WHITE LUNG – Interview

Foto-© Lindsey Byrnes

In einem Moment gefeierte Punk-Größen, im nächsten schlägt das Leben zurück und schmeißt dich völlig aus der Bahn – White Lung können so einiges davon erzählen, wie sich Karriere- und Lebenspläne von einem Moment zum nächsten verändern können. 2014 wurde das Album Deep Fantasy des Trios vom Rolling Stone in die Liste der „40 größten Punk-Alben aller Zeiten“ gewählt, als sich 2017 dann Frontfrau Mish Barber-Way mit Gitarrist Kenneth William und Schlagzeugerin Anne-Marie Vassiliou sowie der langjährige Produzent Jesse Gander in ihrer Heimatstadt Vancouver zusammen tat um an der Arbeit ihres fünften Studioalbums zu beginnen, hatten sie keine Ahnung, welche Veränderungen auf sie zukommen würden. So fand Barber-Way während sie sich auf die Gesangsaufnahmen vorbereitete heraus, dass sie mit ihrem ersten Kind schwanger war. Es folgte eine Pandemie, dann ein weiteres Baby, dann eine Reihe massiver gesellschaftlicher Zusammenbrüche.

Doch das Trio schüttelte sich und kehrte Anfang Dezember mit ihrem finalen Album Premonition zurück – und beschert uns damit ein erwachsenes Abschluss-Album, voller roher, wilder Energie. “Ich hatte das Gefühl, dass dieser Teil meines Lebens ausläuft, also habe ich diese wütenden und verängstigten Gefühle auf die Stadt L.A. projiziert, weil es sicher und bequem ist, in seiner Wut zu leben, anstatt sich selbst zu reflektieren”, verrät Mish. In den Songs geht es um Geburt und Wiedergeburt. Es geht darum, den Nihilismus hinter sich zu lassen und sich gleichzeitig zu weigern, die Freiheit aufzugeben, die er bietet. Es geht darum, gegen die Welt zu wüten, während man in ihr immer noch Platz für Hoffnung und Liebe findet. Es geht darum, zu wachsen – und älter zu werden -, ohne die wütende Energie der Jugend zu verlieren. Wir sprachen über all das, was war und was wird und natürlich über Premonition mit Mish Barber-Way – unser Interview:

There was a long wait building up to Premonition – I think it’s my favourite White Lung album, but I’ve said that about each of the last 3. You have decided that this will be your last and based on the subject matter I can make some guesses why, but could you talk about that decision and where it came from?
We finished a big tour that ended in Singapore, Australia and New Zealand in February 2017. We decided we would take a break and I was offered an editorial job that I couldn’t turn down, so we were all kind of doing our thing. We decided to slowly start recording and I would fly up to Vancouver and we were working with our old producer Jesse Gander. In the midst of flying back and forth I found out I was pregnant in the studio. That kind of changed things because originally, we were supposed to put the album out in June 2019 but that was my due date. Obviously, we couldn’t put the album out then. So, we’re like, we’ll wait till 2020. No problem. Well, what happened in 2020? The world ceased to exist for a couple of years. So, during that unintentional hiatus that was placed on our band, we all grew and did our own things. I ended up having another kid and moved to a really rural area and just started building my life like that. And Kenny and Anne-Marie also went on with their careers. And so, when it finally did end, this material was done. We finished everything before I had my first son. The record was just sitting there. We were thinking is this thing ever going to come out? So, when it came time to actually be able to release it, we kind of decided, this is the goodbye, this is the right album. Because when we finished Paradise, we knew that wasn’t the last one. We were kind of thinking it might be, but we knew there were more songs to write. And this time the opportunity presented itself and it felt appropriate lyrically and the themes just felt like a good exit.

The story is that you found out you were pregnant with your first child during the original recording sessions for Premonition in 2019. Did any of the stuff that you were thinking about and dreaming of before you found out make it onto the final thing?
It was just our producer Jesse and I that day I found out in the studio. Jesse was the first one to find out. Before my husband, before anyone knew, Jesse was right there. And I called my sisters and was like, get me another test, because for some reason, when you find out you’re pregnant, you feel like you need to take another test to make sure it’s true. The false positives are very rare. A false negative is more common. I had originally written, I think, three songs. And then after finding that out, it just changed everything. And it became my obsession because obviously I was going through all these major changes in my life and my body and prepping mentally and physically for motherhood. So the first couple of songs were written without that, and then there was the thing of I had always relied so heavily on alcohol when I was recording, because I think that I’m a very anxious person and I would rely on that and I couldn’t do that this time. And it forced me to be vulnerable without being clouded, which is something that I’m super grateful for, because that kind of opened up a lot of other things that I probably wouldn’t have experienced because I was pretty unhappy with the way I was consuming things like that. So, a lot of big changes happened during the course of this album and writing it, and I’m glad that it’s documented and put into these songs.

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None of those three songs that you wrote before made it onto the record?
They did. Date Night was written first. Oh, man. What were the other ones? I think I wrote Winter, which is the last song in the album. We started recording it before I found out and we ended up finishing it. So that song really isn’t about pregnancy or about motherhood or any of those things. That is just like a chaotic anthem. And there was one more. And I really can’t remember what it is. Date Night was my saying goodbye to my life in Los Angeles song. I had a lot of unhappiness the last couple of years living there. I think that’s because I wanted a family so badly and I wanted a different life than I had, and I didn’t know how to achieve it. I felt like I was on the hamster wheel of the touring party, constant movement, and it just was exhausting, and I didn’t want to do it anymore. So, I think when we bought our house and moved an hour and a bit away up to the mountains, that was like the goodbye. That is sort of just making a joke about human existence.

