FROM: Louisville, Kentucky
HEAR: The World’s Best American Band
SEE: Lollapalooza, Project Pabst, ACL, Bumbershoot
Tony Esposito of the self-proclaimed “World’s Best American Band” assures me White Reaper aren’t competitive, because there’s nobody they have to compete with.
“The throne was easy to take because there was nobody watching it,” says the frontman in between bites of chicken fingers before a recent Nashville tour stop. “There just weren’t that many cool rock and roll bands in the past five years or so.”
“The throne was easy to take because there was nobody watching it.” — Tony Esposito
There’s hardly a hint of mean-spiritedness behind Esposito’s confidence, in part because the claim that gives the Louisville four-piece’s sophomore album its title is shrouded in a thin layer of irony. Consider it a sign of the times: good ol’ rock and roll has become an anachronism devoid of any chance at cultural dominance. Now that the youth rock and roll culture is no longer the one in the spotlight of arena venues, the days of self-serious fame may have left as well. But The World’s Best American Band is an album that seems to relish in the wailing guitar solos, bright keyboards, and bratty shouted vocals of greats like Thin Lizzy, AC/DC, and The Rolling Stones. The classic American rock and roll—only, you know, bands not from the United States.
“A lot of people ask us who the best American band before us [was],” says Esposito. “And I think about bands and realize they aren’t American.”
This is the inherent absurdity of a genre like rock and roll, one that is so wrapped up in American identity and notions of cultural exceptionalism. While the ’70s-style rock-star persona can often be attributed to American icons with superior sounding names like The Boss, it’s a fantasy to think it was ever exclusive to the US, or even perfected here (or, for that matter, that rock and roll is the progeny of white artists at all).
So what can this generation’s World’s Best American Band even look like? A band that simultaneously worships at the altar of the past and tears down the veneer of merit. A group whose routine includes listening to The Prodigy’s “Firestarter” as pump-up music before their own lively drunken sets. And while they’re not scared to mount the festival stages that will serve as their launchpads throughout the summer, White Reaper does so with catchy pop hooks aplenty on songs like “Judy French” and the broken-carousel track “Daisies”—pastiche that is both 100 percent joking and 100 percent earnest.
Consider it the band’s M.O. “We just called [the album] that because we thought it was a really good record and that it deserved a really good name, too,” says Esposito. What else should we expect from the world’s best? FL
This article originally appears in the FLOOD Festival Guide presented by Toyota C-HR. You can check out the rest of the magazine here.