White Lung talks “Paradise”, and punk rock elitism

White Lung (Photo: Rick Rodney)

White Lung (Photo: Rick Rodney)

I always found that interesting too. It’s kind of ironic, because it’s all about screw what everybody thinks, we’re not making it to please anybody, but if you go and change something that pleases you, you’re not pleasing us anymore, so we’re sick of you.

Mish: Oh yeah! Punks are the most elitist, the most stuck up. They have this rulebook. Not the true ones, but the ones that have that very snobby attitude that’s so dumb. Who cares.

Kenneth: No one is putting a gun to their head and forcing them to listen to this record, so I don’t really care.

Mish: Exactly, so move along. If you don’t like it, don’t look. Go away. There’s a million bands in the world.

What are you guys listening to lately? Were there any specific influences that you can pinpoint?

Kenneth: I listen to tons of music, I’m constantly finding new stuff, so it’s hard to say what sticks and what actually influenced anything on the record. If I’m in the zone for songwriting for this band, I try to avoid listening to anything that sounds anything like it. Just so I don’t subconsciously take little pieces from it. Most of the time, I was mostly listening to rap music (laughs) when this album was being made. Completely separate from that, [it’s] hard to say what effect that had on this record.

Mish: I actually do the exact same thing. When I’m writing I don’t listen to anything that sounds remotely close to what we’re doing. I don’t like rap music, I was listening to a lot of really old country, honkey tonk blues, and stuff like that. Blues and country because of the storytelling aspect, and I love that music. I didn’t want to listen to rock when we’re writing a record, or punk, or anything that’s close, because yeah, you might rip it off. You don’t want to overload it. I think that probably influenced us in weird ways, but I don’t know. Like Kenny said, you can’t really tell.

Kenneth: Also it’s just… not that I think our new record is groundbreaking or anything, but I think a lot of rock music written now is obsessed with the past and most of the innovation is going on in other kinds of music. Just thinking of production ideas, or ways that we wanted to record it, it made more sense for me to listen to other stuff.

“Hungry” touches on some really interesting, but relatively dark things. What was the message you were aiming to get across and how did Amber Tamblyn get involved in the video?

Mish: I became friends with Amber a few years ago and she asked me and the band to perform in the movie that she made and she gave me a small role. We just got along really well and we’ve maintained that friendship ever since. I love her, I’d do anything for that crazy woman. So I asked her to be in it. I had been living in Los Angeles for three years and there’s a certain breed here and a certain mentality that is so gross, but you get caught in it too. It’s a self pollution thing, it’s so bleh.

The desperation of notoriety and fame and just how delusional people get. How social media has perpetuated this narcissistic bloated culture of people who live in these little bubbles where you think you mean something and we all don’t mean anything. It’s all just so dumb. I was thinking about those things and really struggling with “what’s the point?” It’s just gross. It feels so pointless sometimes, and so deluded, I can’t think of any other word than delusion. When you have people breathing down your neck about it, the whole idea of followers and likes. It’s like oh god, who cares.

The concept of the video ended up… I told Justin [Gradin] about the lyrics and I helped him read them and we developed the story about this girl who thinks she’s super famous, but she’s really just a model on this can of condensed milk. She’s obsessed and trying to be all pretty, trying to act like she’s bigger than she is, but she’s just weird and self obsessed. She’s living in this totally delusional world where no one gives a shit but herself. That’s what I was talking about I guess.

In the video though, it plays on public attention creating more isolation. I found that interesting, because I read in an interview with Gradin, that he is quite against modern day communication. He directed the video, was the song at all influenced by his views on the new age need to be constantly in connection to each other, when really that can end up isolating us more?

Mish: Yeah, I guess and also Justin and I were throwing around ideas. He made the video, he directed it, so there is that in there. Yeah, perhaps he had that focus on there, [but] I can’t really speak for him. He directed the video and we wrote the concept together.

Tamblyn’s character has this epiphany of disposability in the video. Do you think that happens with musicians as well, when the idea of a band or music being somewhat disposable comes to mind?

Mish: I think about that sometimes, I think that was an idea that was wrestling in my brain for the last year and something I was thinking about in relation to my own career and my own self. So yes, that’s part of what the song is about. Justin did a good job at creating a story that fit with everything I was talking about.

“Kiss Me When I Bleed” has some interesting contrast in it as well, but solely in the storyline of it. Were you aiming for that with the album? Were there any other themes that you implemented in the songwriting and recording process?

