The Whigs may be one of the last true rock and roll bands going. With so many artists playing to niche versions of the genre, the Athens power trio carry the torch of the straight-ahead, big chorus-singing, distortion-loving, fist-pumping, ‘70s and ‘90s bands that they grew up listening to. Coming up on their recently announced fifth album, Modern Creation (April 22, New West), the group took a few moments to give us the backstory on what they call their rawest album yet.
Paste: I don’t feel like it’s been all that long since we last saw you guys. Enjoy the Company came out at the end of 2012, and here we are at the beginning of 2014, so this isn’t the usual song cycle.
Parker Gispert: Yeah, it’s a quicker turnaround time for us, but it’ll still have been 18 months between albums.
Paste: Maybe it’s just that you all are such hard workers, and I know that’s part of your reputation, that The Whigs are always out, always on tour, always have something going on. When did you start working on the new record?
Gispert: Pretty much immediately after we recorded the last one. It’s always inspirational right when we get done doing an album. You want to keep writing and keep moving.
Paste: Do you guys take the long breaks where you say, “we’re going to take six months off. We can’t do this right now”?
Gispert: I don’t know what profession, or at least I haven’t found one, where you get to take six months off, like I’m just not going to go to work for six months.
Paste: Yeah, I guess you have to be to a certain level of rock stardom.
Gispert: We’re not to that.
Paste: Does anyone still carry side jobs or side gigs outside of the band at this point, or are you well beyond that mark?
Julian Dorio: “Well beyond” is maybe, I don’t know about that.
Paste: There are certain markers of success that you have to etch off, and you have to celebrate those, or you’re never going to celebrate anything. The fact that you don’t get off here and go back to a construction job at some point, that’s a level of success.
Paste: So what’s the story behind the new record? Who’s the producer, and where did you record it?
Gispert: Yeah, we recorded it in Valencia outside of L.A. with a guy named Jim Scott, who we hadn’t worked with yet. It was fantastic. Knocked the record out really fast and had a great time. It comes out in April. April 22.
Paste: So what is the search for a producer like for you guys, because you’ve kept it pretty varied every album. Has there never been a point where you said, “we’ve got to do that again”? Are you afraid that one producer will give you too much of the same or are you always looking for that change?
Gispert: Yeah, you always learn a lot from these guys, and it’s always exciting just to meet somebody new and get to hang out for a little while and learn from who they’ve recorded with and pick up stories. We’ve been fortunate enough to work with great people every record. I guess it’s just been a natural evolution to work with someone different each time.
Tim Deaux: Yeah, and I think it pertains to the songs, so if we have a new batch for the new album, of course, we’re a rock band and we’re writing in that vein all the time, but if the songs feel this way or that way, we might lean toward a certain producer for that album. And like Parker said, it’s a wealth of knowledge that we become sponges for during the sessions. Just hanging out with these guys is incredible.
Paste: So what comes with this one then? Is it a change in direction? The last one, Enjoy the Company, was known for being brighter and having more glam in it. It was a fun record. Do you stay the course or will this be another turn?
Gispert: I don’t know. It’s always really hard to predict how it’s going to hit people’s ears. I’d say it’s probably the most raw and I think maybe the most rockin’ album.
Dorio: Yeah, for the most part it’s all live. Very few overdubs. Jim, one of the first conversations we all had with him, we brought up the idea of getting the band in a room and just cutting it all to tape, and he got really excited about that. And I think that’s, in a way, maybe what Jim brought to the table, his eagerness and enthusiasm to just get us in a room and throw some mics up and play the songs and cut it and knock it out. Like Parker said, we did it really, really quick, and working fast keeps the energy high rather than tracking one song, and then maybe let’s track the drums. You do a week’s worth of drum tracking, and then you come back and do the guitar or vocals or whatever. It’s pretty boring to do it that way.
Paste: I know every situation can call for something different, but I’m always amazed at how some bands can be really afraid of tracking live.
Gispert: Yeah, it requires a certain amount of preparation to cut it that way.
Paste: Right, and to me that’s what can make a good band. If you can hone in on it, walk in and knock it out. Back in the day, that was the only way you could do it. If you were going to be a recording band, you had to be ready before you went into the studio.
Deaux: That’s exactly it. That’s what we know, and all the records we grew up listening to were recorded that way, so why not do it that way?
Paste: Album number five. It seems like you all are building toward your grand statement. Consistent album, one after the other. Does number five mean anything? I’m not trying to brush it off as just another record in the canon of The Whigs, but at the same time, once you start getting up to this point, it becomes, “are you writing your masterpiece or are you building toward it?” Where does this one lie?
Gispert: I don’t know. It’s not out yet, so it’s hard to tell. We certainly feel great about it, and I’d say it’s a culmination of everything we’ve done as a band up to this point.
Paste: There was a song on the last record called “Rock and Roll Forever.” We talk about the greatest rock bands of all time, and maybe The Who’s too easy to pick on for this one, but they built up to a rock opera. I don’t know if you all are ever going to write a rock opera, but you write songs like “Rock and Roll Forever.” I feel like there was a point a few years ago where I started to wonder about rock’s place in all of it. Without the gimmicks. Wondering if whether a solid rock band could stand. Your buds Kings of Leon have been able to push through and be that kind of band, but when you’re out there working, do you feel that push, like “do we have to have a gimmick now?” Can you push through as a rock band in 2014?
Gispert: Yeah, all those things are kind of out of our control in a sense, you know. It’s always been just the artist vision of the band to be a rock band and to be a gimmick-free group and just to be straight-ahead and to be true to what we feel like we should be doing. And as far as our place, that’s just up for other people to decide.