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White Lung

White Lung

Interviewed by
Danielle Street
Wednesday 1st February, 2017 12:03PM

Last time we spoke to Mish Way was in 2014, when White Lung was on their way to New Zealand off the back of releasing their third album Deep Fantasy. Things have changed since then. Mish got married to musician Austin Barber of the band The Saviours, and now goes by Mish Barber-Way. Her band put out their fourth album entitled Paradise that saw a huge shift in her approach to songwriting, drawing from real life crime stories as opposed to writing personal yet vague lyrics left to be interpreted by the listener. And on top of that, she's found a certain contentment that means she doesn't walk around "extremely pissed off" anymore, which has also resulted in a poppier sound from the punk trio.

Ahead of their appearance at Laneway Festival next week we spoke to Mish about the new album, her new outlook on life, and her love of country music...

UTR: Hey Mish! So I was checking out a lot of the End of Year lists before the holidays - Pitchfork, Stereogum, Rolling Stone, Consequence of Sound, a whole bunch, and Paradise features a lot. I know it's not why you release music, but it must be nice to have that recognition for the hard work you've put in...

MBW: Yeah, it's great. I wasn't super aware because I haven't been so great at my social media lately, I've been busy so I haven't paid much attention. But I saw that Kenny [aka White Lung guitarist Kenneth Williams] made a post that it's been on a lot lists, so that's awesome. It's always so exciting. It's very nice when people appreciate the work that's been done.

So you're not keeping up with social media much these days? I feel like you used to be pretty active on Twitter...

Nah, no I really suck. I used to be good at it, but then I kinda stopped. I just can't look at it anymore. Especially with the election, it's just been so annoying everybody whining about Trump, oh my god, it's like everyone please calm down. I just needed to take a break.

It's interesting, I was reading a recent interview with you and one of the things you talked about was that you don't feel a lot of the anger, like the pissed-offness that you used to walk around with a couple of years ago. Is it an apathy, or is it an acceptance, or a maturing. What would you put that down to?

It's a maturing. I mean, I've been a feminist my whole life, and I still am but I don't subscribe to a lot of the ideologies that are being thrown around right now. I think there has to be... not an acceptance, but a realisation about the world. And I don't believe in driving the wedge further between people. I've really been changing my perspective, and growing up and maturing my perspective in the last few years. I'm a lot more realistic and less.....


Than I was before. I dunno, it's very interesting to me the whole thing. But I don't know if I'm ready to comment on that quite yet. But I couldn't look at Twitter anymore it was too much, everyone crying about Trump.

It was something I found interesting when I read the article, because I guess I'm a similar age as you and I find when I'm using Facebook those little "See You Memories"posts come up, and it'll be me outraged about something a few years ago, and right now I feel so distant from that level of anger...

Yeah! I feel the same way. I love the "Memories" thing, it's the only reason I like going on Facebook anymore. That and talking to my relatives and friends who I don't get to see all the time. But yeah, I love the Memories thing, it's really funny to see something I wrote six years ago, and it's your either like so "Oh my god, urgh" and sometimes there's some good ones, it could be a funny photo. But I love that. It was smart of Facebook to make that, it's great. Reminding us that our whole lives are being documented. Imagine being a child right now, your whole life is on Instagram. I don't have any videos from when I was a child. I don't know. And like my friend's children are on Instagram from the day they were born. I mean it's crazy. It's funny to think of what kind of person that's going to create when you can see your whole life in short one-minute videos and pictures.

Is this something you've thought about, like if you have kids would you try and keep images of them off social media?

Yeah. I mean, my husband is very anti.... everything, hahaha. I don't think he'd allow our children to be on there. I think the happy balance we would strike is that we would make a private profile and it would just allow certain people to see, and that would be letting all the relatives and close friends see the child so we don't have to send out a million photos.

So looping back to talking about your music, moving on from Deep Fantasy, where you wrote the songs and left the audience to interpret them, you wrote Paradise, where I understand a lot of the lyrics were inspired by true-life crime stories you researched, while writing for Broadly. Is that right?

Yeah, so a lot of it was that, and I was also doing many other studies like in beastiality and all these perverted sex studies, and familicide which is the phenomenon of parents murdering their children, and Munchausen by proxy which is when people fake illness like for their children to get sympathy, and all these mental illnesses, and specific murders and blah blah blah. And I've always been interested in things of that nature, and so I was just studying that on a more clinical and scholastic level - but there were certain stories that stuck with me. I couldn't get those people out of my head. And so, lyrics are a new way to approach something that you've already done - and you've done the whole research on - but it's a more emotional way of talking about something you're already interested in or grappling with. One thing I wanted to do on Paradise, lyrically, was that I didn't really want to talk about myself too much. But obviously, I can only speak from my own perspective - so what I would do, is kind of invent these characters or take real life people and sort of plant myself in their position and write from them - and it was a good way to use fiction as this new freedom to say things that I couldn't say if I was being autobiographical, and it also allowed me to create really strong images. I was listening to a lot of old country and blues, which is some of my favourite music, and I was really into the way that - you know, you look at an old country song by Wanda Jackson or whatever - it's pretty straightforward. You know exactly what's going on. It's not hidden in metaphors. It's not this flowery language that you dance around.

Those kinds of songs can definitely be quite graphic...

They're super graphic, but they're also cheeky and fun  - and they take all these very serious things like adultery and murder, like there's this song 'It's Nothing To Me' by Loy Clingman, and a bunch of other people have sung it too, but it's about getting in a bar fight with a guy and this guy's singing about how he shouldn't have gotten into this bar fight, he should have just laid off, and now he's dead on the floor. It's very graphic and I love that. So I wanted to take that element of storytelling and bring it into my own songwriting, and try and see if I could do that in my own way. And it was really fun. I wanted to be direct, I didn't want to leave any room for interpretation like I have in the past.

So, do you ever think you would make a proper country album?

I really want to. I thought this Christmas I was going to do it, because I thought I had all this time off. I live in this really big house, we've got a huge old house here, and we turned one of the rooms into a music room so it's drums, guitar, bass, everything - and I've been playing a lot which is great - and teaching myself all these old Tammy Wynette songs. So I thought it was something I could do over Christmas but I took a new job and stuff. But that's something I'm going to do in the future, for sure, before I kick the bucket. I will definitely record an album of country songs. I really want to do that.


White Lung are playing Laneway Festival in Auckland on Monday 30th January. Head over here for more information and to see the full line-up.


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