Shaun White’s band hopes debut album leads to greater success
Bad Things front man Davis LeDuke has googled Sochi Olympic gold medals to “imagine the emotions that we’ll all feel” next month.
The band’s excitement watching its lead guitarist go for Olympic snowboarding history in February could match its feeling Tuesday.
Two-time Olympic champion Shaun White‘s band, Bad Things, dropped in with its self-titled debut album, now available on iTunes.
White is known for his halfpipe amplitude when he isn’t strumming.
LeDuke believes Bad Things can reach similar heights.
“I want him to win both golds and get a platinum record, or a gold record,” LeDuke said in a phone interview Sunday while at Aloha Cafe in Los Angeles. “Hopefully we can get all three.”
White, 27, has been a pro snowboarder since he was 6 and began his music career about a decade ago, when he received a bright yellow Fender Stratocaster as a Winter X Games prize.
He initially thought to keep his involvement in the band, started with childhood friends, a secret. Signing with Warner Bros. in May brought Bad Things to a bigger stage.
Is he as good on the guitar as he is on the snowboard?
“One of the many talents that Shaun has is he’s extremely good at adapting and picking up things pretty naturally,” said LeDuke, who has known White for about two years, shortly before LeDuke joined the band. “For as long as I’ve known him, he’s a much better guitar player than I am, which initially was intimidating, but I’m not the guitar player. I’m the singer.”
The album, a two-year project, was originally slated to be released in October.
“It’s been a long time coming,” LeDuke said. “We’re anxious because we want people to like it.”
It was pushed back because the band wanted to tour as soon as possible after its release. Doing so in the fall or early winter would have been impossible with White training for the Olympics.
“The kid trains his ass off for months at a time and really has to be in that zone,” LeDuke said. “He loves to focus on getting ready for competitions and being on the mountain. He likes his time off the mountain, too. We’re fortunate enough to be a part of that.”
White feels fortunate, too.
“If you stick in the mountains, stick to the same thing too much, you lose that motivation,” White said in November. “The music and playing in the band has definitely given me that distraction to where I come back [to snowboarding], and I’m excited.”
They’ve booked one post-release venue so far -- the Firefly Music Festival in Dover, Del., in late June -- and are in talks for more after making plenty of noise over the last six months.
The highlight was a surprise Lollapalooza set on a main stage in Chicago after two other bands were unavailable. They were described as a “synth-rock crew” by Rolling Stone and draw inspiration from the Beach Boys, the Velvet Underground and Iggy Pop, among other artists.
But what’s the story behind the name, Bad Things?
This YouTube video, which has nearly 10 million views. A 7-year-old boy took his grandmother’s SUV on a joy ride and said after, “It’s fun to do bad things.”
“It’s something everyone can relate to,” LeDuke said. “He doesn’t really have any remorse about it. Everyone can relate to that at some point in your life.”
The LA-based band has remained in contact with White as he plied his more well-known trade on mountains in California, Colorado and Australia the last few months. They’ve stepped back a bit as he focused on making the Olympic Team in halfpipe and slopestyle, but LeDuke still talks to White on at least a weekly basis.
In Sochi, White could become the first American man to win the same Olympic event three straight times in halfpipe, and the first snowboarder to win two gold medals at a single Games.
“I’m sure you could imagine how much pressure that is [on White],” LeDuke said. “I try to be there as much as I can as a friend. We’re there for him, and we love him.”
LeDuke said he’s not a major sports follower outside of his Lakers obsession.
“But to be so closely involved with someone who’s so passionate about something that I know nothing about is an amazing experience,” he said. “If he wins or loses, you’re a part of that either way. You feel the emotions he feels.”
LeDuke says the band is about collaboration. Their songs are born from gathering in rooms, exchanging ideas and riffs.
“The chemistry is undeniable,” he said. “I was skeptical because I’ve heard of celebrities’ hobby bands and hobby record labels and all this stuff. Once we basically got together as a band, we all sort of just molded all our minds together and created many things so naturally.
“I get asked, ‘I’ve heard you’re in Shaun White’s band, what do you do?’ … People are confused. They have this idea of Shaun being the front man in the spotlight, and that’s not what it is. We’re all a part of it. We all do an equal amount of work.”
The band is so close that White consulted with them before cutting his Flying Tomato locks for charity in December 2012.
“I know that he was so sick of living up to something that was like, his hair, and that’s the way he started to look at it,” LeDuke said. “I’m sure, before he was like, ‘This is my hair. This is how people know me.’ He’s 27 years old. He’s not a kid anymore. We [the band] don’t care what your hair looks like.”
There are few instances where the band has faced what it’s like to have one member with more than one million Twitter followers.
“I like to think that when things have happened, it isn’t because of Shaun but because our music speaks for itself,” LeDuke said. “That’s what we want to portray. Shaun’s in this band, but we’re all as much a part of it as he is. It just so happens that he is one of the best snowboarders to ever snowboard.”
They were surrounded by about 50 people at Disneyland a year ago with fans wanting pictures with White, but the rest of the band felt sympathy for White as he accommodated requests.
Autograph hounds stop White at airports, too.
“He doesn’t want to be a jackass,” LeDuke said, “but it’s overwhelming.”
White knows his athletic skills will drop off faster than his music talent. LeDuke, who said the band couldn’t function if it lost any one of its five members, believes they all want to do this the rest of their lives.
“What we want is the world,” he said. “We want it all. Do we want to be on the Disney Channel dancing around, having our own movie? No, but we want people to know who we are and hear what we have to say.”
They’ll get that chance again, after White takes on the world in Sochi.
“We’re all very anxious to see how things pan out,” LeDuke said. “My fingers are crossed. I would say to him, ‘break a leg,’ because that’s what you normally say when you play music, but I don’t want to say that. I just really hope he gets what he wants out of it. Knowing Shaun, his expectations are high for himself, and he can be hard on himself sometimes. He’s still the same Shaun to us.”