White Lung are very aware of the world around them. They know that feeling content is bad for songwriting, they know that in rock, being accessible is a dirty word and progress is frowned upon but to hell with that. White Lung know that you’re going to love ‘Paradise’.
“The last record [‘Deep Fantasy’] sounds pretty anxious and bleak and it’s hard to keep writing those kinds of songs without repeating yourself,” starts guitarist Kenneth William. “[We] had to move on to other stuff or it would be recycled junk.”
“Agreed,” adds frontwoman Mish Barber-Way. “You cannot keep writing the same record over and over and over and over and over and over. “
Following on from the bleak uncertainty and raging fire of 2014’s ‘Deep Fantasy’, the band’s next step is a record that’s just as brash, just as cutting but exists in a world of multi-coloured beauty. It taps into something guttural and necessary yet is very much a 2016 record. When White Lung talk, people listen and ‘Paradise’ sees the band at their most articulate.
Going into the studio with four songs finished and nine months of ideas on Kenneth’s iPhone, the record was “created by hacking up all those tiny pieces and rearranging them into full songs.”
“I spent about two weeks straight on vocals,” explains Mish. “I had a big book of lyrics going in, but the actual songs came together in the studio. This is how we have to write. We aren’t four people in a room doing songs start to finish. We don’t have a permanent bass player,” she adds. “I write pretty schizophrenically. I wanted to create good mental images with my words. Some songs are about five different things,” and all of those are chosen “the same way you decide to focus on any topic: because it interests you. My mind races around,” and ‘Paradise’ takes it all on. ‘Kiss Me When I Bleed’ is a “poor, white trash fairytale,” about a little rich girl falling in love with a garbage man, while ‘Below’ is inspired by a quote from academic Camille Paglia about glamorous women and “feminism’s failure to acknowledge that beauty is a value in itself, that even if a woman manages to achieve it for a particular moment, she has contributed something to the culture.” ‘Paradise’ is instinctive and full of pride.
“We took more risks writing the songs and it’s less consistent stylistically,” explains Kenneth. “We upped the production level. We made the vocals the focal point instead of burying them under noise and chaos,” continues Mish. “We got hip to the fact that our songs should be mixed big, bright and clean. We tapped into our strong pop sensibilities and were not afraid to flex the muscle. We treated each song differently in both production and style.”
“It’s a great album,” she continues. “Our songwriting has only become better. I don’t really care about negative reactions. I’m not a masochist. I have enough things to worry about in my life like house payments, bills and maintaining my relationships than worrying why some troll hiding behind a screen name doesn’t like our new album as much as the last one. I know I did the best job I could.”
As personal, heartfelt and to the bone as ‘Paradise’ is, “This album is not really about me,” Mish explains in the Q&A led by St. Vincent’s Annie Clark that came alongside the album’s announcement. “Of course, I wrote some songs about my own life. Mostly love songs. I wanted to be earnest. For me, it’s so much easier to write lyrics with cynicism, snark and spite then to genuinely write about being happy. I had to challenge that. But moreover, this record is a collection of other people’s stories I wanted to retell. There isn’t a lot of anger on this album. It’s colourful, bright, cotton-candy, over-saturated, neon signs and glitter… just paradise.” Everything about this version of White Lung is about rejuvenation and hacking at the established order of things.
“Annie likes our band and has been very supportive. When it came time to do a press release, I was hesitant to do a flowery, boring release. I get those every day from bands and they are a snooze. I asked Annie to interview us because she uses her guitar in an odd, similar way to Kenny. I wanted them to talk about guitar. A Q&A between musicians is far more interesting to read then some puffed-out press release. I am very happy she took the time to do that for us.“
Four albums in and White Lung are determined to keep it exciting. They’re confident about the release of ‘Paradise’. “We’ve been playing the new tracks live and they sound great. People will like the record.” And while they’re aware of that audience, they’re not letting it effect ‘em. “If people don’t like the direction we chose for this, that’s fine. Our old records still exist.”
“I want people to have a good time,” says Mish. “I don’t think that it’s a depressing record and hopefully what we put together is exciting for people to listen to.“
“I don’t think there are really other bands that sound like ours,” adds Kenneth. “Lars [Stalfors, producer] was good at bringing out what sets us apart and putting it front and centre.” At the forefront of White Lung is enjoyment and ‘Paradise’ sees them embrace that. As Kenneth explains, “I want people to sing along and feel something that makes them want to drive faster.”
White Lung’s album ‘Paradise’ is out now.