When the first notes of the opening track of White Rabbits' sophomore disc ring out, it's not guitar notes or a bass riff that resonate with the listener, but a funky rat-a-tat-tat of a drum beat. "Percussion Gun" leads off It's Frightening and lets you know that rhythm is at the forefront of the band's music.
It's not always that way, but percussion has drawn in the six members of White Rabbits, enough that it has two drummers in the band. Some songs are written around a beat while others are written more conventionally via strings or piano.
While the band's music is reaching more and more people these days, guitarist/singer Greg Roberts isn't quite sure how to quantify it from his perspective. "I don't know if we're getting bigger -- it's hard for me to see that," he says by phone from the office of the band's New York City publicist. "But things are definitely getting better."
Some of that can be seen in the simplest of terms -- the band's living arrangements. When the group first moved to Brooklyn from Columbia, Mo., the six members all lived in one apartment. A quick search on YouTube will unveil a "Cribs" style tour of the location -- no heat, a one bedroom loft and close quarters.
While it made it easy for the band to write and rehearse, it also takes its toll on a person. "I guess it's easy to say I miss it, but if I was back in it, I wouldn't be enjoying it," Roberts says of his old home. "I certainly think back fondly on it. It served its purpose. It was born out of neccessity because we didn't know anybody here and we couldn't afford to do it any other way."
The band moved to New York, like most people, to find better opportunities. Though Roberts isn't exactly able to quantify if it has worked or not, the rise in popularity could be one attribute to location.
"I think we moved to New York for the same reason that any artist, dancer, painter, comedian, actor or whatever does," he says. "I don't think you totally understand the weight of what that is and what you're dealing with until you get here. We tried to keep our heads down at first. We didn't even play a show for the first six months that we lived here. We just rewrote the set until we got songs that we enjoyed and brought them out."
In some respects, the band's writing process has become more streamlined since the first album, Fort Nightly, was released. "At first, it was kind of hard to delegate parts and a lot of the time we ended up firing on all cylinders," Roberts says. "So, we definitely were concientious of economizing this time around in order to serve the song and not having everyone playing all the time."
The band has also tried to experiment with more sounds on the album, which can create interesting situations when trying to create a song for the live show. Roberts says it's not always a drummer who writes the drum's role in a song, or a singer writing lyrics or guitarist writing guitar parts -- the band takes more of a "throw a bunch of ideas against the wall and see what sticks" approach.
The band -- Roberts, Stephen Patterson (piano/vocals), Alex Even (guitar/vocals), Brian Betancourt (bass), Matt Clark (drums) and Jamie Levinson (drums) -- looks at the live show and album as separate entities. While they've begun incorporating more effects pedals in efforts of recreation, they also abandon ideas in translation from the studio to live show.
For the second album, White Rabbits recruited the lead singer of Spoon, Britt Daniel, as producer. They met Daniel while crossing paths on the road, but the process of asking almost backfired on them. "It's his first time producing a whole record, outside of his own stuff," Roberts says.
While the band was on tour with Spoon and The Walkmen, Roberts had the idea to ask Daniel to produce the new album. "Jamie, one of our drummers, was texting a friend that has a studio in Chicago and mentioning that we were thinking about using Britt," Roberts says. "Subconsciously, I guess, he actually sent the text to Britt himself. We kind of accidentally asked Britt to produce the record. He had a sense of humor about it and agreed. We were all really enticed by that idea because we wanted to work with someone who is a musician first and not a 'producer' producer."
Roberts describes Daniel as "very laid-back, very open and very hands-on" and "extremely dedicated to the process and the record" during recording. He adds that the band would like to have him involved in the next or a future album, even if it's only as a sounding board for ideas.
At this point, the band has only done one tour of the United States and recently performed four shows -- there's a lot more touring on the way. "I was just talking to our manager about it, and touring's going to take us into next year," Roberts says. "We'll play the Southeast with The Fiery Furnaces in a couple weeks. We'll switch off with them each night to play equal sets. We haven't really hit the Southeast that much so it seemed like a really good opportunity to go out with a band that's been around a lot longer than we have. We're excited to play some shows with them."
White Rabbits will co-headline a show at the Visulite Theatre along with The Fiery Furnaces on Aug. 18. Tickets are $15.