The World’s Best White Reaper

Kentucky crew kicks off the mosh tonight at Sidewinder

Imagine a hybrid of Cheap Trick and Diarrhea Planet playing at a haunted house: Classic rock with sinister guitar riffs and starry keys bouncing off drum hits that power instant anthems into whiplash territory. Take a gander tonight at Sidewinder when White Reaper sandwiches between Oakland punk (headliners Swmrs) and L.A. punk (No Parents).

Reap What You Sow: (l-r) Tony Esposito, Ryan Hater, Nick Wilkerson, and Sam Wilkerson

In the Next Big Thing parlance of South by Southwest, which the Louisville, Ky., fivesome stormed last month, perhaps they’re the next Cage the Elephant, southwesterly neighbors of White Reaper in Bowling Green. Live, both bluegrass staters explode onstage in a hail of guitars and often lashing tempos. Somewhere in all that likely resides the reason why White Reaper shouldn’t use highways.

“Basically a guy chased us in his car,” began frontman Tony Esposito while in Austin for March madness.

“He saw some paraphernalia we may or may not have had!” interrupts guitarist Hunter Thompson, an Austin native.

“This guy saw the box and tried to run us off the bridge,” continues Esposito. “Eight hours after that, we were in Vancouver.”

“I was really high on mushrooms and I saw a lady get hit by a car there,” offers keyboarist Ryan Hater apropos of road-trippin’ horror stories.

Lucky for us and perhaps unfortunately for them – or maybe it’s entirely the other way around – the group, powered by sibling duo Sam and Nick Wilkerson on bass and drums respectively, has again unleashed itself on unsuspecting highways in promoting their second full-length, April 7 drop The World’s Best American Band. On tastemaker indie Polyvinyl Records (Japandroids, American Football, Xiu Xiu, Deerhoof), the album crosses Northwest emo pop with Seventies gigantosaurs like Grand Funk Railroad and Blue Öyster Cult.

“We worked really hard on this one,” says Esposito.

“We got one guy that orders Jimmy John’s, the other guy drives drunk, the other guy pours the drinks, and the other guy’s slappin' the bass,” cracks Hater.

Follow-up to 2015’s White Reaper Does It Again, the new one delivers on its title with punches both polished and crude. Esposito’s rhythmic wails, for one, maintain the self-assured feistiness that characterized its predecessor. It sounds all grown up, but still resides in a mosh pit filled with rowdy, uninhibited teens.

Sam Wilkerson cites “Crystal Pistol” as his favorite.

“Because it’s got a fun guitar and bass run thing in the middle of it,” he says. “And it’s got like a spooky, spacey vibe to it.”

Hater put forth “Daisies.”

“It’s got a lot of keys in it,” laughs the keyboardist.

Nick Wilkerson follows suit and namechecks the title track because of his drum solo.

The Austinite of the group has the final word.

“I sound great in all of them!”

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White Reaper, Tony Esposito, Hunter Thompson, Sam Wilkerson, Nick Wilkerson, Ryan Hater, Cage the Elephant, Cheap Trick, Diarrhea Planet, Grand Funk Railroad, Blue Öyster Cult, Swmers, No Parents

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