The Whigs Bring Modern Creation to SA
Athens, GA Rock band The Whigs hit the road in support of their strong new album “Modern Creation”
– Interview by Izaak Martinez.
So, state your name, and what you do in the band.
This is Julian Dorio, and I am the drummer in the band, the Whigs.
IM: For the uninformed, how long have you guys been doing this, and how would you describe your sound.
JD: We started the band when we were students at the University of Georgia, in Athens, and that was about 11 years ago. We were just playing locally at the time, and I think that we just wanted to put together a rock band that, you know, could also craft good pop songs. The bands that we were listening to at the time, we really loved what they did, and we grew up to listening to much more; everything from the Velvet Underground, to Guns ‘N’ Roses. And then we started playing locally, built some momentum, and then we graduated from college a few years later. We’ve been on the road ever since.
IM: The southern rock element is pretty noticeable, in the presence of that really warm sounding guitars and a driving bass, along with the steady driving drum beat.
IM: You guys just came off of touring with, personally, my favorite rock and roll band ever in Social Distortion. What was it like to hit the road with those guys?
JD: It was incredible. We hadn’t toured with a band quite like that before. As you were describing our band as kind of having that “Southern” sound, well those guys are the kings of that “Southern California” sound.
IM: Yeah, that Bakersfield sound.
JD: Yeah, they’ve been doing it for so long, and it’s always a privilege to hit the road with a band like those guys, and just learn from them. They were incredibly sweet and nice to us, and of course they had incredible fans every single night. It was great. We were playing to packed houses and theatres, and hopefully converting some fans.
IM: You’ve also shared the road with other notable acts, ranging from the Black Keys, to the Hold Steady, and Kings of Leon. Do you have a favorite band that you have toured with? Or a band that you found to be just really cool and down to earth with you guys?
JD: Honestly, it’s been amazing how cool all of those bands have been to us. The Drive By Truckers were incredible. They’ve all been great people, and bands. The Kings of Leon, the Hold Steady, they’re both our good buddies. They’re all real friendly. You know, they’re busy, and they don’t have to sit there and chat with us, but they went out of their way to watch our show, and make us just feel welcome on the tour.
IM: You guys are also Late Night Television vets, having played Letterman, Leno, Conan, Fallon, Kimmel. That can’t ever get old, right? Knowing that you will be reaching an audience and demographic that is pretty much impossible to reach otherwise.
JD: It might be one of the most exciting things that we’ve ever gotten the chance to do. I mean, we grew up watching those shows as often as we could, and the opportunity to play on Letterman, at the Ed Sullivan Theater, it’s hard to wrap your head around. To play their once is amazing, but we’ve been lucky to get to play there a few times. It’s where we, as musicians, got to find out about lots of cool bands. It’s a bit of an odd environment, really. You’re at a huge theater, in the middle of the day, and you get once chance to play one song, and you just go out and try to nail it. You strive to just give a killer performance, and show everyone what you can do in the 3-and-a-half minutes that you get. But also, you’re a music fan saying to yourself, “I can’t believe that I’m here”.
IM: Yeah, kind of weird to be on the other side. Lot’s of history on those stages.
IM: When you guys aren’t touring, which doesn’t seem very frequently, what do you do with your down time? Day Jobs? Families? As someone who holds down as a day job as a school teacher, but is an aspiring rock and roll journalist by night, I can safely say that the night job is usually much more fun. I’m talking to you guys right now from my classroom, chillin’ on the clock.
JD: *laughs* It’s really just nice to be able to be home. As silly as that sounds, to not have to drive 6 to 7 hours every day. Everything on the road can be kind of a big deal. Driving from city to city. So, when we’re home, some of us are in relationships, so it’s nice to get to spend time with your significant others. And it’s nice to just be able to tend to your house, and go see old buddies, and go to a show where you don’t have to load in and play. Sometimes it’s nice to go to a show and just stand there.
IM: Have a beer instead of having to go to work, literally.
IM: Playing ACL, what was that like? Do you guys prefer to play the larger festival type shows, are more of the low key intimate club performances?
