White Lung discusses band’s evolution on new album

Jackson Hawkins

On White Lung’s most recent album, Paradise, the Canadian punk band let the pop potential of their songs shine through on songs that are often told through the lens of different characters. The Daily Texan spoke with lead singer Mish Barber-Way about the new album before her performance at Sound on Sound Music Festival on Nov. 6.

The Daily Texan: Paradise feels very different from your previous albums. It is poppier, and your voice is very crisp and intentional. Was this a deliberate change or more of a natural progression? 

Mish Barber-Way: I think it was probably a little bit of both. Kenny [William, the band’s lead guitarist] knew the kind of songs he wanted to do, and he was experimenting with different guitar leads and tones which needed to be produced in a very polished and bright way or else it would be lost in the busyness of the song. We specifically chose a producer who we knew could achieve these goals for us while still having White Lung sound like ourselves. The polished and bright sound of my voice just made sense with the music.

DT: What inspired you to write this album from different perspectives and characters?

MB: I didn’t feel like talking about myself that much. I normally use songs as a way to get out frustrations that I have with my life or as a way to deal with certain problems that I don’t quite know how to confront or fix. Since I didn’t feel like I had that many of those, I decided to use stories around me to play scenarios out.

DT: Some of the lyrics on this record come from really violent people. Is it ever hard to perform or write those kinds of songs?

MB: No, it’s fun, it’s fascinating. I wouldn’t write about something I wasn’t interested in. I like performing a song that I know I didn’t write about my actual life because then you never grow out of that moment. When I am listening to it and singing these lyrics that I wrote, the songs mean nothing to me. I wrote them, but it was in the voice of someone else who already exists, so it is easier to perform. It is a strange feeling to sing something you wrote five years ago [that] at the time you were so passionate about, but now it doesn’t have the same meaning. The different characters and perspectives are a way for me to keep performing songs and enjoying them.

DT: In addition to being a musician, you’re a journalist who’s written comprehensively about a host of topics ranging from drugs to sexual health. How do you balance writing an album and writing your columns? 

MB: They are two very different things, [but] they bleed into one another. I’ve actually taken a step back from writing recently and am doing a few little things, because I feel like I am a little tapped out. They each satisfy a different need, they are not written in the same way, but songs are a lot more freeing. I can address the same topic that I’ve already written a 5,000-word essay on in a song and it is coming from a completely different area … Now I can just talk about the emotional side that I was so fascinated about and how I react to it as a human and not a reporter.

White Lung will play The Keep stage at Sound on Sound Festival from 8:15 to 9 p.m. on Nov. 6.