Mish: That song, it’s kind of a little side joke to my husband, he’s a hillbilly. I wanted to write a song about that really true, stubborn, prideful love. That young very “I don’t give a shit what my dad says, I don’t give a shit what my mother thinks, I love this man!” Natural born killers, that kind of steadfast, delusional, perfect love. I was getting really obsessed with The White Family from West Virginia, and I was in this aristocratic New York, wanting to marry Jessica White and what her family would think of her moving into a trailer park in West Virginia to be snorting pills and learning appellation tap-dancing with this hillbilly that beats her.

I was just creating this weird fairy tale in my head, the opposite riches to rags fairy tale, but happily ever after. That song too, that’s a song where being in a character [let] me be able to write these images. Like singing “I’ll give birth in a trailer, huffing the gas in the air.” That’s a very clear image. I could see those images, because I feel like I’ve always been very up for interpretation in a lot of my lyrics and I didn’t want to be that way on this record. I just wanted to say it. I love that song, I think it’s one of my favourites on the record. It’s a great song, Lars made a good decision on that song. Lars and I messed with that song a lot and it turned out right.

I find it pretty cool, how it’s kind of like an anti, backwards fairy tale. Disney is always having the poor servant go off with the prince, but it gets flipped around when you end up in a trailer park, coming from this rich family and it’s almost against society, it shouldn’t really matter what they have in their pocket.

Mish: Yeah! Exactly. The whole thing for me is the theme of love. Relationships and love are a challenge, and you have to really want someone despite everything else to be able to make that work. I liked the idea of writing a fairy tale that not a lot of people would consider a fairy tale, so that’s what I wanted to do.

One last thing on the whole punk topic. I heard you say that they’re not the true punks. I notice this fashion punk, “I’m in it because this is cool and screw you if you don’t stay true to our scene,” and if you think it, if you really care about the music, that’s what punk is supposed to be. You shouldn’t lose fans over that. How would you react to people saying that kind of thing, once they receive the album?

Mish: I just feel like if anyone can’t listen to this record as a whole… I mean this is still very much a White Lung record. It’s a little cleaner, but the songwriting is the same. We ventured out, we wrote two radio hits, big deal. People are always going to love what you do, you can’t think about who cares. If every time I wrote an article, I obsessed and worried if everyone would like it, I would never put anything out. You don’t do it because of that. That’s the line that you tow with punk. It’s always going to be that way and you choose to ignore the people who are going to be juvenile, and a bit ridiculous, and harbour these really stupid ideas.

Being punk to me is doing what you want and not worrying what other people think. So why would I sit there and care that my music and the production wasn’t punk enough? Like what does that even mean? It’s such a stupid word to attach yourself to when it’s filled with all of that. It gets to a certain point… I remember when we were touring years ago before we had any money, it was when Scion car company was really trying to invest in music and they offered to give us a car. Not give us, but let us borrow a car for a tour.

Now, this is an east coast tour, we were expected to fly there, pay for it ourself, rent our own van, drive ourselves around, play these shows in basements. Of course we have to take the car! And what’s the trade off? Oh, we have to put a few pictures on our Tumblr of us standing outside of it? Big deal. Anyone that judged us on that… I remember some kids being like “oh Scion.” I was like “you’re the dickheads that go to the show, don’t want to pay the five dollars at the door, want to offer me two dollars for my seven inch, that’s worth seven. Fuck you! How do you think I get… it’s expensive to fly from Vancouver to Toronto to play shows. At a certain point you have to be realistic about how you’re going to continue to do the things you want to do and that means compromise with, unfortunately, brands, and other things.

The music industry is not what it used to be. No one buys records. You don’t make money that way. You make money touring and you make money connecting with brands. If you do it in a way that makes you happy, then fine, bottom line. And anyone that’s still concerned about that, get real! It’s 2016, are you living in 1992?

It’s still a business right, and I think people lose touch with that.

Mish: Well also it’s like alright, this is how I’m making money from this. You have to start re evaluating your choices, but if you do it in a way that makes you happy, it’s that same whole attitude that can be very frustrating to jump around. I don’t predict any super negative feedback, but if there is, if you don’t like it, don’t listen. Or listen to the old albums. They’re still there for your pleasure.

This article can also be found originally posted on aestheticmagazinetoronto.com

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