Interview: White Collar Sideshow 10-17-19
Interview by Levi Yager with TD and Veronica Benton of the band White Collar Sideshow.
I had an awesome time watching your guys’ new show the other weekend. There’s nothing like it. I noticed the video side of it reveals a pretty cohesive narrative involving the songs from the new record, complete with chapter divisions at certain points. How would you summarize the plot of that story?
T: The video takes place in another world called The Valley of the Skull. The underlying theme is focused on identity. There are three main characters, The Marauder, played by me, The Executioner (the pig) and Veronica’s character, Tikkun Olam. They take over the Valley of the Skull by stealing identities and multiplying their horde. The henchmen do the dirty work, and they catch Tikkun in a moment of compassion. She lets a few children go, so they capture her, ultimately steal her identity, and The Executioner pushes her off the tower to be overtaken by the horde. As with all of our projects, there is a deeper meaning behind the plot. We leave that to be discovered by the viewer. The lyrics tell the story throughout the video, and the monologues add even more depth. The movie and songs go together to create one cohesive piece. The inspiration behind the film was The Twilight Zone, Spaghetti Westerns, Sin City, Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez. We hope the viewer will be able to create their own narrative and perhaps see something new every time they watch it.
I’m digging the “space-western” direction you explored sonically and visually throughout I Didn’t Come Here to Die. When did you decide to go that route for the new album and film, and what influenced that decision?
T: Musically, we are influenced by old country, especially The Highwaymen, rock, metal, industrial and more. We tried to combine all of our influences to create music that is more our own identity rather than putting it in a box. We were hoping for a mashup that gave us an original sound. That’s why we have dubbed our own genre “Shock-n-Roll.” The film was originally going to be a true western, but due to budget, Travis Joiner (our video mastermind) had the idea to film it all on a green screen and use motorcycles instead of horses. We were able to create another world which offered a lot of forgiveness because we were creating our own place and time vs. a true-to-life period piece.
It’s cool getting to hear Veronica sing on a lot of the new songs. What was the thinking behind including her on vocals this time around?
T: After Phil, our other drummer, left, we decided to reinvent ourselves. Veronica has been a singer for years, so I thought it would be a cool dynamic, meshing her voice with mine. The music has become more mature, so adding her vocals was just the icing on the cake. It’s created another layer to White Collar Sideshow and our evolution. Her voice works perfectly in our space western theme.
With your previous additional drummer Phil Wells having stepped away from the band a while ago, how did his absence affect the making of I Didn’t Come Here to Die?
T: I had already written all of these songs with two drum parts. So when we got in the studio, I decided which parts I wanted to play and our producer, Chris Baseford, helped navigate our new sound. Eliminating the second kit helped Chris and I become more creative and avoid repeating the sound from our past two albums. We ended up with more space to use other instruments and sounds that have shaped this entire album.
I know a foundational part of White Collar Sideshow is dragging darkness out into the light and meeting shame with grace, originally with a specific focus on pornography addiction. What key factors in your life have helped you resist viewing porn, and what would you say to encourage someone else who struggles with it and wants to break free?
T: It’s my all-time greatest struggle. Accountability is huge. Being involved in a group and having the people in your life who are closest to you lifting you up and holding you accountable. My wife has been my biggest cheerleader through this struggle and not just this struggle, but falling back into any addictions that I have had. Being honest with yourself and the ones you love is key. Therapy has been a game changer for us. My mental health is something I have taken very seriously over the last several years. It’s helped me overcome suicidal thoughts, depression, shame, guilt and old addictions. Choosing integrity when it’s hard and not letting a single mistake dictate your future. While performing our first album, which released 11 years ago, and talking with people after shows, we realized everyone has a “pig” that they struggle with. We can’t be defined by our struggles, and our mistakes are not our identity. All of this has helped me get back to my spiritual, mental, emotional and physical roots.
I’d consider y’all veteran performers and road dogs to the core. What’s the most practical piece of advice you’d give to bands that are just starting to really grind it out on tours?
T: Learning how to be a fist, a solid unit, not just a bunch of fingers. How a band lives together on the road definitely translates to how they interact on stage. We have been able to pick up and go because we have eliminated anchors in our lives. It’s a tough life, and staying on the road is a 24/7 job. It’s so important to take care of yourself on the road. Eating right, exercising, getting sleep and taking care of your spiritual and mental health. V and I hold each other accountable in these areas. We have also learned that building relationships on the road keeps you going. Interacting with fans, venue staff and host homes. Don’t just let life pass you by – take time to have the conversations and take in the scenery.
Elements from horror films have been a consistent theme in White Collar Sideshow since the beginning. So I’m curious, what is your favorite movie in the horror genre and why?
T: My favorite is probably “The Shining.” Ultimately because I feel like, for whatever reason, I connect with this film on an emotional and mental level. I can relate both with Danny as well as Jack. I love the way Kubrick filmed these grand, wide shots and the way he makes you wonder what is coming around the corner. I wonder how I would act if I was in the shoes of each of these characters. Not to mention, the way he uses the soundtrack just haunts me.
V: “Cabin in the Woods” was such a fun breath of fresh air. I love horror comedies. “Shaun of the Dead,” “Tucker & Dale” … so funny!
Is there anything you’d like to add?
T: We live off the love and support of our friends and fans. We use music as an excuse to hang out with people. We share our stories to help other people realize they are not alone. Keep an eye on our tour dates and come say hi. You can find us online at http://www.whitecollarsideshow.com.