There's a strong sense of teamwork and mutual support within the music and style of Georgia rock trio The Whigs' new approach.
The band's new album In the Dark fits well alongside their previous two, but make no mistake: this group was in a much different place when it made the new album than it was two years earlier during the making of their previous disc Mission Control.
"Of course, Parker is our frontman, and he is the singer," drummer Julian Dorio says of the trio's singer/guitarist Parker Gispert. "But there are sort of three parts in this band, so everyone matters a lot. I think you feel that kind of unbalance when you lose a guy. Mission Control was made of good songs, but getting over hurdle after hurdle was stressful. We didn't really have a functioning band."
After touring behind the acclaimed debut Give 'Em All a Big Fat Lip, The Whigs suffered a major setback in 2006 when original bassist Hank Sullivant quit the group. Gispert and Dorio pushed ahead, writing songs for Mission Control and hiring a pair of bassists from their hometown to play on the album. Mission Control turned out to be a solid follow-up to the first album. Bassist Tim Deaux joined shortly after Mission Control was recorded. He's spent two and a half years with the group now.
"Parker and I have been playing together for awhile now," Dorio says. "We get along great. Tim just really fit in perfectly. We couldn't have gotten along better, musically and personally."
The extent to which Deaux has become integrated became apparent when the group began writing songs for In the Dark at the start of 2009. Most of the songs were actually initiated by Dorio and Deaux, who developed drum and bass parts that could be built into complete songs. The two found that not only could they write compatible parts, but they were able to come up with verses, choruses, and ideas for vocal melodies.
"It was probably to most people a backwards way of doing it, but it emphasized the drum, bass, and groove, and created parameters and a vibe for Parker," Dorio says. "I think it was nice for him — and, of course, he was still writing — but he was also getting to react to music instead of having to sort of be the catalyst."
Dorio also found that their writing opened up new textures and dynamics that carried through to the songs. This helped give some songs on In the Dark a greater sense of dynamics and a slightly different texture, as did the use of some different tones and effects in the studio. Dorio also feels the group's experience in opening several arena shows helped to give In the Dark a bit more of a widescreen sound, too.
"The moment you start playing on other, bigger stages, it does have an effect on you," he says. "I think we've been lucky to experience that. Some bands acquire that arena sound. I suppose the word widescreen is kind of another way of saying that we exercised some more dynamics in the music and the songwriting than we had before."
But to be sure, a good deal of the garage band sound that has always defined The Whigs carries through to In the Dark. That direct, catchy, hard-hitting style has served the band well for years.
"When we record in the studio, we definitely try not to worry about the stage too much," Dorio says. "We just tried to nail the performances and get the best vibe from beginning to end."