The Whigs with The Hold Steady
8 p.m. Friday
8001 S. Eastern
$16 advance, $19 door
Recently, before returning to the United States for its current tour supporting The Hold Steady, The Whigs played for 65,000 in London’s Hyde Park. The Georgia trio isn’t an act whose popularity overseas far outstrips its success in America; the musicians have just been fortunate enough to develop a friendship with Kings of Leon just as that band’s profile ascended to another level.
“It’s just amazing learning experience,” said drummer Julian Dorio. “There’s a mutual respect about each band’s music. Of course, they are in a great place where they’ve gotten so popular they can do what they want, and for them to choose to have us on the road with them is, of course, flattering.”
These tours with higher-profile acts afford the chance to expose a larger audience to their boisterous, power-pop/garage-rock blend ” a sound that finds a sweet spot between The Hives and Weezer. Although its current album, “In the Dark,” hasn’t taken off commercially, it does make good on the promise of its two predecessors. Before 2008’s “Mission Control,” Rolling Stone cited The Whigs as “perhaps the best unsigned band in America.”
“In the Dark” bristles with even more power and texture, produced by Ben Allen (Animal Collective). While the guitars are thicker and knottier, the hooks compensate with equal heft, bullying their way past your attention’s doorman. Allen was already familiar with The Whigs, allowing them to hit the ground running.
“He’s not only really skilled in the studio, (but) has done a lot of records that I think exploit the studio equipment, like Gnarls Barkley or Animal Collective,” Dorio said.
Allen’s studio acumen and the members’ comfort with producer brought on the exploration of new tones and approaches.
“The record is still us, and we perform pretty much everything live,” Dorio said, “but I know (bassist Tim Deaux and front man Parker Gispert) were playing a little more with pedals and different textures or sounds, while I was messing around with some different drum tones instead of everything being straight-ahead, dry and ‘good sounding.’ He helped sort of push that envelope a little bit.”
The result amplifies the spark apparent in the band since the beginning. Indeed, shortly after forming in 2002, The Whigs drew attention from a major label, despite not having recorded any music. They had to make the rather difficult decision to pass on the opportunity and trust themselves, rather than force themselves into a poor fit.
“It was one of those situations where they like what you do and they’re going to try to sign you, but they’re also along the way, trying to change everything about you,” Dorio said. “At a certain point, it was like they were smothering the band and making us so miserable, we thought, ‘We’re going to suck if we go on with these people anyway.’ So (the decision) became clear and less scary, if you buy into good music, you know? It’s just something where you have to believe people will respond.”
Instead, The Whigs recorded their debut, 2005’s “Give ‘Em All a Big Fat Lip,” on a college student’s budget, demonstrating an amazing level of resourcefulness. Rather than shell out for a studio where each tick of the clock means more money out-of-pocket, they talked a property management company into letting them use an empty frat house as a studio over the summer.
The band pushed couches and mattresses against the common-room walls as baffling and bought the high-quality equipment they needed to make a good recording on eBay; they resold the gear when they were finished. The project managed to break even, and The Whigs used that money to buy boxes of its new product.
“It’s exciting when you get the CD back from the pressing plant, but it’s also scary when you get home and stack them up in a room,” Dorio said. “They don’t move unless you move them. It’s a little intimidating.” “Chris Parker