White Rabbits Have Nothing But Time


I had the opportunity to sit down with three of White Rabbits: Alex Even, Matthew Clark and Brian Betancourt. The Brooklyn, New York six-piece, by way of Columbia, Missouri (including Stephen Patterson, Greg Roberts and Jamie Levinson) could fall into the ever-expanding category of “indie rock,” but I believe experimental and even, energetic, would be equally fitting.

If you’ve never heard of White Rabbits, you’re in for a treat. The best way to describe it is, if I went into a laboratory, and threw Spoon, Interpol and The Specials into the same vial. And set it on fire.

The band’s song, “Percussion Gun” was featured on the TV show, Friday Night Lights, and included in Volume 2 of the show’s soundtrack.

Kristina Villarini: It’s been said that a musician has a moment of altered reality when they get to play in front of larger crowds. What is the vibe when you perform now? You guys have picked up a lot of steam from your second album, It’s Frightening and that awesome video for “Percussion Gun.”

Matthew Clark: It wasn’t like that for a while. [Laughs]

KV: What is the collaborative process for you guys? Do you ever battle it out for a specific sound?

Brian Betancourt: Yeah, yeah.

Alex Even: It’s always a bit of a struggle.

BB: Six people, you know, you get a lot of different opinions.

MC: Six… Yeah. Six.


MC: Six. [Laughs]

AE: Generally, it takes a little bit to get everybody to, sort of, get on board with an idea. But in the end, we think it’s better that we have to fight and struggle to get anything to the surface, because it means we’re all excited about it.

BB: It can be pretty hard, but the pay-off is always satisfying.


KV: How do you ever come to the conclusion on a record or a song? Is it ever really done?

BB: We changed things way past the record release, when we toured afterward.

MC: Once we get on tour, it becomes a free-for-all. The album is done and we know the songs. I feel like, even if people love the band, people don’t want to see the same set or hear the same versions of songs.


KV: Does it become tiring to play the same songs?

MC: As a band, you don’t want to play the same music.

BB: It’s also really fun to be the kind of band that just doesn’t play the record. And if you’re a fan, and you know the record, hopefully you will like a new arrangement or just appreciate new arrangements.


KV: If each of you could choose a song that you wish you wrote or jammed on, what would it be?

BB: That’s a hard one. Come back to me.

AE: Probably “Whatcha Say” by Jason Derulo. I LOVE that song.

BB: There’s an electronic musician named James Blake that makes really beautiful, unique-sounding sounds that you can’t really place. It’s really amazing, and I get jealous listening to his music. I wish I made it… Not like I know how… But…

AE: [Imitating] I wish I was James Blake…


KV: What artists are you listening to or do you enjoy currently?

BB: Shearwater, Devendra Banhart, Foals.


KV: You guys get to see a different side of what we do, as do we. You get the acclaim, but you also get panned if we dislike your record. So if you could say anything to the musical press, what would it be?

MC: It’s your job to do research. Seriously. It can really change the tone of an interview, if you’re getting the same questions. So much information about a band is readily available everywhere, so if you can find the answer to a question about us online: Do not ask that question. Ever.

KV: It is a challenge of this gig, to continue to write things that people want to read or know about. So yeah, it’s a big part of this job. You don’t want to ask the question that’s been everywhere else.

MC: Yeah. And I’ll give you an honest answer because you display to me traits that make me want to speak to you: Research ability.

BB: Laziness. Don’t be lazy. We’re doing our job, and we need you to do yours.


KV: What is your favorite song off of It’s Frightening?

MC: To go back to different versions of songs and different arrangements, I really like this version we’re playing now of “Company I Keep.” I really like the original arrangement of that track on the album, but it’s a different feel than we typically do. It’s about trying to do something different, and it’s about getting out of ourselves a little bit. It’s something a little slower, and I kinda wish that we had known…

BB: It’s more special, because now we have these two ways to look at a song. Similarly, I like the new arrangement of “Right Where They Left.”

AE: Yeah, I like both those songs.


KV: All artists sort of begin their musical journey making music for themselves, then if they’re successful, they develop fans, etc. Now you guys are in this place where there are folks that have a relationship with you and your music, and they have expectations. How has making music full-time changed the way you feel about the art?

BB: It’s scary to me. I’ve always thought music would be dangerous if you had to put all of your eggs in that basket. And if it worked, it worked, but if it didn’t, there was no harm… Now, it’s kind of like, there’s a lot to lose.

AE: I honestly never even think about that. It’s either, me having an idea that I really think is great and I want to pursue it because I’m compelled to do so, or it’s a couple of my friends have an idea that I think is interesting and I want to work on it. I don’t really think about music professionally unless we’re working in the studio or doing interviews. When I’m writing music, it’s always really fun.

MC: It’s kind of all that. The touring and the traveling gets kind of grating. It sucks the “joie de vivre” out of you.

AE: What language was that? Spanish?

MC: Uh, French.

AE: Oh, wow. That’s sophisticated.


KV: What is next for the band? Where would you like to go on the next record?

BB: That’s not for us to say. We’re just going to do it and see what happens, and work around it.

AE: It’s always sort of, especially with this band, it’s more about the process than the finished product for us because there’s a lot of people and a lot of opinions. There’s also a lot of wild dreams and ideas about what we could do, and then the stuff that comes naturally to us. It’s always a battle, to get a song to the point where we can play it for people. So I’m excited about it… Who knows how it’s going to sound?

MC: Yeah.

AE: We have a handful of songs that can be played any number of ways, so it’s cool.


KV: How do you decide on setlists?

BB: It changes from show to show. Just thinking about how songs relate to one another and how the mood changes. Try to keep the energy up or flowing in a natural way.

KV: How has this band changed you?

AE: I don’t know much else. I’ve been playing with these guys since I was eighteen, so I sort of grew up with these guys. We moved to New York together, met Brian there… White Rabbits are a significant part of who I am.

MC: It’s a gang. We have colors and everything.

KV: I’m going to have to take a minute to learn the secret handshake.

MC: We don’t mess around with a handshake. We’re just a gang.


White Rabbits are a gang I’m glad to be an honorary member of. After seeing their interaction and their genuine appreciation for one another, it’s easy to see why they have such an amazing presence and why their sound continues to develop. If you can get to a show while they’re on tour, I highly recommend it. In the meantime, listen to Fort Nightly and It’s Frightening until you learn all of the arrangements of their tunes.