2020 Grammys

White Reaper Breaks Down Nostalgic New Album 'You Deserve Love': Exclusive

Grace Lillash
White Reaper

The Louisville rockers discuss lead radio single 'Might Be Right,' the reason why they called a song 'Eggplant' and more.

To paraphrase one of its album titles, White Reaper has done it again.

The five-piece Louisville band continues their upward momentum with the release of You Deserve Love, their third studio album and first via Elektra after two releases on Polyvinyl, today, Oct. 18.

You Deserve Love not only contains "Might Be Right," White Reaper's first song to reach a Billboard chart (it reaches new peaks of Nos. 12, 16 and 17 on the Adult Alternative Songs, Alternative Songs and Rock Airplay charts dated Oct. 19). The fact of the matter is that even without "Might Be Right," the band could have broken through on rock radio with a number of other songs from the LP, providing some of their catchiest offerings yet with tracks like "Real Long Time" and "1F" -- and that's saying something, given the hook-jammed, frenetic energy of You Deserve Love's predecessor, 2017's The World's Best American Band.

Give some credit to Jay Joyce, who took over producing duties for the new album, bringing with him a pedigree that includes fellow rock radio success stories Halestorm, Cage the Elephant and The Head and the Heart, in addition to his country production work for Eric Church, Brandy Clark, Little Big Town and many more.

But much of what's on You Deserve Love feels like a natural progression from what came before it, White Reaper's gritty -- but snappy -- garage rock tendencies in even fuller force, with added glam rock-esque movements and snaking twin guitar melodies not unlike that of Thin Lizzy.

White Reaper (vocalist/guitarist Tony Esposito, guitarist Hunter Thompson, keyboardist Ryan Hater, bassist Sam Wilkerson and drummer Nick Wilkerson) broke down their biggest album yet, exclusively for Billboard. Check it out below.


"Headwind"

"Headwind" is a song that I wrote about a really specific emotion: the one where you’re surprised that you actually came out on top after a sticky situation. To me, it’s the musical equivalent of wiping the sweat off your brow and saying, “That was a close one.” A lot of times when I’m feeling overwhelmed, I think about this song and I’m reminded that stressful situations are mostly temporary and that most things will blow over if you can weather the storm. -- Tony Esposito

"Real Long Time"

This song is a good example of what a producer can do to a track. There were a lot of bits and pieces added in studio, like the bass and drum intro and the key lead in the chorus. We went for an Electric Light Orchestra vocal sound in the chorus, too. Most of it was recorded live. -- Sam Wilkerson

"Saturday"

This is another one of my favorites on the record because the chorus is so heavy. The drum beat in the verses didn’t sound good on the kit I played the rest of the record on, so Jay [Joyce, producer] rigged me up am interesting setup with a tiny snare drum with a cloth over it. I made the fills that go into the chorus up on the spot, and I think they turned out alright. -- Nick Wilkerson

"1F"

On a trip back to Louisville from visiting my grandma in Ohio, we passed a highway exit in Cincinnati that was called 1F, and for whatever reason that stuck with me. I thought it would make a cool song title, and I just kind of worked up this fictional story from there. It’s about seeing a widow who’s late husband has left behind a very well-cared-for Corvette from the 1960s, and how being with her is especially rewarding because you get to ride in that car from time to time. --T.E.

"Hard Luck"

This is maybe the heaviest song on the album. When we were in the studio, we tried to find a keyboard sound to emulate what’s on the demo that Tony made. After a million attempts we didn’t have any luck, so we ended up just using the key sound from the actual demo. This is the first track we’ve ever used an electric mandolin on! -- S.W.

"Raw"

"Raw: was one of the first demos I heard that ended up making it on the new record. I love the energy that this song brings to the album; from the first time I heard it I couldn’t wait to play it to an audience. Almost all of this track was recorded live in the studio, and I think you can feel that excitement in the song. -- Ryan Hater

"Might Be Right"

"Might Be Right" started out as a demo in February 2018. Tony and I had gone to our practice space to try and write a song. Tony had an idea for the bassline, and then we wrote some guitar licks. We weren’t very excited with what we had come up with and shelved the song for a while. Almost a year later, before we went into the studio to record You Deserve Love, Tony called and asked me to send him that demo. I sent it over, and Tony really ran with it to fill out the structure. We recorded the song as we had rehearsed it, but we weren’t super excited when we listened back. We decided to add the pulsing keys and synths at some point and that really gave the song a new life. All of us became inspired to continue building out the song and it started to fill in pretty naturally. We really focused on the dynamics and letting the song breathe. After trying a few arrangements, we settled on the final version. We all really love how it turned out. -- Hunter Thompson

"Eggplant"

This is probably the most different song that we’ve ever made. We took the demo into the studio and we simplified the drum beat. I also added some bongos, and they sound real nice. Definitely one of my favorite songs on the new record, and I see it as kind of a tribute to the fans. It's called "Eggplant" because the day Tony wrote it, he got some eggplant from a local Chinese restaurant delivered to his house. -- N.W.

"Ring"

"Ring" is a song that had a great energy from the start. We all the loved the heavy guitar riff choruses and the contrast with the open verses. We went into the studio with that idea and a bridge that still needed finalizing. After playing through it a couple times we decided to add the guitar solo. I spent some time going over ideas that played off of the chorus riff and moved with the chord progression. It incorporates styles and licks that I had been messing around with in the months before going into the studio. It ended up being one of my favorites on the record. After trying a couple of options, Tony finalized the vocals for the bridge, which took the song to a new level. After that, the song finally felt whole and has been a favorite to play live. -- H.T.

"You Deserve Love"

"You Deserve Love" ended up being the title track of the record, even though we knew it by a different name while making the song. I remember the first time I heard this demo and I immediately loved it. It has a hopefulness and positivity that make it the perfect bookend and title track to the album. This track took some time to finish in the studio until we settled on the bridge/solo and ending with a chorus. I feel like I’m on fire when we play this song -- in the best way possible. -- R.H.



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