Bop English is the alias of James Petralli from White Denim. Recently releasing his debut record Constant Bop, AMBY gave Petralli a call to discuss the new record and much more. Enjoy the exclusive interview below.
AMBY: Starting at the beginning, what exactly inspired you to want to start creating music under a brand-new name? In specific, the Bop English name?
Bop English: The music I write for White Denim is a process that isn’t really that much different. So really to be honest, the boring answer, is that White Denim record cycles take a really long time and they are really exhausting. The band is generally reluctant to go to the studio once we get done with a tour, which I get; I do nine to five when I’m not on the road. It just didn’t really seem like I would be able to wrangle the band to do another record, so I just started doing my own stuff.
AMBY: As Bop English, you have recently dropped your debut record Constant Bop. Tell our readers a bit about the new album and your experience recording it.
Bop English: I actually spent a lot of time in the studio! I don’t really have a great story or anything it was just really a couple of hours I spent with different musicians. If I felt it needed a trumpet I would Google trumpet player and basically cold call musicians to come down to the studio and play on the album with me. I don’t really know if that answers your question; but, it was a long process, it took like three and a half years between tours and White Denim records, when I finally finished it. So I lost track a little bit. It was kind of lonely honestly. But I am proud of it, I’m glad it happened.
AMBY: You mentioned calling other musicians and I know you collaborated with other musicians for the record, including your fellow band mates from White Denim. While creating with them on this album, was it hard to distinguish a sound for Bop English since those key elements and members of your other band were there with you?
Bop English: Well they would come in one by one, and I guess the point wasn’t really to distinguish so much as to just create more because I’m the dude in White Denim that writes the songs so I can’t really change my writing style. I don’t really have limitations in that band so I didn’t really feel the need to do something completely different. I think there were things that I got to do just because I gave myself space and I didn’t have the guys in the room with me, like lots of keyboards, and that really great keyboard player. [laughs] I took extra time to make the keyboard time and with the band in the room it is kind of difficult to write keyboard parts and write parts for an instrument that you don’t necessarily play. That will be a big one! I don’t really feel all that much pressure, I mean I’ve made six or seven records now, I don’t even really know. That’s getting into the hundreds of songs I’ve written and seen the completion through. I don’t really feel like an extreme need to change processes or differentiate. I feel like I have a good process that yields different sounding music from record to record without it being like an intentional move.
AMBY: I know that you revisited everything from Bob Dylan to LL Cool J for the record’s inspiration, and you definitely hear those tones from the vocoders to jazzy elements. What made you want to create a genre-breaking record with so many nuances shown throughout?
Bop English: I guess it’s the same motivation to create any record. It’s what I do. I listen to music constantly and I write music and work in a studio, so it’s just my life.
AMBY: You have brought the new record to the UK and Europe. After playing hundreds of shows with White Denim, how does it feel to be touring under an entirely new name with new songs and new band members?
Bop English: It feels good! I’m excited about it! It’s great to hear new perspectives. The lineup for White Denim got a little bit heated towards the end there towards the last record cycle so it’s time to get a little space from that and hear new musicians playing my songs which is really great.
AMBY: Have you come across any challenges since dealing with the launch of Bop English and the logistics for the tour?
Bop English: Yea, like financial challenges! Starting over; it’s been a while since I’ve had to start over, so that’s pretty tough. But it’s all going to work out; it’s part of doing a new record.
AMBY: Touring with a new name and new music, which band out there would you personally love to hit the road with and embark on a new tour alongside?
Bop English: I like Unknown Mortal Orchestra a lot. I think they’re really cool. Pond is really fun! So I’d love to go out with them again. Tame Impala, I think those guys are smart and cool and good at music.
AMBY: With festival season right around the corner, if you could curate your own festival, who would be in the line-up?
Bop English: Wilco’s good. The bands that I mentioned earlier I like. Dungen. I don’t know if they’re together anymore but they’re super good. I think that about covers it.
AMBY: Lastly, what’s something about yourself and this new project that most of your fans don’t know yet?
Bop English: That it’s twice as long as what’s being released right now!
AMBY: Oh wow! I didn’t know that. Very cool.
Bop English: Yea, it’s a double record! So eventually I hope to get out the second half of it.
Thank you Bop English, for giving us your answers!
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Interview by Alicia Atout | @AliciaAtout