.”
Esposito agreed that recording the album was both challenging and organic, especially because he was singing the songs for the first time. Although he admits that it was a “little sketch,” he jokingly laughs that he believes the record “turned out alright.”
But there was a reason for this approach: a need to get every member’s fingers on each track.
“We didn’t want anything on the record to sound too similar,” Esposito said. “We really wanted to put an emphasis on variety as much as we could.”
Although “White Reaper Does It Again,” the preceding LP, had psychedelic undertones, Tony pointed out that there wasn’t much distinction between the songs. The raw recordings together in person on its latest album kept the bandmates’ minds fresh, easily distinguishing the tracks in the studio.
The term power-pop has been tossed around to describe the band, but power-rock is a much more fitting adjective for the Best American Band. The pop tag most likely comes from the laid-back vibes on songs such as “Judy French” and “The Stack.” But like what made most rock ‘n’ roll acts of the past polarizing, White Reaper packs a punch live.
And, despite the album title, the group has stayed very humble and grateful throughout the years.
“It seems like a pretty unique opportunity that we get,” Esposito said. “And you know, you're cooped up in the van for however long the drive is, so when you get to the show, it's kind of nice to not be sitting down. It's a lot of pent-up energy. It's exciting.”
The intro and title track features cheers of approval at the beginning and end from a crowd that echoes like the inside of a sports arena. While White Reaper will continue to play intimate shows at venues like The Basement and A&R across the nation, the band’s touring pace, which has brought in a stronger following, could elevate the group to stadium status.
When they do make it there, Columbus will still be there, as a footnote on the way to stardom.
White Reaper will be playing in Columbus for the fifth time at A&R Music Bar this upcoming Monday. Tickets are $12 with fees and doors open at 7 p.m. Post Animal will be opening.
Tickets and more info HERE.