September 19, 2012

The Whigs

An Athens Powerhouse Comes Home

The Whigs

Born in Athens 10 years ago, The Whigs still identify this town as their home, even though they've lived in Nashville for a year now. But that's no big surprise—the trio passed through all the stages of band growth while here, playing small club shows before evolving into a regional powerhouse and eventually finding national acclaim.

The band's fourth album was released this week. Enjoy the Company features 10 tracks of the same punchy, vivid rock and roll that the band has honed over its decade together. Riffy, powerful and loaded with drum whomps, the album was created by the band with producer John Agnello, known for his work with Dinosaur Jr., Drive-By Truckers and Sonic Youth.

The band's previous albums, including its 2005 debut Give ’Em All a Big Fat Lip, were released by the ATO label, but Enjoy the Company marks the band's first pairing with New West Records, the Austin-based label with copious Athens connections. The Whigs spent most of the past two years on the road, performing with Kings of Leon and The Black Keys and even as part of a USO tour of Germany and the UK.

Currently on a three-month headlining tour, the band swings through town to celebrate the new album at the Georgia Theatre before heading up to NYC on Tuesday, Sept. 25 to perform "Waiting," the new single, on "The Late Show with David Letterman." Flagpole rang up vocalist Parker Gispert last week to chat about his new album and new hometown.

Flagpole: Are you looking forward to getting Enjoy the Company out into the world?

Parker Gispert: I am, yeah. It's crazy. We finished the album a few months ago, so it's always weird to be done with it and have it sitting around with nobody hearing it for so long, so it's going to be good to get something out there for everyone to hear.

Every time [we've released an album] it's been different for us. Circumstantially, with bandmembers it's been different. We've recorded every album somewhere different. [For] this one, we were in Woodstock, [NY], and we were working with John Agnello. And usually, the songwriting process is a little different each time.

FP: You've told me before that you write a lot of songs while on tour. Was that the case with this record?

PG: It was, yeah. I probably got about six of the songs written on the road. Any time I can just sneak some of the tunes on the road, that's a success. And then recording was pretty great too. John is a crazy Northeast dude who just operates at a different pace than most anybody I've ever been around. He has a couple kids and is out with the band having a great time until way early in the morning, then gets up a few hours later… and is a full time dad for the daytime. He's just a machine. That type of energy is definitely super inspiring to be around, and he really got us fired up and focused.

It was also his idea to be out of [the city and in] Woodstock, which worked out to our benefit. There were no distractions, and we could just concentrate on the record without anything else in the way. I think we always try to focus when we're recording. The second record, which we did in Los Angeles, there was a similar kind of band-camp feel, except in Los Angeles there's always a lot more to do. This one, getting [away from] home, and with Woodstock being such a slow, serene place, there was a different vibe. I think it made it really easy on the band…

FP: What sort of plans do you have coming up?

PG: Get on the road in the van. Some TV, that sort of stuff. [We] shot a music video. It's for "Waiting," the sixth song on the album—we worked with [photographer and director] Danny Clinch. I do still get excited about this sort of stuff, you know? It's weird, I almost feel odd talking to other bands and saying that I'm still super excited to tour all the time. We all genuinely like the touring. Every part of the process gets a little better the more you do it… You work with different people and it gets more exciting.

FP: So how are things in Nashville?

PG: Man, it's been cool. I was living in Athens for 10 years, and obviously love it, and that's home, but it's been cool for the band to be in Nashville. Nobody's married, nobody has kids, so we get to go out and explore. We've been to Nashville a lot, but you never really get to see what it's like and experience it until you live in a place. There's a good amount going on, musically.

FP: Tell me about the decision to move up there.

PG: I think it was important for us to stay in the South. Julian and I are from Atlanta, and size-wise, [Nashville is] somewhere between Athens and Atlanta. It's a little more central, for touring, as a home base. The airport's easy to travel in and out of, and when something comes up in Athens or Atlanta it's just four hours away… If my friend has a baby or somebody's getting married, I can just come down.

Julian and I live in East Nashville, which is pretty similar, vibe-wise, to Athens, I'd say. I walk to the practice space, I walk to the bars and restaurants I like to go to, I don't really get involved in any of the downtown stuff that maybe Nashville's typically known for. It feels like its own little town in a bigger city.

FP: So now when you tour through Athens, do you rent a hotel room? Is that weird?

PG: [Laughs] I think we'll just stay with friends. We decided a hotel would be weird. Last time [we played in Athens] we had a hotel room, and I don't think anybody used it except me, and that was just to take a shower.

It's weird, I was there a month ago, and—you'll think I was crazy—but I drove down one afternoon just to go get a bite at the Taco Stand and a drink at Normal Bar, and drove back to Nashville. I'll sort of just pop in when I have free time. It's a nice drive, and it doesn't feel like I've been gone. It's home.