Ask any sod for their views on social media and they’ll declare we are, at once, both more connected and lonelier than ever before. And this is exactly the issue that Canadian punks White Lung tackle - with an exciting twist - in their latest shock to the system, with the piercing and furious lead single ‘Hungry’, taken from forthcoming album ‘Paradise’.
Sharp-tongued frontwoman Mish Barber-Way explains the song is “about hunger for fame, delusional self-obsession. Social media has turned us all into narcissistic morons living out our pathetic wants in tiny spurts of dopamine called ‘likes’. It’s gross.”
The accompanying video develops this obsession with narcissism, following a self-obsessed stranger who tries everything in her power to become famous and ‘liked’. She models for a can of condensed milk, obsessively buys her own products and even pours the milk all over herself, but eventually ends up being sucked into her own reflection – only to be replaced by someone else. “Social media has given everyone this platform to pretend they are a star to their tiny niche of followers. No one is lining up to be a teacher or a garbage man. We all want that power.”
White Lung are back and as fierce as ever, with a fourth studio album that packs a punch and explores an all-thrills storyline of infamous characters and tales. From the way opening track ‘Dead Weight’ ploughs in with Kenneth William’s spiralling cut-throat guitar riffs that sit alongside Barber-Way’s sharp delivery, to the driving power of ‘Below’, ‘Paradise’ is an album that comes tightly-packed and tailor made to grab attention.
Producer Lars Stalfors (The Mars Volta, Alice Glass, Cold War Kids) has a lot to answer for - guitarist Kenneth claims fans will be able to hear a difference in how his guitar sounds. “We worked really hard to make sure there were new sounds in every song that set them apart from each other, so we worked with a lot of pedals and software to mangle some of the guitar tracks into something that sounds more like synths.” his guitar plays a crucial part in the way the record came together. It was one of the reasons the band picked Annie Clark to interview them when ‘Hungry’ was first released, as Barber-Way explains: “Annie introduced herself to us at Fuji Rock Festival in Japan and then, we all went out after playing a festival in Chicago. I asked her to do the bio because I knew she could talk guitars with Kenny. This is truly Kenny’s record and I wanted someone who played their guitar like it was not one to talk with Kenny about his process. They both treat their instruments in similarly inventive ways.”
"I made up these fairy tales in my head, hyper inflated versions of my own experiences."
— Mish Barber-Way
What is even more interesting is how Lars was able to push Barber-Way in a different direction, making her “embrace the pop”. Clearly this doesn’t mean ‘Paradise’ is a pop record, but instead one which widens White Lung’s horizons - still cutting deep, but doing so while exploring a wider musical terrain. It feels more approachable, even if the characters explored and the stories told are anything but.
The songs themselves came mostly from an intense period of writing last year, during which Barber-Way delved into studies about sex, murder, and deadly characters such as the White family of West Virginia, Karla Homolka, Fred and Rosemary West. “I wrote from the voices of other people. I got schizophrenic. I made up these fairy tales in my head, hyper-inflated versions of my own experiences or stuff I took from books.” There’s a lot going on in Barber-Way’s head - she has an insatiable appetite to push what White Lung stand for. She’s constantly looking for the stories that push boundaries. “I was also obsessed with these compilations from Trailer Park Records called ‘Twisted Tales From The Vinyl Wastelands’. It's all these old country songs about everything from strippers, to prison, to drugs to love. Songs no one cared about at the time. The storytelling is what I like. They are so good. It's just my taste. I love old country so much.”
It is what makes Barber-Way such an interesting character. She is upfront and brutally honest, but also grounded and ambitious in what she wants to achieve with White Lung. When asked whether they reflect much on their careers or whether that is a counter-productive exercise, her response is simply: “Careers will fade. Family is forever.” Even as the band develops and - dare we say it - grow up, they are firmly dedicated to authenticity in everything they produce. This is what continues to make them so compelling, refusing to rest on their laurels.
Photo: Rick Rodney. White Lung’s new album ‘Paradise’ is out 6th May via Domino.
Taken from the May 2016 issue of DIY, out now. Subscribe to DIY below.