Meet Bop English: White Denim’s lead singer debuts his first solo album

White Denim’s lead singer talks about his solo effort, his recording studio, and how he keeps cool — both literally and figuratively

James Petralli, best known as the front man of White Denim, recently released a solo project under the moniker Bop English. His debut release, Constant Bop, took the singer nearly four years to record as he balanced life on tour and spending time with his family. Petralli spoke with Citygram about some of his favorite ways to enjoy Austin and the many flavors that make up Bop English’s sound.

Citygram: What are some of your favorite Austin outdoor activities?

James Petralli: I’ve been going down to the South Shore District and walking with my family a lot. It’s really beautiful and right in the middle of downtown. I recommend it to people who haven’t done it yet.

I like Hamilton Pool a lot, just outside of Austin – that’s a really cool place. Blues on the Green is cool. It’s really good for local bands that may have never played on a stage that big.

I like to shoot clay pigeons sometimes. Before my daughter was born I used to make time once a month with some buddies and shoot clay out of the sky. Super Texas.

How did Constant Bop change and evolve over the four years you were creating it?

It started as more of a purist ‘60s, ‘70s recording, but a lot of questionable ‘80s synthesizers and drum machines snuck in.

I had three drummers on the record. Josh, the drummer from White Denim, was the third drummer on the record, so the band changed a lot. It was pieced together from different performances; nobody actually played together.

There’s a lot of tunes on the second side of the record. There (were) electronic drums and a lot more synthesizers, so it started to sound a lot more like a ‘90s R&B record in a way. None of those tunes ended up on this version of the record, so they’ll kind of come out.

There’s some Cars-sounding guitar effects and struck matches… ‘80s and ‘90s sounds started to come in. It started as more of a purist ‘60s, ‘70s recording, but a lot of questionable ‘80s synthesizers and drum machines snuck in.

You’re planning to release the second side later?

There will be a second edition, yeah. I made the record as a double record. They’ll get out at some point. I’m not sure how, but they will. They’ll see the light of day.

You’ve been recording with bands in your studio recently. When did you start doing that?

I have a studio up north that I’ve been running for about a year. It’s a really good mixing and overdub studio and has a lot of really cool, unique gear in it. It’s a private studio and I’ve been using it for gear storage. It was built to mix the last White Denim record and I’ve just been adding to it over the last few years. I really like synthesizers and I have a pretty extensive collection. It’s just a space to nerd out and make sounds.

How do you like working with other bands?

I like it most of the time, you know? I had some bands that I felt were there for the right reasons, to collaborate and make something. Then I’ve had some bands that wouldn’t listen to me at all.

I guess the producer/musician relationship is different for every musician and every producer. It’s a little bit weird; I’m still trying to navigate the emotional aspects of it. But I’m really sensitive on the other side as well. It’s a personality thing. When it’s working, it’s awesome. I’ve walked away from some sessions with bands where I learned more from that session than I have in a year of studying music. It helps me a lot as a bandleader and as a producer as well.

I love being in the studio, I love helping people out.

I love being in the studio, I love helping people out.

How will touring as Bop English differ from touring with White Denim?

The shows are going to be smaller, which is cool. I’ll get to play a lot of places that I played five, six years ago, so it will be fun to go back to some of those rooms. The personnel is different. Steve Terebecki from White Denim is going to join us on the road on keyboard, which is cool, so we’ll have half of the band together.

How does living in Austin feed you creatively?

For me it’s about the people that I’ve met and the relationships that I’ve made over the years that I’ve lived here.

I’m really thankful I met Ryan Joseph, who’s my partner, because I get to make really nice sounding recordings. I don’t think I’d be able to do that if I was in New York or L.A. I get to show up to an amazing recording studio every day in the afternoon, which is pretty cool. That doesn’t exist everywhere. To me it’s about the people.

What’s the best way to cool off on a hot summer’s day?

Going to Barton Springs and then having the juice at
Daily Juice.

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