It’s always nice to see ‘Friends.’ ‘We just saw Mathew Perry at Starbucks,’ said Plain White T’s front man and vocalist Tom Higgenson, a few moments before his band took the stage at the Troubadour in West Los Angeles on March 23.
Despite the five-piece band’s growing popularity, the lead singer is still able to be starstruck. This is somewhat surprising, considering that on the evening of their Troubadour show, in which Plain White T’s headlined for openers The Matches and Waking Ashland, it was Higgenson who was getting star treatment when he was spotted and approached by the band’s ever-growing fan base.
However, Higgenson was nice enough to let me pull him away from the crowd of female fans long enough to ask him about the tour and the band’s second full-length album entitled ‘All That We Needed,’ which was released Jan. 25 on Fearless Records.
‘The shows have been great. Even better than we expected,’ Higgenson said.
This is no surprise for anyone who has seen a Plain White T’s show, during which the band displays energy and enthusiasm that lets the audience know they love to play live. When the band hits the stage the audience responds to their presence.
Their hard work on the road three-quarters of the year has paid off, earning them spots on the bill with the likes of Jimmy Eat World, Fall Out Boy, Yellowcard and Story of the Year. For the last two years they have also played The Surf and Skate Festival as well as The Vans Warped Tour.
‘[Touring] is hard, very hard, but I love it,’ Higgenson said. ‘Just to be able to do this is awesome. All of the work is not a big deal because of what you get to do.’
Most of the preshow activity by the band is done at the merchandise table, comfortably conversing with fans and other bands. Higgenson explained his relaxed yet focused approach to preparing for shows.
‘I warm up sometimes, most of the time vocally. That’s about it. Just go up there and do it,’ Higgenson said.
Plain White T’s history dates back to 1997 in the suburbs of Chicago when Higgenson and Dave Tirio, the band’s rhythm guitarist and Higgenson’s high school friend, started playing music together for fun.
‘We were just playing music together in my basement, playing Weezer and Pearl Jam covers. I started writing songs and we just started a band,’ Higgenson said.
After putting out a few self-produced EP’s, the band was signed to Fearless Records and put out their first LP entitled ‘Stop’ in August 2002. The LP featured the infectiously catchy title track of the same name, which, for the first time, caught the ears of listeners outside of Chicago.
The band has expanded upon their brand of pop-rock on ‘All That We Needed,’ their sophomore release on Fearless, which they worked on with producer Ariel Rechtshaid, producer for The Hippos and We Are Scientists.
‘We did it out here, actually, [in] North Hollywood,’ Higgenson said. ‘[Rechtshaid] was awesome. We’ve been friends with him for a while. We met him a few years ago and he demo-ed a few songs with us back then, so it was really cool to be able to do it with him. It was really laid-back and just more like fun than anything,’ Higgenson said.
The result of the experience was 13 well-crafted pop-rock songs, most of which feature the high-energy sound that the band has been acclaimed for. There are a few exceptions, such as the slow jam ‘Hey There Deliliah’ on which Higgenson’s songwriting capabilities, a skill he has been honing for many years, truly shine.
The development of each song actually begins with the lead singer.
‘Usually I’ll write a song completely from start to finish and then I’ll show it to the band. Then I’ll sit down and really figure it out, put the music behind it,’ Higgenson said.
Though the members of Plain White T’s have changed over the years, the chemistry between the current group of guys is apparent when they are playing on stage. With Higgenson, the current lineup features Tirio on guitar, Mike Retondo on bass, Tim Lopez on guitar and backup vocals, and De’mar Hamilton on the drums.
Hamilton is one of the key ingredients to the band’s entertaining live show, driving the backbone of the band with an attitude that displays his passion for playing music. The audience at the Troubadour responded with much affection, making these Chicago natives feel very welcome in Southern California, a place Higgenson praises with a similar enthusiasm.
‘I love it out here. I was just saying