Shaun White’s band hopes debut album leads to greater success

Bad Things
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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.


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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.

White changes mind about Winter X Games

“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.

source:
Courtesy Laura Mende

“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.”

Jamaican Bobsled Team makes rounds at Sundance Film Festival

Shoma Uno tops Grand Prix Final short program; Ilia Malinin 5th

Shoma Uno
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World champion Shoma Uno of Japan leads after the short program at the Grand Prix Final, the biggest figure skating competition of the fall. Ilia Malinin, an 18-year-old American, is fifth out of six skaters after struggling on jumps on Thursday.

Uno, bidding for his first Final title after two silvers and two bronzes, landed a quadruple flip and quad toe loop-double toe combination en route to 99.99 points at the Palavela, the 2006 Olympic venue in Turin, Italy.

He takes a 5.13-point lead over countryman Sota Yamamoto going into Saturday’s free skate.

Malinin is fifth, 19.89 points behind, after stepping out of the landing on the back end of a quad toe-triple toe combination and spinning out of a triple Axel landing, putting a hand on the ice.

“It was a performance that I wasn’t really expecting,” said Malinin, who did not mention a left foot injury that affected him at his last competition (a win) two weeks ago. “We put a lot of effort trying to perfect all these movements in the program with all these jumps. The jumps didn’t go so well, but I think that my performance and my spins definitely have improved. … I just have to stay confident and look forward to the free skate.”

GRAND PRIX FINAL: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Malinin rallied from smaller short program deficits to win his first three competitions in his first full senior season, becoming the first skater to land a quad Axel in September and repeating it in October and November.

Uno, the world’s top returning skater after Yuzuru Hanyu retired and Nathan Chen went back to Yale, didn’t compete against Malinin at those earlier events.

“It wasn’t up to the levels of my best performance,” Uno said of Thursday’s short program, according to a translation. “But I think I was able to show what I’ve done this season up until this competition. I’m genuinely happy.”

The quad Axel is not a point-scoring element in short programs, but it is in free skates.

Malinin, the son of Olympic skaters from Uzbekistan, was second at last January’s U.S. Championships but left off the three-man Olympic team due to his relative inexperience. He went to senior worlds in March and finished ninth, then won the world junior title in April.

The Grand Prix Final, which takes the top six per discipline from the six-event Grand Prix Series, is the most exclusive figure skating competition. It was canceled the last two seasons due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Earlier, Japan’s Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara topped the pairs’ short program with 78.08 points, edging world champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier by 43 hundredths of a point.

Miura and Kihara, ranked No. 1 in the world this season, are bidding to win the biggest title ever for a Japanese pair.

Knierim and Frazier, who in March became the first U.S. pair to win a world title since 1979, recorded a personal best score with their first clean program since those worlds. Frazier put his hand on the ice on their side-by-side triple toe landings, but judges still barely graded it positively.

“We’ve made a big improvement from our [fall] Grand Prix [starts],” Knierim said. “I am elated with the outcome.”

Pairs experienced the biggest change of the four figure skating disciplines since the Olympics with none of the top five teams from the Winter Games competing internationally this fall. Russian pairs, traditionally the best in the world as a group, are ineligible due to the war in Ukraine. China’s pairs, including gold medalists Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, didn’t skate in the Grand Prix Series.

The Grand Prix Final continues Friday with the pairs’ free skate, rhythm dance and women’s short program, all live on Peacock.

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Katie Ledecky talks swimming legacy and life in Gainesville

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OlympicTalk recently caught up with Katie Ledecky to discuss life since moving from Stanford to Florida 15 months ago, her meticulous mindset, and the legacy she continues to build.

*This interview has been edited for length and clarity. You can also catch an encore presentation of Ledecky’s performance at the 2022 U.S. Open this Saturday at 4:30 pm ET on NBC.

What does a typical day look like for you Gainesville? Walk me through a full day starting from the minute your alarm clock goes off.

Ledecky: A typical day would be waking up at 5 o’clock in the morning and swimming from 6 to 8. Then I have weights from 8 to 9:15. I get breakfast, have lunch and then take a nap. Then I have practice again at 2 or 3 in the afternoon for another two hours.

Wow, that sounds incredibly busy! Have you had a chance to find any new favorite places to eat in Gainesville?

Ledecky: I’m still kind of finding my spots. There is a breakfast spot pretty close to campus that a lot of the swimmers like, so I go there quite a bit, but I’m still looking. I haven’t gone to very many places more than once.

What are you doing in your free time? Are you coaching?

Ledecky: Yes, I’m volunteering with the [University of Florida] team, but I think of myself more as a teammate. I have a lot of other things going on with sponsorships, but aside from that, I enjoy spending time with my family and friends. I have a piano and enjoy playing that!

How often do you get to see your family?

Ledecky: My parents, David and Mary, still live in the D.C. area, and then my brother, Michael, lives in New York, so I’m a lot closer to home [than at Stanford]. I see them around the holidays, and they come to a lot of my swim meets.

I know how much you love to stay academically engaged. Are you taking any classes at the University of Florida?

