The pride of Athens, Georgia, three-piece rock band, the Whigs, will be playing WFPK's Waterfront Wednesday this month along with Dawn Landes and the Old 97s. A popular fixture on the touring circuit since their debut album in 2005, the Whigs are known for putting on energetic, sweat-soaked live shows. With the latest release, they wanted to capture something very specific about their sound within the confines of the studio. Whigs drummer Julian Dorio explained to me the philosophy behind their latest release, "Modern Creation."
"We wanted to capture a performance and the energy and the spirit of the band playing together. And for better or worse there's something that happens when the three of us play together." To do that, Dorio, lead singer Parker Gispert, and bass player Tim Deaux decided to record their new songs completely in live takes -- meaning no instruments were isolated so that parts could be replaced later with "clinically perfect" performances. "We wanted to play together but capture all of it. There was no redoing it, there was no muting or saying, 'Oh, I didn't really like that guitar, or we don't like that tone so we're going to re-do it all but keep the drums."
After hammering out the new material and rehearsing in their practice space for five or six months, the Whigs pitched their idea to veteran producer Jim Scott. Because they were removing the safety net of being able to go back and erase mistakes or strip out things they didn't like, they knew there was some risk involved. "There's a certain kind of engineering to capture that.You could play really well and go, man I really feel like we nailed it, but it could sound terrible. There's an art to that." Scott provided the art that allowed them to make the most of only a 14-day session in the LA studio. Each day they would set up and play one song and Scott would mix it in the evening. "We would walk out of there with a finished song every day." This style of recording added an element of excitement to the sessions and gave the Whigs a tangible sense of accomplishment at the end of the day when they had successfully captured a song with no studio production sleight-of-hand required.
Dorio said that it was cool to record in the way that a lot of the bands in the 60s and 70s did -- bands like the Stones and the Who. In another throwback to that era, their video for the single, "Hit Me," is a sly spoof of the long-running British music program hosted by "Whispering Bob" Harris. The video was directed by good friend and Wax Fang member Scott Carney and filmed in Louisville. Dorio fully credits Carney for the concept, which casts the Whigs in the over-the-top style of 70s rock bands. "He has a great sense of humor...and following Scott's lead, we are the Whigs but in 1974 with these ridiculous outfits, acting like we're really awesome and really happy about it. It's really silly." (Check it out below.)
It's no surprise that Dorio has a great love of classic rock bands. He fondly recalls his dad's record collection and how he nurtured a love of music in his sons by buying them instruments at an early age, encouraging their progress, and continuing that tradition even into their adulthood. Dorio has been playing drums since he was six. "We played as a family in the basement, and while we were having our drum and guitar lessons, my dad would stress the importance of a song and playing with others, what it means to write a song, and what all these vinyl records we're listening to -- what made them so great." Dorio remembers listening to Led Zeppelin IV with his giant Radio Shack headphones and drumming along with every song. "I mean, not well. You know at nine, I couldn't hang, but I was trying!"
Dorio's passion for music is genuine and infectious, a trait he seems to share with his band mates and, no doubt, one of the main reasons for their success as a touring band. "Modern Creation" is pretty infectious itself, a collection of lean-and-mean power rock songs, stripped to a core of buzzing, driving guitars, visceral drumming, and Gispert's assured vocals.
Catch the Whigs June 25th on the Big Four Lawn for a free show, also featuring Dawn Landes and the Old 97s (starts approximately at 6 p.m.). Get all the details on WFPK's website.
New video for "Hit Me":