It’s a sweaty Thursday afternoon and SXSW Music is entering its last corner for another year. I find myself standing out the front of Barracuda, listening to White Lung belt out their last five or so minutes of live show chaos on stage inside. Shortly after, Mish Barber-Way and Kenneth ‘Kenny’ William join me outside for a chat on the street before the band’s front woman rushes to her next SXSW commitment.
“The time is so crazy!” William says of the nature of SXSW sets. “The most stressful part is just setting everything up and getting everything out so fast, its nuts.”
Their Austin run of shows is part of White Lung’s lead up campaign for their highly anticipated fourth album, Paradise (due out May 6th). The new record marked a new way of writing and recording for the band and as a result, a new way of delivering the material live. Retaining that same White Lung ferocity that fans have been switched on to for the last few years now, while integrating the energy of this new album into their live shows is a progression and development of the band we were lucky to witness at showcases through SXSW Music this year, an indicator of what’s still to come.
“We had to do a lot of figuring out how to work those songs live,” Barber-Way admits. “I mean, he’s [William] got a completely different set up, we’re treating it differently…I think we’re just paying attention a little more. Before, I was like, ‘Oh we can just be drunk and who cares?’ Now, there’s a lot more thought.”
“We had the last year off,” the band’s vocalist comments, excited about the prospect of new shows. “We did one tour and a few fly outs, that was it. So now, it’s back on and I’m excited for the album to come out. I think it’s our best songwriting yet.”
Together with drummer Anne-Marie Vassiliou, William and Barber-Way have opened up a new facet of the band’s live presence, thanks to the way Paradise came together. Working with producer Lars Stalfors in LA, the Vancouver natives approached the record not like your general rock and roll process, instead taking more of an electronic lean.
“One of the things that had restricted us before was that, we had this rule where we don’t record songs that we can’t pull off live.” William says. “We were never using any overdubs or anything. Now, we have this new set up where I can trigger samples of pre-recorded stabs and hits of guitars, little delay trails and stuff like that. It’s really opened up what we are able to do. Now it sounds bigger, but also a lot clearer, when we play.”
“The way we approached it was,” he says of Paradise‘s recording process. “I had been recording little snippets of stuff without ever creating full songs for almost a year and then we went to Los Angeles to record with Lars, who did the new Alice Glass record and he did HEALTH’s record. We went in there and we approached it like copy and paste! Rather than recording it live off the floor, we approached it the way you would approach electronic music, or something.”
“We treated it like it was an electronic record,” Barber-Way adds. “[but] with the same rock format.”
“I wanted to prove that I could sing,” Barber-Way says. “I spent a lot more time on vocals. Kenny and I worked completely independently.”
“We were barely in the room at the same time, which is something that we’d never done before. I trust him and he trusts me. I just wanted to take two weeks to work on my vocals; I wrote everything in the studio, which is a very different thing to do.”
As we stand outside the venue chatting about this new White Lung record, it’s clear by looking at the two musicians that they’re sitting on something brimming with potential with this new album. Paradise is spoken about with nothing but confidence and with a few months still left to wait, White Lung aren’t slowing down in the meantime, preparing for tour dates set to take the band right through into July once the album drops.
“Our producer Lars was really good,” Barber-Way says of Stalfors’ influence in studio. “He’s like, ‘Vocals are never paid attention to on punk records,’ I don’t really think we’re punk, but okay! We really paid attention to melody and we wanted to writing fucking catchy, hard, great songs. I think we achieved it.”
Paradise by White Lung is released May 6th through Domino.