White Rabbits will be spending the next week on the road, wrapping up 2011 with a quick tour that ends December 11 in Baltimore. The reason for the trek, singer-pianist Stephen Patterson admits, is "a bit selfish." "We were itching to get out and play new songs," he says. Although Patterson initially worried about blasting the crowd with unfamiliar tunes — the band hasn't released a new album since 2009's It's Frightening— he says the reaction has been positive. "People are dancing more," he says. "I think that's a good sign."
Here's a possible reason why: For their third album, the Brooklyn indie rockers took their inspiration from an unlikely source — Beyoncé. "I love how she takes on different attitudes in her vocals," Patterson says, pointing to the singer's shifts from party-ready to dark and contemplative on her latest disc, 4. "Plus, her production is wild."
For the Rabbits as-yet-untitled LP, due in early 2012, Patterson didn't conjure up an alter ego, à la Sasha Fierce (but if he did, it'd be Stee Stee, his bandmates' nickname for him). He did, however, exercise some Beyoncé-style groove. "Our last record had a lot of raw energy and spontaneity and heavy tom-tom beats, but our new tracks have more of an R&B feel, rhythmically and vocally," he says. "It gets boring always trying to take from rock'n'roll bands."
To cut the album earlier this year, the band — which also includes guitarist-singer Greg Roberts, guitarist Alex Even, drummer Jamie Levinson, drummer Matt Clark, and bassist Brian Betancourt — rented a house in Austin, Texas, and enlisted producer Mike McCarthy (Spoon, Heartless Bastards), who mixed It's Frightening. "We had a house in a nice little suburban area, which was a nice change of pace," says Patterson.
The serenity helped the singer tap into his psyche. "Lyrically, this album is the most autobiographical thing I've ever done," he says. "With Fort Nightly [the band's 2007 debut], it was my first time as a songwriter, and I was insecure and self-conscious. With our second album, we had our guard up; we wanted to prove ourselves. At this point, I'm fed up with trying to avoid being myself." But don't expect Patterson to reveal all the self-referential topics he's referring to: "I'm bad at talking about that stuff."