White Lung On Paradise, Serial Killers, And Love Songs
White Lung make a strong case for being one of the most individual bands currently operating in music today. Originating from punk-rock, their fourth album - Paradise sees them at their most accessible yet, with the remarkable intensity of their earlier work.
We talked to Mish Barber-Way to discuss everything about Paradise - from its true crime origins, to the love-song dedication to her husband - as well as the terrifying link between fame and insanity.
Off the back of Deep Fantasy, which was so well received by critics and fans alike, did you feel certain pressures to write something similar, or could you just leave it in the back wing-mirror without worrying?
You always want to write something that surpasses the last thing you did. That is just the way human beings work. We could not worry about pleasing critics. We had to worry about ourselves and our record label first.
Paradise sees you occasionally assume the role of a true-life serial killer in your writing, what drew you to that world, and what works helped inform this theme?
I have always been attracted to the reasons behind deviant behaviour. I like dissident writers. I’ve always had a fascination with true crime, especially female murderers, female psychopaths. I think I read Girl, Interrupted for a year straight when I was 12-years-old. I took on the voice of Karla Homolka in the song 'Sister; because I was fascinated with her story. And I imagined what she would say to her dead sister if she could talk to her.
You’ve previously addressed people’s delusions with social-media and the cultural cravings for being famous, do you think any of your work makes a case for there being a link between this, and serial killers?
I think there is a link between want of attention and fame to murder. It’s a primal and easy way to become “famous”, or infamous. Luka Magnotta was the perfect example of this. He tried everything to be famous: modelling, porn, spreading rumours about himself on the internet, plastic surgery, auditioning for any reality show or documentary that would take him. His craving for attention was completely insane.
So, when none of these pathetic attempts worked, what does he do? He hides his identity as he kills a cat, films it and puts it on the internet. People are disgusted and searching for this “cat killer”, then he drops rumours from an unknown source that he is the cat killer. He spreads rumours that he is dating Karla Homolka.
The cat thing wasn’t enough. He was not a star just yet. He ups his game and films himself murdering, sawing apart and having sex with a Chinese exchange student. Then, he sends parts of his body to various Canadian government officials and flees the country. When he is finally caught, he’s found in an internet cafe in Europe googling himself. He’s the living personification of delusional narcissism.
As a critic and essayist, do you approach writing in a different way when it’s for White Lung?
Of course, but many of my topics of interest remain the same. The brain wants what it wants.
What lyric on Paradise are you most pleased with, and what’s the story behind it? (“Baby is born in molasses / Like I would even care” off ‘Kiss Me When I Bleed’ is a personal favourite, with its superb, horrifyingly glutinous imagery).
That song is about that kind of steadfast, juvenile, “I-don’t-give-a-fuck-I’m-in-love” romance I tend to idolize. Natural Born Killers meets The Little Mermaid. I would do anything for him and defy the world if it stood in my way. I just imagined a snooty aristocratic princess falling in love with a garbage man who lived in a trailer park. This would be the song she screamed in the face of her father as he tried to tell her no, she could not be with him. That chorus is the ultimate defiance.
My parents have a love story like this. My father was never going to be good enough for my mother, even to the point where my mother’s parents physically removed her from my father. My dad was not a doctor or a lawyer. He came from a family of salesmen. He wasn’t good enough. But my parents eventually just said “fuck you”. They are still happily married today. I guess I have a fascination with this type of pseudo-fairytale romance. I never wanted Prince Charming, but the loyal, loving garbage man.
How was it working with producer, Lars Stalfors? He’s worked with some great artists in the past including the likes of Alice Glass, Cold War Kids, The Soft Pack.
I loved working with Lars and would do it again. He coached me into being a better vocalist, a stronger songwriter. He pushed the whole band to get over our fears and do our version of pop.
During one stint you performed some 61 shows in 63 days - though it nearly broke you, you’ve became renowned for your exhilarating live shows - so what’s your attitude to touring at the moment?
It is a job and it is a great job, but I miss my husband and I do not like being away from home and living in hotels.
You’ve said the title track is a love song for your husband, how did he react to it?
There’s many songs about him on the album. Every song has a piece of him. 'Paradise' is my straight love song for him though. He loves it. There’s nothing like having your wife write a love song for you.