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Interview: Mish Way on White Lung debuting in a meat locker, making music for 2016, and pretending to be Axl Rose

 

Punk rock is in a bit of an identity crisis. Most people don’t know if the true essence of the style is alive and well or continuously dying a slow death. Some critics say that it’s right where it should be by being out of the mainstream and back in the underground, while others still want to write about and prop up pop-punk bands that came out 20 years ago. Roaring out of Vancouver’s DIY scene and giving punk a much-needed jolt is White Lung. Their latest release, May’s Paradise LP, is achieving a steady amount of acclaim and they’ll be taking the stage in the Boston area this weekend.

The quartet of vocalist Mish Way, guitarist Kenneth William, drummer Anne-Marie Vassilou, and bassist Lindsey Troy will be invading Brighton Music Hall on July 30. Before Saturday’s night of musical mayhem Vanyaland talked to Way about the goals behind the making of Paradise, doing an acoustic cover of a certain Guns N’ Roses song, and Vancouver’s underground culture.

Rob Duguay: Paradise has been noted for its anthemic tone and for stretching the seams of the band’s punk sound. I personally find it to be the band’s most sonically inclined release yet. What was the main goal when the band went into the studio with Lars Stalfors?

 

Mish Way: The reason we chose Lars and the main goal for us mostly was to make a record that sounded like it was made in 2016. That means using all the technology that’s available to us to create the best songs possible. We didn’t use analog and we didn’t want the album to sound like it was made in 1990 or nineteen-whatever. That was a big goal for us and that’s something that Lars is very versed in doing and he had a strong vision for ourselves. For me personally I wanted to sing and extend my vocal capabilities and push myself in a new direction. When you come from punk your new direction is not writing a country album, though I’d love to, it’s going a bit more big and bright. With our band there’s a lot going on and we need to have clear production to have all the parts be in sync. So that was the main goal.

The album has a very powerful vibe to it, each song hits hard by bringing a lot of energy and you really feel it while listening to the record. Last month for a Sirius XMU session you performed an acoustic rendition of the controversial Guns N’ Roses song “Used To Love Her”….

I love that song.

The meaning of the song is somewhat of a mystery, Slash has said it had to do with Axl Rose’s dog, Axl has said that people should take it as it is while other people claim that it’s about domestic murder. What do you love most about the song and made you want to play the song in the first place?

I had to do a cover and I decided that I was going to learn one on my own. I was either going to do Fleetwood Mac’s “Songbird” though my voice wasn’t feeling the mood to try and be Christine McVie that day so I was like “Ok, I’m gonna learn this GnR song.” What I like about that song is first off I love that entire album Lies, I think it’s hilarious. They’re just so “fuck you”, cock rocky and awful, and I love that, I love that machismo thing that Guns N’ Roses had. That’s so essential to rock and that maleness that was going on then, I love it. I love that song because it’s a cheeky, dark, gross song about burying what you would assume is your girlfriend in the backyard.

The chords are all major chords, it’s like G, H and E the whole time with a great acoustic solo that Slash puts on top. It reminds me of The Shangri-las or an old Phil Spector song where it has these really happy chords while they sing about something really sad, depressing and kind of inappropriate. I just love that song, I like singing it and I just decided to play that. I felt in the mood so I did it. I love that song, it’s fun to pretend to be Axl, too.

White Lung has some very DIY roots, especially through their history with a venue that used to be in Vancouver called The Emergency Room. It was an art space that a bunch of bands used to play at including yourselves, Monotonix, and a bunch of others. How vital do you consider the place to be when it comes to your band’s artistic growth and what was the place like to play shows at?

The thing about The ER was that in Vancouver the city changes really fast so there’s not a lot of places to play. There’s always new spaces opening up but they eventually get shut down by the cops, it’s a continuous cycle. When The Emergency Room was around it was like an old meat locker that was turned into a practice space. White Lung actually played our first show there in a meat locker. This is so long ago, I still played guitar in the band at the time. We just loved playing there because it was the only place we could all play and all of our friends’ bands practiced in there.

A scene kind of grew of it when there was these six bands that always played The Emergency Room and it kind of became really popular. It eventually got shut down but it was great, the place was awesome and it was this weird place that was kind of hidden away and all your friends would be there to hang out with. It was a cool time, it was great. We were young and it was exciting, I think it was good when it ended when it did because it made it more special. It was a short lived moment in history. Justin Gradin ran The ER with some other guys and he’s done all the art for our albums and merchandise and he was really good at documenting what was going on at The Emergency Room. He made an LP of all the bands along with including a really nice book in there and he was smart to archive it. I think that’s why it has become a part of Vancouver punk history.

A DIY space can bring a community together in a much more unique way than a regular venue can. After the show at Brighton Music Hall on Saturday, what does White Lung have planned for the rest of the year?

The night before we’re playing at Osheaga Festival in Montreal and there’s another festival we’re playing outside of Ottawa that I’m excited about. There are a bunch of other things coming up that I can’t mention yet because they haven’t officially been announced but it’s some great international stuff so I’m looking forward to the rest of this year.

WHITE LUNG + GREYS + DJ CARBO :: Saturday, July 30 at Brighton Music Hall, 158 Brighton Ave. in Allston, MA :: 8 p.m., 18-plus, $13 :: Advance tickets :: Facebook event page