22 Feb The Brilliant & Twisted Mind of Mish Way – An Interview with White Lung at St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival 2017
Last Month at the Melbourne leg of the Laneway Festival, our writer Alex Gleeson sat down with the lead singer Mish Way of the Canadian punk and noise rock band White Lung. Mish discussed the influence of producer Lars Stalfors, personally enjoying music that sounds nothing like White Lung and being obsessed with filicide and neonaticide.
Alex Gleeson: I feel like there was a bit of a noticeable shift on your latest album, starting to sing from other people’s perspectives. Was this a result of being a bit burnt out from pouring your own life into lyrics, or were you more keen to explore a new style of songwriting?
I think it was more that I was bored and I’ve also always written from a place of discontent, and right now I’m really happy with my life. I’d just gotten married, I’d got this great house with my husband, everything was just happiness. I didn’t have as much to get up there and scream about. It’s not as if, as you get older you lose your anger or your passion for certain things, but it just starts to quell. And also fiction gave me freedom, so I could just take these stories that I’d been working. I do journalism and I write too, so you know there were certain stories that really stuck with me and I just decided to put myself in the position of this person, or this imagined person and speak from their perspective. It’s much more interesting that way, you get to say things you could never say yourself! I wanted to write in less of a “leaving it up to the viewer” kind of manner and give these really strong images, like old country and blues songs, that leave no possibility of misunderstanding the content.
I was going to ask about your writing actually! You’ve written for a handful of places, from Broadly to Self Titled, sometimes broaching on some very serious, intense topics. Do you feel that you’re journalism informs your songwriting at all?
Oh for sure. You get obsessed with the same things, and you get to explore them over and over again. So yeah, and now I mostly work for Hustler and Penthouse which are of course two nudie mags. You’re a boy, you already knew that (*laughs*). I love girly mags, I’ll never stop with girly mags so that’s changing things, so maybe that’ll play up in the next album.
Was teaming up with producer Lars Stalfors on the new album. Is this another sign of you taking your songwriting in a slightly different direction? Or was this just a coincidence
I think well if you consider it this way – You don’t want to write the same record over and over again, because that’s not only boring for you, the person that’s writing it, but it’s boring for the listener too. Lars had a large part in the production on that record, so the brightness and all that, the loss of fuzz, that all came from him. But it’s a logical thing as well, our band is fast and there’s a lot going on. So you have to produce it clean or else you lose all those nuances that are happening in the sound.
For sure. Do you feel that cleaner sound is a reflection of what you’re listening to at the moment?
Kenny and I both do this when we are working on a record. We don’t listen to anything that sounds remotely like us. I know Kenny listens to Electronic and Rap music, and the last record I listened to was old country and blues. You don’t want to get too close to something you’re listening to when recording.
And do you write in isolation or is it a shared writing experience?
We mostly write in isolation. Generally, Kenny will show me something he’s working on and then I’ll start thinking about it. We used to write very collectively, but now that we write mostly in the studio, it’s very different. Technology allows you to do that.
So you write mostly in the studio?
Oh this last record, I went in without a single lyric done. I didn’t have a single melody done. I sat there and worked you know, ten hours a day, for two weeks.
Do you think that it’s a product of the immediacy of that writing style, or is it that you just find the studio a good creative area.
I think it’s a combo of both. Kenny would continue to toil, and a song would never be done unless he had a deadline, so he needs a deadline. For me, I just like to work under pressure, and I like to have a coach there, helping me along and pushing me, and that was what Lars was.
Sounds like a good little team that you’ve built there…
Oh, it was a fantastic team for sure.
Paradise feels particularly referential lyrically. Did you find yourself reading up on psychopaths and serial killers to prepare for the album?
Well, I’ve always been obsessed with that stuff, I mean I have my certain favourites. I was writing a lot of reports that year, and I read up on filicide and neonaticide, which is when parents kill their children. So I did a huge research piece on that, and then I was doing a bunch of other stuff that was linked to gender and murder, and I guess all of that was in my head, and I mean I’m obsessed with that stuff.
It’s certainly fascinating stuff, the gruesomeness of it all. It’s so unthinkable, that it almost seems like…
I mean yeah it’s unthinkable but it’s also human nature. Like it’s power, and we’re animalistic in a way. I like psychological stuff!
Looking ahead, you’ve kicked off 2017 on the laneway tour. What’s to come for this year?
I’m looking at this more as the end of last year. Because we toured all last year, and it started in March. So I’m going to have a nice 4-month break, our next show isn’t until April in New York. We’re planning on touring a little more, doing a few festivals, keeping it calm, and hopefully writing another record.