Ledecky: I’m not taking any classes right now. I’m taking a break, but I’m still trying to learn as much as I can just in other areas, reading a lot and watching the news, following different things that I’m interested in. I think at some point, I’ll probably go to grad school, but I’m still figuring out what area that would be in right now.

There’s a quote, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” I feel like that only scratches the surface of describing your work ethic and mindset. You demand excellence in every area of your life, not just from yourself, but from others around you. Can you talk about where that mindset comes from?

Ledecky: I’ve always had that kind of a mindset. I’m very driven, and I’m always setting new goals for myself no matter what I’ve achieved in the past. I’m always looking forward, I don’t take very many breaks, and so it’s always on to the next goal and making sure I’m doing the little things right and doing the things I need to do to reach my goals.

To be able to perform at the level that you do every single day takes a lot of mental toughness. What do Katie Ledecky’s inner thoughts look like? What do you tell yourself? Any affirmations? 

Ledecky: I try to stay positive no matter how well or how poorly a practice or a race is going. When I’m swimming, I give myself positive mental pep talks along the way throughout a race. I’ll say “keep it up,” “hold pace” or “hit this turn.”

I just want to read you a few tweets… 

You idolized Michael Phelps when you were younger, and now you’re that person for a lot of people. You’re the GOAT. You’re Katie Ledecky. Someone’s idol. What does that feel like?

Ledecky: It’s an honor to have young swimmers look up to me, and I don’t take that lightly. I try to be a good role model and reach out to young kids and sign autographs and take photos if people approach me at swim meets. I hope that there are some young swimmers out there that will grow up to be champions or maybe they’ll just continue to love the sport or find other things that they’re passionate about, but it’s an honor.

Have you had any memorable interactions with young swimmers?

Ledecky:  Yeah, actually the World Cup in Indianapolis [in November]. We were given those giant checks at the end of the meet that you really can’t travel with, so I was able to sign it and give it to one of the basket carriers at the meet. They were thrilled, and it was fun to be able to put a smile on their face.

Give me just one word to describe each of these milestones in your life, starting with the 2012 Olympics.

Ledecky: The first. It was my first international competition and my first gold medal, so that’s the one that’ll probably be the most special for me forever.

OLY-2012-SWIM

2016 Rio Olympics.

Ledecky: Consistency. I was swimming in multiple events at the Olympics for the first time and I just got into a really good rhythm and felt so comfortable in the pool deck. So confident. That was just a very unique feeling.

Tokyo Games.

Ledecky: Tokyo was different with all the COVID protocols. Nobody in the stands. No family there. But it was a lot of fun still, so a lot of great memories with my teammates there.

What kind of legacy do you want to leave behind at the end of your career? What do you want to be remembered for?

Ledecky: I’d like to be remembered as somebody that worked really hard and gave my best effort every time I got up on the blocks and represented Team USA. Hopefully, I can continue to inspire young kids to work hard in whatever it is that they are passionate about, whether that’s something academic, athletic, or something else. If you find something that you really love, you should go all in on it and try to be the best you can be at it.

You’ve achieved so much in life already personally and professionally, I just want to ask: Are you genuinely happy? Are you satisfied in this season of life right now?

Ledecky: Oh yeah, I’m very happy. I love the sport more and more every year. I get a little sad thinking about the day I will eventually retire–which isn’t anytime soon. I love the sport. I’m trying to just enjoy every day of training and racing and trying to be the best that I can be.

I say this all the time, I never imagined I would even make it to one Olympics and so to be training now to try to qualify for a fourth Olympics is it’s all just icing on the cake at this point and something that I truly enjoy. I enjoy doing it with my teammates, striving for similar goals, and getting to do it with really great people.

Knowing all that you know now, what advice would you give to your younger self — the little Palisades Porpoise?

Ledecky: I don’t have very many regrets or anything in my career, so I think I would just continue to tell myself to have fun and enjoy every moment. Maybe, write down a little bit more early on. I’ve done a better job of journaling and writing down different things so that I can remember them down the road, but I didn’t do as good of a job in 2012 and 2013.

Rapid-fire questions. Race day hype song? 

Ledecky: “Badlands” by Bruce Springsteen.

Finish this sentence: I’m not ready for a meet without … 

Ledecky: My suit, cap and goggles.

Did you have AIM back in the day? What was your embarrassing screen name?

Ledecky: I didn’t. I didn’t even have a cell phone until before the London Olympics. I think I actually borrowed my brother’s phone for that, and then we went out and bought an iPad so that I could FaceTime my family from London. I didn’t have an email account either until high school.

Your life is on the line. You need to sing one karaoke song to save it. What are you picking?

Ledecky: Well, USA Swimming did carpool karaoke in 2016 before the Olympics. My car did “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen, which is a great karaoke song because it’s like 10 minutes long so maybe I would choose that just as a fun memory. We also did “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen in 2012. Those are two fun songs with some fond memories.

Post-workout meal?

Ledecky: After morning practice, eggs and toast or veggies and eggs. I love breakfast. I could eat breakfast food for all three meals and I’d be satisfied.

Cheat meal? 

Ledecky: Either pizza or a burger.

If you had to choose another Olympic sport to compete in what would it be and why? 

Ledecky: Probably hockey. I’m not good on skates, but it’s my favorite sport to watch.

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