Although Mish Barber-Way tied the knot last year, White Lung's fourth studio album didn't become an album dedicated to love. Sure, it's in there, especially on tracks like album-closer "Paradise," which is a diaristic song straight from the heart of Barber-Way. But the album as a whole hones in on desire, the beauty of the world and heavy guitar work. At only 28 minutes long, Paradise is powerful and introspective—an impressive follow-up to 2014's Deep Fantasy. Barber-Way, guitarist Kenneth William and drummer Anne-Marie Vassiliou got together in an L.A. studio for a month to re-connect on their sound and themselves. Though the album is quick-paced and features Barber-Way's harsh vocals, it's not an angry record, but an uplifting musical experience.
PAPER caught up with Barber-Way in Brooklyn to talk about getting St. Vincent to write your press release, the impact of getting married on her music, and if she'd ever want to go solo.
Was there anything daunting to you about writing your most recent record?
It's always daunting to write a record, because you want to do better than the last one—you want to out-do yourself. I always want to do something better—not mediocre or the same. The biggest thing is not coming from a place of anger or confusion, so I wasn't coming from that spot and wanted to get a bit more creative.
You got married within the past year. How did the idea of matrimony play into Paradise?
We just had our one year anniversary at the beginning of this year. My parents have been together since they were twenty. They have a big, tragic love story. My mother comes from Polish stock and her father was a lawyer who didn't think my father was good enough. They ran away together to the West Coast. My mother's father took her away from my dad saying she wouldn't marry him. Funny enough, they're the only couple out of all of their siblings that are still together and still in love. So, I take marriage very seriously. When my husband and I decided to get married, I knew "this is it." Of course, that changes what I'm writing about, my perspective on relationships and the way you look at life in general. The way I would write was always very flippant and cynical, but when all of that is out of your system, it just fades out. I wasn't going to write ten love songs because there's only so much you can say. I wanted to keep some things to myself.
On this record, did you feel more like yourself as opposed to other records you put out?
Surprisingly, yes. I also felt like I could say things I would have been too chicken-shit to say. Like on the song "Paradise," it's a straight-up love song. It's for him. I never would have written a song like that years ago because I would have thought it was cheesy. I would have danced around the subject instead of saying what I wanted to say. It's scary to be so straightforward. So, that was the difference. Life is good. I don't understand this thing where it's trendy to be depressed or sad.
Since you're in the L.A. scene now, what are some bands we should be on the lookout for in the punk scene?
There's a band called High-Functioning Flesh. We want to take them on tour with us. They're super weird. The thing about L.A. is that when I'm home I don't go out. I live in the suburbs. Last year, I felt like I immersed myself in the scene a bit more because I wasn't touring as much, but when you do tour you kind of just want to go home, get drunk and barbecue.
You had a conversation with Annie of St. Vincent about Paradise. What was it like talking to her about the record?
A lot of my friends ask me to write press releases for them and I do them, but when it came time to do ours, I realized I never read these releases. So, I asked Annie [Clark] to do [a Q&A with us for it]. I met Annie at Fuji Rock in Japan. She came in and said she was such a fan. When we played Chicago later that year, we went out with she and her girlfriend and had a wasted night. I asked her if she'd do it, and she said "yes," because she's a nice lady. I went to her house and we listened to the record together, which is always strange. But she was so great and I knew she'd be able to talk guitars with Kenny.
You obviously freelance write on the side. Do you see yourself becoming a full-time writer as opposed to a musician at some point?
Not right now, but I think eventually they'll find someone else who does my singing job better. Like when I'm 40, I don't want to be standing on a stage screaming. I want to have children, and I want to pursue that part of my life sooner rather than later. There's a lot of opportunity to go in different directions and have a more domesticated lifestyle.
What was the songwriting process like for you with Paradise?
Kenny had been working on parts all year showing them periodically. When I went into the studio, nothing was completed. I had ideas and I knew what I wanted to write about, but I wrote everything in the studio. I spent two weeks writing and recording the parts. It just meant I was taking these parts I had for a while, trimming, editing and curating them.
Was there anything you were reading or listening to that inspired the record directly?
When we record, I can't listen to any rock or punk. I know Kenny was only listening to rap and electronic music. Kenny does it because he's afraid of ripping someone off. I do it because I don't want to listen to the same stuff. I was reading a lot of Jim Goad, Burroughs and a lot of rock bios.
Do you ever see yourself doing your own solo thing?
No. White Lung is me, Kenny and Anne-Marie. If anything, I'd make a record of country songs as a joke. I would never try to do it without Kenny and Anne-Marie. It just wouldn't be White Lung without the three of us.
Photo by Lindsey Byrnes