The sentiment on Date Night and much White Lung’s previous material is: burn the past to the ground, look forward only. There is the amazing image of being on a date with hot drunk God in a Cadillac, but then on Bird there is this beautiful passing of the torch moment where you tell your child that they are the wild one and you will hold on to things and be consistent, stay reliable. It’s also partially about not wanting to let go of something. Do you think that the punk ethos and being a parent can coexist for you as it does for the few minutes in this song? Could you talk a bit about that tension?
I think that when I became a parent, it makes you think about the world differently because you carry these children inside your body, they grow in you and they’re born, but they have their own path. Your job is to teach them and shape them and prepare them for living in the world. And the world is changing so quickly so it’s a really interesting thing to navigate. I’m a total control freak and have been my whole life and being a mother has taught me to relinquish a lot of that because I can’t even control my children, one day they’re going to grow up. They’re going to be who they want to be. They’re going to do exactly what they want to do. And there’s like a weird serenity and peace that comes with knowing that, and it kind of makes you feel different. I was always very fearful of the world and not being able to predict or dictate what would be going on around me, which I think was a cause of a lot of my anxiety. As I’m coming to realize that you, kind of just have to let go and live, it’s given me a lot of joy that I never experienced before because I lived in a lot of fear and a lot of anxiety. Just having children teaches you that so quickly – you’re powerless over anyone except for yourself and your own actions and reactions to what’s going on around you. Bird, I love that song. It’s my favourite song on the album. We had just flown up to Vancouver. Right when we landed, it was the first time I heard my son kick and actually move inside of my womb, which was such a wild thing. It really made me realise this is another life with its own path, its own brain. That was really a freeing and cool thing. And it just solidified the reality of what was going on because there’s the weird beginning of pregnancy. It’s kind of all feels not quite real yet. And then when that happens, it’s very real. And I was thinking about the relationship to my own parents and the push and pull and how the child and the parent relationship evolves over time. It took me forever to write that song. Kenny and Anne-Marie had the song done forever, and I was just like listening to it and I couldn’t put anything to it. It was my favourite song musically, and I just hated everything I wrote. And then I took that flight and it just all came out perfectly.

It’s a really beautiful song. I really love Under Glass too. Under Glass is the biggest change in style ever in the White Lung catalogue, I wondered that might have been a teaser with regards to a new direction you might take… Are you going to continue making music in a different capacity?
I don’t think you can ever as a musician be done with music. My house is like filled with musical equipment, piano, guitars, everywhere. I want my kids to play music. I think it’s a great outlet, especially when you’re a child. I notice they have big emotions and maybe it’s because they’re so little. I’m a very sensitive and emotional person, and I think my children will be that way. Music is such a great outlet for that. So, I hope to keep playing in the future. Who knows what it will hold? Under Glass, Kenny wrote that song and I remember him saying, “I’m trying to write you a Stevie Nicks song.” I thought it was pretty cool. I was having such trouble writing because it was during the pregnancy. Normally lyrics just flew out of me so easily that I was so frustrated, and I felt like I couldn’t write, and I was second guessing everything that was coming out and I hated all the lyrics that I was writing for that song. And then I kind of just leaned into that frustration. I don’t even know what it was, but I kind of just leaned into the frustration and wrote that song. It’s a strange song for us, sonically.

I think the production on your albums has become more polished each time and it creates a really interesting tension between rawness and pop sugariness. Was there a particular idea you had about how you wanted this one to sound going into it?
As the production becomes more and more clear, there was so much more room. Kenny went back and did so many overdubs on this record and really perfected all his guitar. I hadn’t listened to the record in so long and then I listened to it again and there’s so much guitar going on, it’s really busy, he is such a good guitarist and songwriter that he’s able to just place it all so you hear it all.

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I love the different guitar lines and textures on the album but especially on Tomorrow, which is a consistently surprising song guitar-wise. How are these songs written – are they from jams or do you thrash the barebones out and write all the different lines and textures afterwards?
The first couple of albums we wrote in a room. I would be like following over. And I never really heard what I was doing because we were writing in this loud, insulated, crappy practice space. The band evolved and grew and the process sort of changed on Deep Fantasy, Paradise, and Premonition. Kenny will record some scratch tracks at home. He’ll put like a fake drum beat behind it and just share them with us. Then usually him and Anne-Marie will go in the studio and they’ll record the whole song with bass and everything, and then I’ll hear it. They’ve already created this perfect musical stage and I just get to sit there and write on top. The lyrics, the melody, figure it out, do all the harmonies. Thank God for technology because it gives us the ability to send things back and forth and listen. Jesse would send me tracks that they had recorded and finished so I could listen to them while I’m at home and figuring out what I want to write. By the time I get to the studio I have my ideas. Kenny always plays bass on the record and then when we would play live, we would just have someone come and play. I think it’s a good method. And it gives you more time. It’s nice to be able to sit with a song. When I moved ten years ago, when I left Canada, I moved to the States. We couldn’t just pop into a practice space and play. This gives you more time to think. I write so autobiographically like a journal, too. So, it’s funny, now that I’m older, that I can look back and I have this documented musical. It’s like a journal of my life from 20 to now. Which is pretty interesting and cool, and I’m really grateful for being able to be in a band and make all these records.

Are you planning to tour the album?
We are trying to figure that out. We definitely want to do a goodbye show, but we have not played together since like 2018. None of these songs have been done live, so we’d have to figure all that out. But the option is there every day and we just have to work with our booking agent and figure out what’s best. But I would like to do some goodbye shows.

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