FEATURE: White Whale comes sailing out of the gate with ‘Roxy Sabbath’ sound

Earlier this summer the Kansas State House of Representatives declared July 26, 2006 to be White Whale Day in the state of Kansas. Had there recently been a discovery of an ancient fossil? Had Moby Dick been hunted down in Kansas? No, the day was established to commemorate the release of Lawrence band White Whale’s debut album on Merge Records. While buzz about bands of an indie nature usually stays at a relatively low level and makes its way only to the ears of those ‘in the know,’ White Whale is apparently a favorite at the Kansas State House.

With lyrical themes that, at times, call to mind The Decemberists, and music that has drawn comparison to The Arcade Fire, it is easy to see why White Whale’s debut album, WWI, has drawn such widespread attention merely months into the band’s existence.

The eleven tracks that make up WWI convey a maturity often lacking in indie-rock. Themes of lost love and the realities of life weave through songs which often take place in nautical settings, leading to the obvious comparisons to The Decemberists. “I think that people are dwelling on it a little too much,” said bass player Rob Pope in a recent interview with The Marquee. “The nautical themes: whatever. It was really much more of a coincidence than you would be led to believe by listening to the record. It all just kind of fell together and took this theme. We were in no way trying to rip off bands like the Decemberists.” In fact, Pope and his bandmates have dubbed their sound “Roxy Sabbath” (equal parts Roxy Music and Black Sabbath).

White Whale’s “Roxy Sabbath” sound is produced by Pope, Matt Suggs of Butterglory, and three members of Thee Higher Burning Fire (John Anderson, Zach Holland and Dustin Kinsey). Pope’s last project, The Get Up Kids, Thee Higher Burning Fire and Butterglory were all successful indie bands in their own right, leading critics to dub the new band a supergroup of sorts.

While ‘supergroup’ may be stretching things a bit, this is a talented group of musicians who have all had the experience of playing in successful bands in the past. “Everyone has toured before in previous bands, so we all know the etiquette of touring,” said Pope, who had recently returned home from White Whale’s first proper run of shows. “I think the highlight of this first tour was that we always found a place to stay. We are getting it together and the audiences seem to be digging it. It will only get better from here, I imagine.”

As they continue to get more comfortable on stage, White Whale will continue debuting songs from WWI. “We just started playing “Fidget and Fudge” on this most recent tour and that was a bit of a challenge, but it is my favorite to play live right now,” said Pope. “I think our live show is a little more bombastic than the record. There is just more energy behind it. In a live setting, where we have control over how loud our amps go, we are going to pour a little more into it. We like to play loud.”

Check Out White Whale if You Like:

  • The Arcade Fire
  • Decemberists
  • Wolf Parade
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Who Is Timothy Dwenger

Music has always been a part of my life. It probably all started listening to old Grateful Dead, Peter Paul & Mary, and Simon & Garfunkel records that my parents had, but it wasn't long before they were taking me to concerts like Starship, Crosby, Stills & Nash, and Huey Lewis & The News. I got the bug to write about music after reviewing an Eric Clapton concert for a creative writing project in high school but didn't really take it up seriously until 2002. Since then I have published countless articles in The Marquee Magazine and done some work for Jambase.com, SPIN Magazine, and various other outlets. I started Listen Up Denver! as a way to share the music information that is constantly spilling out of my head with people who care. Please enjoy!