Interview: The Whigs

The Whigs know about pressure. Before they inked a deal with ATO Records, the band was the focus of a lot of serious attention. Rolling Stone hailed them as one of the country’s best unsigned bands, and their independently released album was getting major buzz. Now, out on the road supporting their label-debut with another buzz-band (Mute Math), drummer Julian Dorio explains how The Whigs deal with weight of success.

You guys are on tour with Mute Math right now. How is that going?

It’s going great. Last night, we were here in Nashville playing—which is actually a second home to them. They’re from New Orleans and had to move up here during the hurricane. It was huge. They’re the nicest people in the world and every show’s had a great turnout. We’ve also been excited to get to some new places; like we just got back from Canada, so that’s nice.

There’s a lot of live energy between the two bands. Do you feed off of each other?

When we got put together for the tour … I guess we’ve always been pretty energetic and people thought this would be a cool match, because people thought the same of them. It made sense, and I think the music’s a little different, but it’s been a lot of fun. People get into both.

When Rolling Stone said, “This could be the best unsigned band in America,” how was that for you? What did that moment look like when you first read it?

(Laughs). We’re obviously very flattered. It’s a cool thing to have written about you, but beyond that, we don’t pay too much attention to it. Not because we don’t care what they have to say or anything, but we know stuff like that … if you allow that to put too much pressure on yourself, it backfires. It was a nice thing for them to say but when it comes to playing shows, we’re just going out and having fun. It’s just a natural and carefree thing rather than trying to be the best or trying to be anything really.

A lot of people have compared you to different acts or tried to label you as certain styles. What would you say to that?

That’s tough. I mean, not because the music is so weird or anything, but generally it seems it’s pretty upbeat and fun. We’ve always liked having music you could listen to when you’re going out or listen to when you’re on your way to a bar or something. I guess that’s corny, but we’ve never been really melodramatic or sad. That’s not our nature. So I feel it’s upbeat, positive and fun.

Were there certain musical influences that found their way onto the album?

Yeah, I guess so. We all enjoy the minimalism of bands from the ‘60s. I like the minimalism of The Kinks and things like that. Not to say that their songs are simple, but playing parts that need to be played and not having a lot of extra fluff that happens a lot in modern music. People today add a lot of layers, and it’s almost like production comes before the song.

For us, we recorded this thing with no money. It was almost silly. If we were happy with the songs, even if it wasn’t technically the big sounding record or something like that, we figured that was secondary to songs. That’s how I feel when I listen to older records. The production on older records is incredible, but I feel that was a priority of theirs.

You guys recently signed to ATO Records, but that came after the praise from Rolling Stone and others. Did you have a lot of options? Why choose them?

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You know, we didn’t really have several to choose from like that. People always talk about “label interest,” and you have that from here or there, but we started to not pay attention to any of that unless we felt that interest was something that was legitimate and real and it was someone who also shared our interests. ATO was the first to step up to the plate to say, “We love this band. We love this record as is. We want to put it out. And we’d love to make future records”

I feel the thing with major labels is that they say, “I love this band. They’re awesome. So let’s re-record the whole album.” I’m well aware of the sonic qualities of our record. We made it. To me, those aren’t anything lacking to us. It’s the character and the nature of it, and you either like it or you don’t. We’re not interested in recording and then having to re-record it.

I like it. It’s like a [Rolling] Stones record. The Stones have so many freakin’ records. I feel like I can find a new one every day in a used record store. But there are so many great performance qualities about their records. It sounds like they just kind of got in there on whatever day they recorded and just knocked it out. They didn’t labor over it to the point where they’re going to suck the human quality out of it.

So it’s what we wanted to do and also had to do. We didn’t have a budget to sit in studios and redo everything. As soon as you get signed to a major label, you have a budget and can do that. For us it was going backwards artistically, so ATO stepped up and said that they wanted to be a part of this. They didn’t want to stop us, but instead just facilitated it.

What’s coming up in the near future for you guys?

I can tell you our timeline, although we’re still piecing it together. We’re finishing up the tour with Mute Math, and then we’re going home for the first time. We’re going back to Athens to take a good little bit of time for the holidays in December and January to be at home and just work on music.

On this tour, we’re on right before Mute Math, so you never get a sound check ever. Which is fine and great, but as a band we never play together until we start our show. So it’s impossible to do anything new. So we’ll go home for a while and work on music. We won’t start touring again until February. I’m not sure where or who with yet, but we’re basically going to hit the road again, and we’re interested in recording another record. So it will hopefully be a busy spring.

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