JD: They’re all really fun, and they all have their place. All of the festivals are fun. ACL was a great crowd, and kind of like the TV thing that we were talking about, it’s a good way to reach people that may not have seen you before. They may have come to the festival because they like the headliner, and so you know, they’re walking around, and trying to check out something new. So, it’s a great chance to reach people that are open minded. We love, honestly, playing those festivals. Those big stages, the outdoor environment, it’s just killer. That’s not to take away from a small, sweaty rock club though.
IM: And plus, it must be nice to be able to check out other bands that you guys might like, and otherwise probably wouldn’t get the chance to see because you’re on the road so much.
JD: Absolutely. After we play, we walk around. And like when we played ACL, Neil Young and Crazy Horse were playing. So it’s like, “Have you ever seen Neil Young, and Crazy Horse?”. I mean, that’s hard to beat. So it’s a great way to also get a free ticket to a great festival.
IM: You all like to have fun in your music videos, including going John Smoltz and throwing a lefty meatball in “Staying Alive”. And now for your new music video “Hit me”, you all channeled your inner Jefferson Starship and busted out the skin tight 70s rock outfits, and paid homage to the old school BBC TV Show “Old Grey Whistle Test”. How did that video idea concept come about?
JD: *laughs* The director that we did both those videos with, and a few tour videos with, Scott Carney, he’s Louisville, Kentucky based, and he’s a great musician and filmmaker. We’ve known him a long time, and he just has a great sense of humor, and he’s a great guy, and so a lot of the times the ideas and concepts are things that he comes up with, then we all get together and riff on them. I mean, the food fight just seemed like a fun idea. I’ve never been in a food fight, so it was a good excuse to throw food in people’s faces. With “Hit Me”, it was just a show that we grew up watching. All those BBC shows were just over the top, just over the top facial expressions, and outfits, and so we just kind of played on that a little bit, and just tried to have fun with it. Rock videos can be a bit serious, so we just tried to have fun.
IM: Any time you can send the TV host into a musical induced frenzy is kind of nice and different.
IM: Album #5, Modern Creation: what was the approach that you all had before you got into the studio to record? Were you trying to change it up a bit, or maybe strip the sound down, and go for more of that live, jamming in a room aesthetic?
JD: Yeah, I think the record making process can get so drawn out, and there are reasons for that. But, being a 3-piece band that plays together a lot, we felt like, you know, we can knock these songs out, and capture what it is when the three of us play together. So, we just wanted to get in a room with a producer, that knows how to do that. We were in a warehouse that was all mic’d up, and we were just counting the songs off, and so what you’re hearing is the band playing. For a band like us that spends most of our time on the road, I would hate to strip that energy out of the studio performance. It was a quick process. We made the record in 12 days, recording and mixing.
IM: So, take a look into your crystal ball for a second. What does 2015 and the rest of the future look like for The Whigs?
JD: That’s a tough one. We have some touring in the immediate future. We’re touring in November, December, and January. And then, we’ll start making the new record. We’ll take a little time to get everything written once we get off the road, but we’d like to do that, and turn it around with a new record as soon as we can. We just like to keep busy, keep making music, and keep honing our craft, and be back out on the road as soon as we can. We don’t want to go away.
IM: What’s it like to play a show back home in Athens? What’s it like to get back to your home town for a little bit?
JD: Man, it’s so awesome. We have a show coming up at the 40-Watt in November, the 21st, and I think in a way, it’s so exciting and fun, because it’s home. But, it is a little added pressure, because we want to make everyone proud. We actually live in Nashville, Tennessee, now, so we moved away, and we’ve been on the road for a long time. So, these old friends back home, that were there when we started, we just try to make them proud. I think we put a little added pressure on ourselves.
IM: You’ve got that date circled on the calendar for sure, right?
JD: Yeah, absolutely.
IM: Do you all frequently make it out to Texas?
JD: We try to make it out to Texas as frequently as we can. We’re up in Nashville now, which isn’t too far away, so we try to make it down as often as we can.
IM: Well, I can’t wait to see you guys live in November. San Antonio isn’t Austin, but we have some pretty rabid fans that are always hungry for awesome live rock, and I’m sure you might make a new friend or too, or at least get some cold Lone Star beers out of it.
JD: Hell yeah, man. Thanks and we appreciate you for doing this. We love San Antonio, and we’ve always had a great time down there!
The Whigs play Tuesday, November 11 at 502 Bar
(502 Embassy Oaks, 210-257-8125)
$5 Cover Charge
November 11th, 2014