By Jess Goulart
Photo courtesy of White Lung
How does a figure skating pro-athlete turn singer for one of the most popular up-and-coming Canadian punk bands?
Ask Mish Way, lead vocalist and co-founder of White Lung, a band sprung from her Vancouver DIY days back in 2006. An outspoken feminist and essayist for The Talkhouse and VICE, Way’s no stranger to a mighty pen. That fearlessness radiates from her conscious lyrics, which tackle all manner of marginal topics, and compliments White Lung’s irresistible musical wit.
The band first turned heads with their 2010 LP, It’s The Evil, and 2012 critically acclaimed LP, Sorry. In June, Way, Kenneth Williams (guitar), Anne-Marie (drummer), and Hether Fortune (bassist) released their third full-length, Deep Fantasy–a refined kind of chaos chiseled into masterful sound spheres ready to thrash you into oblivion.
BTR caught up with Way to chat about making a killer record when you’re down a bass player.
What’s your background as a musician?
Well, I was a competitive athlete in figure skating for my whole life, until I was about 15. But there comes a time in an athlete’s life where you’re either gonna go to the Olympics or you’re not, and if you’re not gonna go to the Olympics there’s no point in continuing. And at that time in my life I was starting to do mushrooms and party and I wanted to do all that stuff and that doesn’t really align with the figure skating story. So I quit and I found myself a guitar and a few lessons and met this girl in my high school who was in a band and she had a ton of punk friends and we started going to shows and… I guess I just got into music and got used to going to shows and got really inspired by seeing people.
And how did you form White Lung?
After all that I met Anne-Marie, our drummer, and her and I got along so well that we just had to start a band together. And we started White Lung. She was in a bunch of bands before, she was in this band called Noz and always playing around, but White Lung was my first real band.
What are your major influences?
Well the thing is is that our influences are all so eclectic, so like we have things we all agree on–actually I think there are only one or two — Misfits. I like Misfits, Anne-Marie doesn’t. Anne-Marie and Kenny like Alice in Chains, I don’t really give a shit, but we all love Nirvana. Ken is really into a bunch of goth-y dark new-wave shit and metal music, me and Anne-Marie don’t really listen to a lot of that. I listen to a lot of soul. Our influences, our inspirations, are so individual that we don’t really discuss it with our band. The only time it comes out is when we’re driving around on tour and deciding what to listen to.
Album art for Deep Fantasy.
Is there any particular vibe you’re going for with Deep Fantasy?
It wasn’t so much a vibe we were going for so much as that we all knew, individually, what we wanted to do with our parts. Which is always a challenge for us–like how am I gonna beat myself, how am I gonna do better than what I did last time and make this record better. And try and top your own standards. And so for us it was a completely different process this time because we kicked out our old bass player and Kenny was gonna play bass on the record, and that was like a huge decision.
But I think this record is a lot more thoughtful and careful, we had more time. It came together more in the studio, rather than having a bunch of tracks that we knew were working live. Because we didn’t hear any of these songs played with four people until way after the record was done. It was really weird… but it worked.
Do you feel like it’s a big divergence from Sorry?
No, it’s more like an extension of Sorry. Kenny worded it well, it’s sort of like the second half of where Sorry left off. And maybe he was thinking of his own guitar part there, but I feel like Sorry was a lot less direct lyrically for me. I was hiding things and secrets, and I still do that in my work, but I’m a lot more direct on this record and feel a lot more positive about myself as a front person and that gave me a new confidence and allowed me to be more vulnerable in my lyrics and talk about things and admit things that I may not have wanted to in the past.
Those things probably make for really good stories and really good questions. Ultimately I think vulnerability is always more powerful.
We also thought about this record for longer. If I heard a word wrong, I would go back and fix it. Because I’ve been so apathetic in the past–like who cares, I don’t caaaare. But at a certain point, not caring isn’t cool, ya know what I mean?
What’s the writing process like for you guys?
Usually Kenny does the guitar part, and whether it’s almost an entire song or just two little guitar parts that he’s got, he’ll show it to me and I’ll start working on it, or he’ll show it to Anne-Marie and they’ll start working on it. But because of the way we did the last record, me being away for the second half and not having a bass player, we couldn’t really jam things out the way we have in the past. So Kenny would send me these frets that he’d made on the computer and then I’d start working on my parts and we’d eventually all come together.
And actually, a lot of the songs were written with he three of us playing in our practice space, but Kenny having to play double duty bass and guitar parts, and that really affected the way he wrote and affected the way the songs came out and, in the end, it was positive.
That sounds difficult…
Yeah it was challenging but in the end it was way better because Kenny is a control freak. Kenny is like a humming bird, he’s like constantly anxious and zipping around, and so my melodies had to be direct and clear to combat this. I can’t scream and be all hectic, I have to play the opposite part, and I think that worked.
What was the recording process like for Deep Fantasy?
So we go with the same dude Jesse Gander, he’s Vancouver-based and he’s done all our LPs since the first one. He’s just the best at his job, he’s done the Japandroids records, he’s done a bunch of other stuff, but he knows us so well and he’s in a new studio that’s kind of near my old house. So we went in and did the first half of the record, and then we waited a month, and came in and did the second half. There was a lot of stuff done in the studio, like, I finalized a lot of my vocals there because I wasn’t able to hear a full base line until we were actually in the studio. Jesse had a big hand in the production, and we’d sent in some demos so he knew where we wanted to take it.
Did you guys discover any great bands yourselves while on tour?
This band that we played with in Wales that we didn’t know before, called Luvv, I believe, they’re SO good. I was just blown away. These guys were amazing, just really melodic punk but kind of weird with a British edge to it–their drummer was incredible, they’re a really great band.
Or check them out live:
September 2 2014- Great Scott- Allston, MA
September 3 2014- Glasslands Gallery- Brooklyn, NY
September 4 2014- DC9- Washington, D.C.
September 10 2014- Subterranean- Chicago, IL
September 13 2014- Basilica Sound Scape 2014- Hudson, NY