White Reaper Is the World’s Greatest American Band, or So They Say

They've conquered basements and all-ages clubs. Next up—stadiums, and your heart.

IMAGE: Jesse De Florio.

When you grow up playing in the same bands with the same crew for the better part of a decade, it's easy to land on a sound and stay put. For Louisville punk quartet White Reaper, it wasn't until they started finding inspiration beyond music that their sound started to evolve and get noticed.

"People have compared it to [the sound of] muscle cars," says singer-guitarist Tony Esposito. "We've definitely gotten Camaros and Richard Linklater movies, which is flattering."

Aside from obvious influences like the Dickies and Thin Lizzy, the nihilistic attitude of the classic punk doc The Decline of Western Civilization proved to be a massive influence for Esposito and company when they first started. By the time this year's The World's Greatest American Band was in the tank, though, White Reaper had moved on to a uniquely snotty send-up of the arena rock that punks of previous eras were conditioned to despise.

"We didn't consider what the punks would think about this record when we made it," says Esposito. "I'm sure people say we're not punk all the time now, but that's not really a problem."

The album's titular track acts as White Reaper's current statement of intent, beginning with a canned recording of a stadium full of fans cheering wildly. But it's the following track, the '70s teen drama partystarter "Judy French," that functions as proof these guys really might be the Richard Linklaters of punk. If you can't see images of stoned teens in tight jeans traipsing through a suburban wasteland over the crunchy, classic-rock riffs, you may be too far gone from your youthful glory days for the feelings to register properly.

With bigger riffs and a bigger reach thanks to a freshly inked deal with emo power label Polyvinyl, White Reaper now has a fighting chance to grow into the stadium-filling sound they're cheekily gunning for. They're not exactly putting the cart before the horse just yet, but they'll be ready if it ever does happen.

"We're really gonna bask in that glory should that day come," Esposito says. "But I'll tell ya, I don't really know what all comes with that. When we do get there, we're gonna have a ball."

White Reaper plays Aug. 26 at 1:35 pm. 

MusicfestNW presents Project Pabst is Aug. 26-27 at Tom McCall Waterfront Park. Get tickets here.

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