White Lung were born out of Vancouver’s “weird punk” scene, and cut their teeth alongside arguably weirder and punk-er bands like Nu Sensae, Twin Crystals, Shearing Pinx, and the Mutators, playing in meat lockers-turned-music venues like Emergency Room Strathcona and other now-defunct art and music breeding grounds once tucked in alleys and behind padlocked doors throughout East Van.
The band is a far cry from the rats and doorway-hookers of Vancouver, and with a new album set to drop June 17th, and a world tour already underway, White Lung are well on their way to shedding any vestiges of “weird” or “punk” as they loosen up their tightly wound, strangled vice grip-sound, coax out a few melodies and move out to L.A. all in the upcoming months.
Their new album Deep Fantasy is the stuff you’d expect from a White Lung release: high-strung, sleepless vocals competing with even-sharper jabs from guitarist Kenny William – all buoyed by drummer Anne-Marie Vassilou, who carefully paces and shapes the whole thing, keeping it from collapsing in on itself.
“Kenny got really sick when we started writing this album. Sitting in bed playing with a fever and the songs reflect that,” said Mish Way.
Of the title, she says, “We all have a section of our heads that’s our own deep web. You know? Our sick parts’ the stuff you aren’t supposed to admit. The wants you have that you can’t talk about.”
In proper fashion, Deep Fantasy is full of perverse, self-conscious, abrasive guitar work and songs about sex, bodies, and the rift between both.
And as the band grows into its own sound, the addition of bassist Hether Fortune, pulls the band into new territory, coaxing out harmonies where their previously were none, providing listeners with a bigger, smarter, buffer zone in between the harsh rasp of Way’s voice and William’s panicked guitar.
“We sing together. It’s cohesive. It’s just better energy.” Way says, “Everyone is excited again. There’s no inner tension and negativity.”
Fortune’s additional harmonies round out a sound that has progressed from the grimy punk thing out of East Van warehouses, and balanced itself with melodies and two-part harmonies that are a telltale sign of ¾’s of the band’s new home (once their tour ends this summer) in sunny Los Angeles.
White Lung may be far from home these days, but the friends and fellow musicians who’ve toured with them, slept on floors with them, and given them places to play – like Emergency Room Strathcona co-founder Justin Gradin – are still the go-to weirdos the band calls on.
As they did for their most recent video, which is a collaboration between the band, Gradin, and fellow Vancouver musician and artist Ben Jacques.
“I have big expectations for that video because Justin and Ben had a really clear idea of the weird things they wanted to do and they made it happen,” Way says. “I imagine it’s going to end up looking like Justin’s art: dark and funny and uncomfortable. All I know is I had to ride a horse made of two men while lip syncing twice the speed by a green screen.”
And when asked about a favourite musician or band, Way named Nu Sensae and Heavy Chains guitarist Brody Mcknight – of whom Way said, “[Brody] has been doing a solo project Gretchen Snakes and it’s really beautiful. Brody will play forever and always make great music because no be just loves to play more than he does. That’s what makes a real musician”.
Vancouver still has a few things up on L.A., and many of those who started in the Strathcona meat locker-venues are still here, happily, far removed from the sun-soaked, photogenic punk rock clubs in California.
Musicians like McKnight, Gradin, and weirdos like Nu Sensae, Shearing Pinx, Twin Crystals offshoots Mormon Crosses and Inherent Vices all have shows or new releases set for this summer, and they’re all in town right now.
Keep Vancouver weird, and go see White Lung during their world tour, which wraps in June.
Deep Fantasy is available June 17th.
By Hannah Myrberg