For White, sitting with the rest of his new band — rocker Brendan Benson and the Greenhornes' Jack Lawrence and Patrick Keeler — it's an assumption that he has come to expect, and a frustrating one. But White believes there's one foolproof way to show people that his band is truly a band, and not his backup group.
"The only way to defeat that is to play live in front of everyone," says White. "I think we're seeing that wherever we go playing live, we're getting a fair chance. The more you keep pushing and keep going with it, the less and less people think side project, because side project usually means some flippant thing — you're not even paying too much attention to it."
"If that doesn't work, we'll all wear the same thing and get the same haircuts," deadpans Benson, prompting the foursome to break out in laughter.
Chances are the band won't need to buy matching suits anytime soon. Besides watching the band live, fans can just listen to their debut album, "Broken Boy Soldiers," to hear collective input of all four members. The album was produced by White and Benson and both wrote the tunes, while Keeler's drumming and Lawrence's bass round out the band's garage-rock sound.
But, initially, there had been no concrete plans for a quartet — or a band, period. Benson and White, longtime friends who lived down the street from each other in their native Detroit before White moved to Nashville, were simply collaborating with each other when they sensed something greater in the making.
"We always talked about it — playing together, get a band together or make a record together, or whatever," says Benson.
"Then after we wrote 'Steady, As She Goes,' it really just became apparent — let's make a record," Benson says of the band's first single.
At first, Benson and White set out to record as a duo — but later decided to tap the talents of friends Lawrence and Keeler, whose band opened for the Stripes. They also played with White as the backup band to Loretta Lynn when White produced her Grammy-winning album, "Van Lear Rose."
"There was no concept, no ideas, no rules, no script, nothing — we just went in blind," says Keeler.
It didn't take long for them to create the album, recorded in Benson's sweltering attic during one summer — "Over the course of a few days, I think we recorded all the tracks," Benson says.
But the foursome's individual commitments postponed their plans to become a united band for about a year. At one point, Benson — who had spent years toiling around Detroit's rock scene as an artist and producer before releasing his breakthrough third album, "The Alternative to Love," last year — even wondered if he was making a mistake by interrupting the forward progress that "Alternative" had provided.
But, he says, "It was an opportunity that I couldn't pass up ... It was an opportunity that I wanted to do forever."
It's a sentiment that the rest of his bandmates share. While they could have just made a record and done select performances on occasion, the group is embarking on a summer tour and plan to push the group like a real group — because that's what it is.
"We're really all dedicated. We decided to put aside everything else to go on tour and push this album, be this band that we wanna be. We didn't put any limit on it," said White, whose model wife recently gave birth to the couple's first child. "Everybody felt this is open ended."
And while fans of the Stripes, Benson or the Greenhornes don't have reason to worry — all say they are committed to their respective careers outside of The Raconteurs — the foursome is eager to create a fan base of their own.
"I'm in the band that I've always wanted to be in," says Benson.
By Nekesa Mumbi Moody