Ryan Meeking, Brett Scapin, and Simon Rabl are the charming trio, Whitaker.
After launching their self-titled debut EP in 2012 with producer Nick Didia (famous for his work with Pearl Jam, Bruce Springsteen and Powderfinger), Whitaker took a transitional journey outside the studio. The result of this wandering was the five-track EP, Wichita. Sincere and drenched with soul, the EP spans from rock to folk, blending the genres without forfeiting the charm of either. Onstage, Whitaker are charismatic with a degree of comfort that comes with being true performers.
We caught up for a beer with the boys from Whitaker to talk about their second album, using the site Pozible and finding the vibe.
OS: You have been described as an acoustic pop-rock band, which is a bit of a mouthful. How would you describe your sound?
R: You could throw so many terms out there that we would agree with. Except heavy metal. Any kind of melodic-based genre will suit us. We have gotten our folky roots back with this EP.
It is quite an emotional album. ‘Hurricane’ and ‘Wichita’ are standout songs — it feels like you have opened a door for your audience into your memories. Where did you draw the inspiration for this EP?
R: Lyrically, the previous work we’ve done and the vibe of songs have been very intense emotionally. This EP was looking at the same emotional content but in a nostalgic way. It was observing what has been processed. It was more of, “this is what has happened and this is me making sense of it,” rather than raw emotion.
“We decided to embrace the vibe instead of worry about imperfections, because they add personality to the songs.”
Can you give me a run-down of the creative process for Wichita?
R: With the songs — I kept them secret and slightly unfinished so that each song itself could grow in the studio with everyone there, in a new environment. Doing it that way meant that we were not locked into traditional roles and the songs got what they needed and what they deserved.
S: Everything before this EP had been worked on until we thought it was perfected. This time around, we would rock up thinking “I don’t know how this will sound today.”
R: It was reactionary. We decided to embrace the vibe instead of worry about imperfections, because they add personality to the songs.
What was it like parting ways with the studio to record in public spaces?
R: We wanted to move forward from the previous sounds we had achieved.
B: Abbotsford Convent was an experiment. We didn’t know what we would get done there. We used it for vocals and horns. We didn’t want the EP to come together in a sterile recording environment.
R: It would rain and be so loud we couldn’t record. In the studio, you can put on ‘reverb’ to make it sound like you are in a different place. We wanted this to be a natural sound. One of the spaces was a church hall that is now a ballet studio and we did all the drums and bass there.
The energy of the creative process translates to your live performances. Your onstage banter allows the audience to experience the ‘bromance’ of Whitaker. What vibe do you want your shows to achieve?
B: We don’t plan what we say onstage. The songs are serious but we’re not. We’re shallow and stupid and silly.
R: We have always been sensitive to wankiness. We have never wanted to appear as anything other than who we are. You come out with a sad song, but that’s not completely us.
“Crowd funding is not crowd charity. We were not looking for handouts. For everything that people pledged, they were rewarded in tangible ways.”
What was working on your first EP with legendary producer Nick DiDia like?
S: It was mind-blowing. He was the number one guy on our dream producer list. He taught us a lot. He brought us into his family. The sound we achieved there was blockbuster. It sounded enormous. He knew how to put everything together.
R: It was a musician’s dream. When it came to doing this EP, we really had the desire to do something local and grassroots, something that came from where we do.
Your name comes from the book, To War with Whitaker. After almost a decade of creating music together under various titles, how does this one represent where you are now?
R: We’ve been together under a lot of different guises. Part of how we got this far is from turning a page into a new chapter. Whitaker is the unlikely hero of the book. He is just a fat butler. There is a quote where he says, “We shall win this war for the likes of you and I shall never surrender.” He is just so persistent. That is how we feel about us.
B: We are the fat butler.
S: I thought we should be the Fran Dreschers, but there were copyright issues.
Wichita was funded by your fans using the site Pozible. How was the reaction to your project?
R: Massive. We were pretty much at our target in ten days. Crowd funding is not crowd charity. We were not looking for handouts. For everything that people pledged, they were rewarded in tangible ways.
S: Mostly, people received presale tickets for our shows.
Finally, what can your fans expect from you in 2014?
B: Inappropriate banter.
R: A new EP. Hopefully an EP that has pushed our sound somewhere new again and evolved us further.
By Lucy McPherson
Listen to Whitaker’s debut EP Wichita here.