April 24, 2007

The Whigs Impress Barton

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One of the freshest new bands in the garage rock scene, the Whigs are the Athens, Georgia, conventionally educated version of Kings of Leon, but with a sound that’s much more uniquely versatile. Frontman Parker Gispert called up Daze after the show on Sunday to reminisce about one of their biggest gigs to date.
Daze: Your album is called Give ‘Em All a Big Fat Lip. Do you guys fight fair or dirty?
Parker Gispert: We don’t fight at all. We’re lovers.
Daze: So is it an ironic title?
P.G.: I was trying to be playful. A name that was unique, but not real serious.
Daze: What was the alternative for you if you weren’t going to pursue music?
P.G: I don’t know. I try not to really have backup plans a lot of the time. That’s kind of a bad psychological route, but if everything didn’t work out, I guess we’re college graduates.
Daze: What did you study while you were at college?
P.G.: I was a philosophy major and Julian [Dorio, drummer] was a psychology major. Sam [Gunn, bass] was an English major, and what else? Sam … [consults Sam.] Sam was an English and journalism so watch out! Your job might be in jeopardy.
Daze: Have any of those studies helped you guys directly in your music?
P.G.: [consults] Julian has psychology helped you play drums? How do you feel about that?
Daze: Me?
P.G.: Yeah.
Daze: I feel like psychology might be helpful in drums. You know, trying to get at the beat of a person’s psyche … No?
P.G.: [Laughs] Yeah, no, probably not.
Daze: Okay, how was the Cornell gig as compared to other shows you’ve done at other colleges, and generally?
P.G.: The show was actually kinda weird. It was awesome-weird though. The past two college shows were big shows like that. We played one with the Fiery Furnaces two weeks ago and it was probably thirty people for both bands; it was really fun. College shows are always great because there’s always people involved with student government or the kids who are putting on the show, and there’s always some people that are fired up who wanted to bring you there who get you really excited. And it’s always cool ‘cause there all our age too. The college kids are a lot of fun; it’s cool. The crowd at Cornell was huge. That was amazing that we got to play to that many people.
Daze: You guys come from Athens, Georgia, where there is a fountain of musical talent, how much do you guys rub elbows with other bands from the Athens scene?
P.G.: Past or present?
Daze: Any.
P.G.: If you go out on any particular night you might see one of the guys from R.E.M. They’re still around. And there’s that whole Elephant 6 thing, which was about six or seven years ago, but the people in those bands are still hangin’ out. A band called the Glands is my favorite Athens band ever. Their bass player is going to record our new record with us, and he’s helping us write all the bass lines for the new record. Sam, who played bass and guitar last night, he is in a band called Iron Hero. Our original bass player [Hank Sullivant,] who plays guitar and piano as well, he quit right when we ended our last tour. We’re really fortunate that we live in Athens where there are so many bands because we needed to find someone who could play bass, guitar, piano and sing and who was ready to go on tour. Sam lives down the street from me and he’s great. We also needed to find someone to write the bass lines for the new album we’re recording in July. One of our favorite bands ever is the Glands, and so he [Andy Baker] is going to do that. There’s lots of people just around the corner if you’re looking for players.
Daze: Did you guys play a lot at the university when you were there?
P.G.: We never played the university. It’s all clubs. Athens is a ton of bars. Downtown Athens is just bar after bar, club after club. That’s why you can get a lot of gigs. You just set up at a club and play. Long before we were a band we were playing at bars. I had a tour in Athens.
Daze: Were you guys born and raised in Athens too?
P.G.: No, I’m from Roswell, which is a suburb of Atlanta. Our drummer is from Atlanta. We all live in Athens now.
Daze: You guys have opened for some of the top acts in rock right now. You’ve opened for Franz Ferdinand, the Killers, Maroon 5, now OK Go and All-American Rejects. Haven’t you even opened for Jessica Simpson?
P.G.: Yes we did.
Daze: What was that like?
P.G.: It was like 8000 12-year olds and their dads. Maroon 5 was actually at that date too and it was weird. But we’ll probably never have an opportunity like that again. We were still in school. It was just on a weekend and we got a call, ‘Hey, need a local opener for a show. Do the Whigs want to play?’ And we’re like, ‘Okay!’ So we just rode down there and played.
Daze: Who has been one of your favorite acts to tour with, and why?
P.G.: We just toured with this band called Waxfang, from Louisville, Kentucky, and they’re fantastic. They’re great to tour with because, first of all, they’re all good musicians. They can all play their instruments really well, and their songs are all really well-written. They don’t sound like anybody I’ve heard before; they’re definitely original. And overall, they’re all really good people. They have their priorities straight. Like the guy in All-American Rejects: we got an email from a 50-year old man from the gig before that didn’t like the penis gestures he was making. We’re not really friends with people who do that kinda stuff so at a certain point, you are hanging out with those people so Waxfang is fun to party with. Ok Go was really cool; I like them a lot. I didn’t talk to the All-American Rejects so I don’t know what they were like, actually. That’s the kind of people you want to tour with. You’re playing like 20 shows in a row. You want someone who you can like, eat lunch with and have a conversation with.
Daze: The three of you are like a power trio. At least some of the time it’s guitar-bass-drums. Why did you like this setup for your band?
P.G.: It’s not a setup that I’m entirely attached to, but as far as a band who’s starting out, you can’t really hide anything in a trio. Everything has to be essential to the music. There’s so little, only a guitar, bass and a drums. If someone’s not contributing something, there isn’t room for anybody to not be a factor. The bass lines can’t be in the background; the guitar part can’t be nothing. Everybody has to be an equal part of everything. It makes the song at the forefront of what’s going on. Sometimes I wish that we did have more textures and stuff going on, but I don’t know. There’s something just kinda cool about a three-piece, in that sense. How bare it is.
Daze: Where did your band name come from?
P.G.: Terrible answer on this one: we just had a show. We didn’t have a band name and they said, ‘Hi, we need to put something on the flier, what is your band’s name?’ We said, ‘We don’t have one.’ They said, ‘Well, call us again in 30 minutes and tell us what your band name is.’ I said, ‘Okay.’ So we just sat there and came up with named. That’s the one we liked and there it is.
Daze: Was that your very first gig ever?
P.G.: Yeah.
Daze: Whose idea of the three of you was the Whigs?
P.G.: That’s actually a friend of ours who just happened to be there at the time and he said the Whigs, and I think I said, ‘Why don’t we put the ‘h’ in there and make it like the political party.’ They all said, ‘Cool.’ We just liked it because it didn’t really imply anything. If the name of the band was like … the Death Monkeys, you might think that we’re a hard rock band. And if the name of the band was the Little Girl Smiley Faces, you might think that we’re like a twee kinda band. So it was like we didn’t want it to make you think of anything. Hopefully the sound of the band will say what the Whigs is.
Daze: After Rolling Stone named you one of the 10 artists to watch, did anything interesting happen? Are people watching you now?
P.G.: We signed a record deal. It may or may not have played into that. I’m sure it didn’t hurt things. Shows have been relatively the same. It’s definitely helped.
The Whigs’ album Give ‘Em All a Big Fat Lip is available on iTunes and on Amazon.com. Visit www.thewhigs.com for more information.