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White Reaper’s Tony Esposito talks rowdy rock and the ‘most boring Vegas trip ever’

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White Reaper plays Emerge’s Las Vegas Victims’ Fund benefit November 18 at Brooklyn Bowl.
Photo: Jesse DeFlorio / Courtesy
Ian Caramanzana

If rock ’n’ roll were a professional sport, it would be boxing: tough on the outside; artful for those truly invested. It’s a perfect metaphor for Louisville, Kentucky, band White Reaper, whose sophomore LP, April’s The World’s Best American Band features 10 tracks of rowdy rock that flirts with modern-pop sensibilities while nodding Cheap Trick, Thin Lizzy and Kiss.

We spoke to frontman Tony Esposito prior to the band’s November 18 performance at Brooklyn Bowl, part of the Emerge Impact + Music Conference’s benefit for the Las Vegas Victims’ fund.

White Reaper just began a pretty extensive tour. How’s that been? It’s been cool! We’re in Boston just walking around, checking stuff out. The people here are nice … for the most part.

[In three days], my amp has blown, up and [our tourmates] Post Animals’ van broke down. So yeah, it’s been quite an eventful couple of days. We’re chuggin’ along, though.

As an album title, The World’s Best American Band is quite a lofty statement. Why’d you name it that, and do you actually believe it’s true? Yeah … it’s kinda true. There are lots of bands—millions—who are out there playing shows, but there’s only one White Reaper. So in short, we, as a collective, believe this is true.

The album sounds more like polished than your garage-ier past work. Why? This time around, we really focused on the melodies, arrangements and composition of it all. All the songs are unique from each other, and they each take on lives of their own.

You guys have a reputation as a party band, chugging beers with the crowd and holding instruments up like the rock gods of yesteryear. Where does that energy come from? It goes way back—we were raised going to these really rowdy shows in our hometown with bands from our formative years, like Evil Grimace. We were constantly telling ourselves, “This is a show. This is how it’s supposed to be.” It just kind of ingrained into our brains and manifested itself in our performances.

You were slated to play the Emerge conference, which got moved to April, so you opted in for the benefit show. Why get involved? Even after the horrific events of October 1, we have no reservations about playing Las Vegas. It’s not a cursed town, so why would we not? Plus, it’s for a good cause.

You’re coming back in January to open for Spoon. How did that relationship come about? Spoon asked us to tour with them, and we really hit it off, so they asked us to do more. We said yes right away. Seriously, what an incredible band, with even better people.

Have you been to Vegas before? I have. [White Reaper] actually had a three-hour layover there. It’s probably in the record books for the most boring Vegas trip ever. We took an Uber to the Strip, which ended up being an awful idea, because we had to lug all of our gear with us. Picture me with all my heavy guitar crap, Ryan [Hater] carrying an exposed keyboard and the other band members lugging their stuff around. The only casino we visited was the Luxor; we wanted to see the Criss Angel Mindfreak casino. We just ended up eating lunch at a food court and heading back to catch our flight.

What’s next for White Reaper? We’re gonna tour, then write another record. After that, we’re gonna tour, then write another record. We’ll go back and forth like that until we decide to stop being a band.

White Reaper with Mondo Cozmo, Grandson, B. Rose, Mike Xavier and Sabriel. November 18, 7 p.m., $15. Brooklyn Bowl, 702-862-2695.

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