THE WHIGS: Road Journal

“No worries. Take your time,” I assure Parker Gispert, frontman of Athens, Ga.-based ATO Records rock trio The Whigs. Fresh off two blistering and well-attended performances at Bonnaroo in Manchester, Tenn., he and drummer Julian Dorio and touring bassist Sam Gunn are backstage, plopped down on the plush couches of the Onitsuka Tiger booth trying on free shoes. I’m waiting for an interview-scheduled to start nearly two hours prior- with a band playing its first Bonnaroo and enjoying the perks that backstage has to offer. Or so I think.

“No worries. Take your time,” I assure Parker Gispert, frontman of Athens, Ga.-based ATO Records rock trio The Whigs. Fresh off two blistering and well-attended performances at Bonnaroo in Manchester, Tenn., he and drummer Julian Dorio and touring bassist Sam Gunn are backstage, plopped down on the plush couches of the Onitsuka Tiger booth trying on free shoes. I’m waiting for an interview-scheduled to start nearly two hours prior- with a band playing its first Bonnaroo and enjoying the perks that backstage has to offer. Or so I think.

“They didn’t have my size. Maybe I can wear these on the beach,” Gispert-somewhat of a Thurston Moore look-a-like-laughs as he opens the box to reveal a rather heinous pair of kicks, white Velcro slippers with blue and orange accents. “Except I never go to the beach.”

Before we can start the interview, Gispert informs me he needs something to eat. I sit down with him in the backstage dining hall to talk a bit over a hearty supper of meat and potatoes. Just like the steak I’m chomping into, The Whigs new musical fare is beefy. I mention this to him, remarking particularly about a song played during both sets titled “Already Young.” It’s a raucous, early ‘90s grunge rocker and the heaviest song the band has played to date.

“That’s true,” Gispert replies, his mouth full of food, “I don’t know, Julian and I-it’s kind of like indie rock is cool now. I don’t think either one of us have ever aspired to be an indie rock band. We just want to be a rock band. And I guess for whatever reason, we’ve just had a lot of fun rocking and yelling…and just being loud.”

It’s a bit of a wonder that Gispert and I were even eating backstage at the nation’s largest music festival. In December of 2006, talented multi-instrumentalist and founding member Hank Sullivant quit the band due to personal reasons. The Whigs went from being a band on the horizon-having signed with ATO in August after self-releasing their acclaimed debut Give ‘Em All A Big Fat Lip-to one with possibly no future at all. But as Dorio reassures when he joins us later at a picnic table, you just have to move on.

“We decided that the band and the songs are bigger than just one of us. So, you know, you keep going and it’s been really great, actually. It’s been really exciting and actually kind of has opened our eyes, you know…to some opportunities, some songs, some approaches to writing songs that are just different from before.”

Looking around at our surroundings, it’s clear that the decision has paid off. Asked about the experience of performing at the festival, Dorio seems pleased.

“We’re obviously excited and it’s nice because we’ve been at home working on new stuff. So it’s also been a good opportunity to come and play to a lot of new people that have never seen us. We played some new stuff, too, and I thought that was really fun. It felt like we were really welcome. So, that was nice.”

What’s more exciting is that following Bonnaroo, they’re off to Los Angeles to record with Rob Schnapf, known for his work with Elliot Smith (Either/Or, XO and From a Basement on the Hill) and Beck (Mellow Gold). The band is aware that it’s a huge opportunity.

“We get to work with someone who has made a ton of records,” Gispert states.  “And, you know, he knows how to get the best out of a certain project. So for us, it’s awesome that we get to be that project, and have someone involved who’s going to get the best out of us.”


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