Published on February 6th, 2014 | by Ballard Lesemann0
The Whigs Concentrate on Contemporary Creativity
Established in Athens, Georgia, and currently based in Nashville, pop-rock power trio the Whigs have been cranking out jangly, muscular, melodic, guitar-driven tunes for 10 years. Singer/guitarist Parker Gispert, drummer Julian Dorio, and bassist Hank Sullivant formed band in 2002 while attending the University of Georgia. They gradually built a strong reputation for energetic stage shows, clever songcraft, and flexible musicality.
Gispert, Dorio, and bassist Timothy Deaux are still at it, recording smart pop and rock originals, hitting festival stages, and headlining cool venues.
The last few times the Whigs visited Charleston, they were touring in support of critically claimed studio album titled Enjoy the Company. The 10-song collection was produced by studio man John Agnello, known for his work with Dinosaur Jr., Drive-By Truckers, and Sonic Youth.
This week, the trio returns with a fresh, new set of riffy and melodic originals under their belt and a new release on the horizon.
“If Enjoy the Company had a bit of a cleaner sound and featured a few more mellow songs than usual, this next one, Modern Creation, is a little more raw and edgy,” drummer Dorio says. “We wanted to get back to getting together in a good room as a full band and just banging the songs out.”
Modern Creation is due in April via the New West label. Dorio and his bandmates are self-disciplined and tend to spend an entire year demoing and experimenting with new song ideas and arrangements before entering a recording studio. They’re not dilly-dallying with the mics up and the clock ticking.
The band spent only a couple of weeks tracking the 10-song Modern Creation at PLYRZ Studios in Valencia, California (just north of Los Angeles), with acclaimed producer Jim Scott (Wilco, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Weezer).
“We knew that we wanted to record this very live and raw, and hearing and feeling the energy of the performances immediately on the playbacks really encouraged us,” Dorio says. “Working with Jim Scott was great. He was up for it. Sometimes we nailed a basic track in two or three takes.”
Modern Creation‘s lead single “Hit Me” bounces with an upbeat rock/dance rhythm in 4/4 time with a clean, crisp full-band sound. Jangly, funky, and authentically poppy. The comfortable and confident vibe reflects the overall tone of the sessions.
“PLYRZ studio is an amazing warehouse with a studio inside,” Dorio says. “It’s like a musician’s paradise with all sorts of instruments. It almost feels like a clubhouse where you can listen to and play music. We ended up in the warehouse part rather than in the studio’s main room. It was like playing in a great practice space with the amps and drums in same room. We didn’t overthink anything. We just counted songs off and went for it.”
“We did a song a day, which was so fun,” he adds. “Jim was so cool to work with. When we got the sound and got the take, he’d have us do a few simple overdubs and do the actual mix that day. It wasn’t the typical situation where you record and record and the producer says, ‘Yeah, we’ll fix of this in the mix later.’ It was more like, ‘Why can’t we make this sound awesome right now?'”
The Whigs performed at the Exit/In in Nashville last week, and they kick off their current Southeastern tour on Feb. 6 at the New Brookland Tavern in West Columbia, including shows in both Carolinas and Tennessee. The band will headline the Pour House in Charleston on Fri. Feb. 7. They’ll jump back on stage at the Shaky Knees Festival in Atlanta on May 9.
“We always love coming back to Charleston, and we really love playing at the Pour House,” Dorio says. “We’re excited to play the new songs, but we’re aware that it’s weird for those who know our music to be hit with a bunch of songs they’ve never heard before. We’ll mix it up and give some variety. We’re two months ahead of the new album coming out, so we just want to play a few new things and see what kind of reaction we get.”
After Modern Creation hits the street in April, the Whigs will hit the road pretty hard, traveling around North Americana and beyond. Dorio claims he still loves the road work — even over fun studio sessions like the one they enjoyed with Modern Creation. “I’m still very much into the road thing for sure,” he says.
Keep an eye and ear out for another visit from the Whigs later this year.
The Whigs perform at the Pour House on Fri. Feb. 7 with support from the Junior Astronomers. Doors open at 9 p.m. Tickets are on sale for $13 ($10 in advance). Visit thewhigs.com and charlestonpourhouse.com for more.
Top photo by Joshua Black Wilkins.
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